EDITORIAL: Holiday giving should last all year

Keywords Editorials / Opinion

’Tis the season to give—and we’re not talking about the shop-till-you-drop display of conspicuous consumption that started before the Thanksgiving leftovers were even cold.

So what comes after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday? This year, it was Giving Tuesday, a new effort to encourage Americans to open their wallets to support charities.

Celebrated Nov. 27, it’s an admirable effort backed by corporate and philanthropic heavyweights nationwide. Among the founding partners: United Nations Foundation, United Way, JPMorgan Chase and Indianapolis’ own Simon Property Group Inc., which collected donations in its malls.

More than 2,000 not-for-profits across the country—including several in Indianapolis—used the occasion to ask for gifts or mobilize volunteers.

The day-long focus on giving may be new, but history tells us Santa’s not the only one who gets his jollies from being generous. Charitable giving typically picks up in the last quarter of the year, accounting for about a third of all donations.

That’s no small potatoes, considering Americans gave an estimated $298.4 billion to tax-exempt organizations last year. Indeed, total giving increased in 2011 for the second straight year, according to a report released in June by the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Let’s keep that streak going.

Every charity that can afford the price of postage likely has sent out its annual appeal already, and several large-scale fundraisers are well under way.

United Way of Central Indiana, for example, is in the home stretch of its $40.8 million campaign. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is in the midst of a high-stakes effort to raise $5 million by Feb. 3.

And on Indianapolis’ far-south side, Southport Presbyterian Church set up a disaster-relief fund to help residents affected by a Nov. 10 explosion that damaged 80 homes in the Richmond Hill neighborhood.

Within hours of the explosion—before many of us even heard the news—donated goods began arriving at the church and volunteers opened their homes to those in need. It was a stirring response to an unfathomable situation.

It’s natural for us to want to help, but we shouldn’t wait for a disaster or a holiday to spur us to charitable action. There are plenty of opportunities year-round for us all to share our time, talent and treasure.

Indeed, we have a lot to offer other than money. Not-for-profits need good board members almost as much as cash. Many need active, engaged volunteers. And many just need everyday essentials like copier paper or office chairs. (Check out IBJ’s annual Holiday Wish List here to see how you can help. The sure-to-grow list of local agencies’ most-pressing needs runs weekly through Dec. 24.)

The demands on charities don’t end when the year does, and neither should our support.•


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