Chicago, IL., December 18, 2008 - While many segments of the U.S. economy have been hard hit, none will feel the pain more than charities this holiday season. Charities in the Chicago area are bracing for what is a very tight giving season. The Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois is offering advice for individuals on a budget on keeping the spirit of giving alive this holiday season.
“Charities invariably find themselves in a bind when the economy tanks; not only is there less funding, but there are more people that need assistance,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of The BBB of Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Donations of money may be hard for cash strapped families to provide, but there are many other ways people can support a charity and contribute to the season of giving. Even in times of hardship, donors are rich in opportunity.”
The Top Five Giving Alternatives include:
Toys, Food or Other Items
Many organizations can put “in-kind” gifts to good use, but there are points to keep in mind. First, the donor should contact the charity to find out what donated items are needed. However, the truth is that broken toys are not welcomed by even the poorest children and families, and soiled or holey clothes will not sell in a thrift store. Disposing of unwanted or unusable “gifts” actually costs charities heavily in manpower and fuel costs.
More people are buying donated clothes at thrift stores. Buyers should note that not all thrift stores equally benefit the charities whose names are associated with them. For more information about giving to charity thrift shops, go to www.bbb.org/charity.
Changes in tax rules have in many cases lowered the charitable deductions for car donations. Donors should check out the charity’s activities and find out how the charity distributes the proceeds from car donations, and how proceeds benefit those in need. See the BBB Resource Library at www.bbb.org/charity for additional information.
Donors can also volunteer their time this holiday season. The personal rewards can be great and can be as important to the charity as a cash contribution. Volunteering doesn’t have to involve direct assistance to those in need (like ladling soup at a homeless shelter). Assisting with office work or other behind-the-scenes tasks can be just as helpful.
Many charity Web sites feature “advocate” as well as “donate” buttons. Those charities are telling donors that their advocacy can help advance policies and practices that will contribute to their missions. Charities can’t promote political candidates but they can urge or lobby for public policies that further charitable causes. Donors may be asked to contact their representative in relation to certain legislation. Many charities also advise on how donors can further their programs through advocacy in local communities.
When in doubt, check it out. When an unfamiliar organization asks you for a donation, don’t give without gathering details about the charity, the nature of its programs and its use of funds. Also contact the BBB Wise Giving Alliance or go to www.bbb.org and click on the Charity section for a BBB Wise Giving ReportTM on the charity.
For more information on charitable giving go to www.bbb.org or www.give.org.
As a private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reports on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.
Editors Note: For more information on charities experiencing challenges in the current economic climate go to: http://www.hungerday.org/news_room/local_impact/ .