As the holiday season approaches and the season of joy takes over, it’s not
uncommon to feel bombarded by requests to give. It’s the most magical time of
the year – unless it isn’t. For many charities in the Northwest & Pacific,
the end of the year is synonymous with the busiest time of the year and the
greatest need within the community. When temperatures drop, shelters begin to
reach capacity, more families need assistance from food banks, and many other
human services organizations see a spike in families needing a hand up to get
through the coldest seasons.
In an attempt to attract the resources charities need to provide services to the
community, the bell ringers outside storefronts, food collection bins, year-end
fundraising appeals, and coat drives can make your head spin. Everywhere we
turn, we see requests to donate a can of food, round our total up to the
nearest dollar, or sponsor a family in need. At the end of the year, we see
more requests for gifts in kind than any other time of the year – but are all
Last month, we discussed giving wisely . Now, let’s assume that you’ve done your due diligence and found a trustworthy charity to support. (If not, let us help you find a BBB Accredited Charity!) How can you make the biggest impact with what you are able to give? First, let’s identify the two primary ways to donate:
Cash Donations: Monetary donations will always be needed. This
is the most traditional form of giving and the easiest to measure – both for
charities and donors.
Gifts In-Kind: Donations of non-cash assets (goods or services)
are essential to the missions of many charitable organizations. These In-kind
donations may vary from medical supplies and clothing to advertising or
professional services. In-kind gifts will be recorded as revenue based on their
fair value and will also be reported as expenses in an organization’s financial
Which is better to give? The answer will depend on the organization you choose to
support and what their individual needs are. Here are some things to keep in
- Most food banks accept only nonperishable food, shelf-stable food that
has not been opened. Many also accept baby items, including formula and diapers.
- Organizations many have limitations on what in-kind goods they can
accept, depending on their current demand and space availability.
- Food banks, in particular, can do a lot more with $5 than the average
consumer thanks to large-scale bulk purchasing agreements and nationwide
donation programs. You may make a greater impact donating money than a bag of
- When donating used items, be sure that they are still in usable
condition. Disposing goods that aren’t salable or are not able to be used will
cost charities millions each year.
- If you are starting a collection drive to gather food, clothing, or
other supplies for a specific charity, you should first contact that
organization before using their name and logo. Some organizations may provide
resources to help make your drive successful.
Better Business Bureau recommends that you check with a charity for their specific
needs, but here are some suggestions on common items most requested by food
banks and homeless shelters this holiday season:
Common food bank needs: Common homeless shelter needs:
Canned meals, such as stews and chilis Food
Canned fruit and vegetables Clothing
Canned fish or meat Housewares and kitchen items
Peanut butter Toiletries and women’s hygiene products
Brown rice Towels, bed sheets, and blankets
Whole grain pastas Cold-weather items
Canned tomato sauces Undergarments and socks
Shelf stable milk Bus passes
Baby formula Gift cards
Jars of baby food First aid kits
Infant cereal Gently used furniture and mattresses
Baby diapers and wipes Baby diapers and wipes
Stretch your generosity a little further:
- Shop savvy: While grocery shopping, take advantage
of sales, promotions and cash-back apps. Utilize “buy-one-get-one” deals on
items you are already buying, then donate the freebies you’ve earned. There are
a variety of cash-back apps that let you earn money back on purchases; consider
donating this money instead of spending it on yourself.
- Check with your charity of choice: Many charities in
need of in-kind support post lists of their current needs on their websites.
Amazon wish lists allow charities to identify specific items that will be most
impactful to their programs and ship directly to the organization.
- Give your time: Want to make a bigger impact than your
wallet will allow? Donate your time. As the need for services increases, often
does the need for volunteers. Check with an organization for their volunteer
requirements and sign-up process.
When in doubt, just ask the charity you wish to support what their greatest need is
this holiday season. Whether you donate time, talent or treasures this year,
your gift will be appreciated – no matter how large or small.