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Charitable Giving Is Always in Season

Down Etc shares its love by supporting charities with its bedding and bath products, either by providing them directly to those in need or indirectly to charitable organizations to be used to raise funds to support their missions. With the number of organizations accessible via the internet, it’s not difficult to find something to support in the way you are able, whether that is with your time, knowledge, goods, or funding.

Volunteering Your Time and Energy

Every two years, Americorps collaborates with the U.S. Census Bureau “to collect data on volunteering and civic engagement to take the pulse of our nation’s civic health.” The most recent statistics from the 2021 survey showed that, during the height of the Covid pandemic, nearly 51% of the U.S. Population age 16 and over “informally helped neighbors between September 2020 and 2021,” and more than 23% of people in that age group “formally volunteered through an organization during the same period,” according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The 2023 survey analytics will be released in the fall of 2024.

You may already have organizations that support your values to which you would like to donate your time. You can also find one in your area of interest using a service such as Charity Navigator or Guidestar, which can help you to make informed giving decisions.

Once you’ve done that, you should decide how much time you have to offer and how much you want to interact with the organization and the individuals it supports to avoid becoming frustrated or feeling you’re not giving what you intended. You don’t want to fail to follow through once the organization comes to count on you or your assistance.

Consider what you have to offer. You might be surprised at the needs you can meet of which you’re unaware. Would you be able to run errands for those who are not mobile or provide rides to individuals who are mobile but have no access to or means of transportation? You’ve probably walked past a community board at the local bakery, which might hold notices of need by local food banks and shelters.

You can also make it fun. Many organizations have fundraising events centered around activities such as running or cycling. Our guest blogger Scott created the nonprofit Wyoming Ohio Cycling Foundation around his passion for cycling. In addition to regular cycling, the group holds an annual charity ride, the Spring Classic, with participation fees and sponsors, as well as an annual fundraiser, the 365 Challenge, to encourage riders to donate based upon miles ridden that year. The cyclists then select the local charities to receive the funds raised. Go solo or organize a team to raise funds and participate together in your favorite sport.

Giving Goods

There are many ways to give gifts of goods. Look to see what your charity of choice needs at the current moment. Is it gently used coats or canned goods? If that is something of which you have an abundance, donate. However, if you’re planning to go out to buy those items, it might be more efficient to donate funds that will allow the organization to buy in bulk or to approach companies that might supplement the purchase of the products with their own donation.

If you’re not sure whether the organization would prefer donated goods or funds, don’t hesitate to contact them. Heartfelt Tidbits, an organization with which Down Etc works, empowers refugee and immigrant families to reach self-sufficiency through extensive support and innovative programming, shares “Today’s Wish List” of its most current needs on its website. They also welcome donations of funds and volunteers interested in expanding their hearts and lives in a myriad of roles including participating in a community garden, teaching a sewing class, and tutoring a student or teaching English.

Sometimes donating goods is a way to include the whole family in the decision that might be less tangible if you donate funds. For example, Toys for Tots Virtual Toy Box allows you to choose the toys to be donated. Let children select gifts for other children in need when they select their own gifts, a one-for-me and one-for-someone else approach. You can also share the experience by purchasing toys and delivering them to a drop location.

Donating Funds

Numerous charities, local, national, and worldwide, need donations to continue their missions. Giving money has become simpler with online donations. Whether donating online or in person, be wary of dishonest fundraisers who may be looking for money and personal information, particularly during times of natural disaster or the outbreak of war. However, you need not be discouraged from donating. The Internal Revenue Service  and the Federal Trade Commission offer simple ways in which you can verify the legitimacy of an organization to be sure your donations go toward the intended recipients. Each state’s attorney general’s office typically has a similar online search feature to verify an organization’s tax-exempt status. All of these government entities recommend donors checkout organizations to which they are considering a donation on one of the private watchdog organizations such as Charity Navigator or Guidestar.

Once you’ve selected a charity, consider how you would like to make your monetary donation. Organizations make it as easy as possible, many offering the option of donating by text, in addition to donating by mail and phone. If you’ve ever listened to NPR, you know that you have the option of a one-time gift or becoming a monthly sustainer. No amount is too small. The American Red Cross includes in its individual giving options the donation of airline miles to help their volunteers and staff get to critical areas and hotel points that can be redeemed for donations. If you’re a traveler, you can see the American Red Cross’s website for the listing of participating airlines and hotels.

There are a myriad of other ways to donate, including through the creation of Donor Advised Funds or by donating shares of appreciated stocks and mutual funds. Both options may provide more tax benefits than a cash gift while supporting the charity of your choice.

Although volunteering and donating increase during the holiday season, organizations and neighbors need volunteers and donations all year round. Consider offering your time, money, and special skills.

-The Team at Down Etc

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