Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What to get the Neffs for Christmas

Long lines, empty shelves and Thanksgiving chickens are just a few symptoms of the economic downturn's effect on food banks and community pantries across the country. People are turning to charitable organizations for their Thanksgiving meal this year in record numbers, while donations have dropped significantly and funding has been slashed. Charity organizers across the country say the lagging economy has forced individual donors to keep money to themselves, while businesses that usually donate are struggling to stay afloat.
(CNN, 25 November 2008)

Memo to anybody who is wondering what to get Mr Neff or me for Christmas this year: We love you and are grateful that you are thinking about us, but we already have so many books that our house is beginning to sink, so many calories that our pajamas are getting tight, and so many attractive objects stored in our basement that the furnace maintenance guy no longer knows where to squat and set his toolbox.

We think this would be a fine year to help those struggling charitable organizations.

But since we don't want to wake up in the middle of the night worrying if you still love us, could you just send us an email (or a comment on this blog post) wishing us a happy Christmas and telling us you love us so much that you contributed to [fill in the blank]? That would make us feel warm and useful.

If you're wondering who would best use your donation, check out Charity Navigator. There you can browse for charities by category, location, size, and rating. You can see if your favorite charity earned the coveted four stars--and if not, why not. You can find out what percentage of moneys raised actually goes to charitable projects, and what percentage goes to administration and fund-raising. You can see how much the CEO earns, and what percentage of total revenue that salary represents.

You can browse for articles, such as "Top 10 Best Practices for Savvy Donors" and "Tips for Giving in Times of Crisis." Once you've found a charity you want to support, Charity Navigator even offers the option of donating online.

In this time of financial feelings ranging from uncertainty to despair, we prefer donating to organizations that
  • have a 4-star rating, indicating that they use their funds as advertised and have a sound financial base
  • specialize in human services, including food distribution, housing, and help for children
  • channel over 95% of donated funds to their intended use (a far higher percentage than is required for the 4-star rating, but we want the most bang for our buck)
  • serve either nationally or in the Chicago area, where we live
Catholic Charities USA makes the grade, as do Feeding America and the Northern Illinois Food Bank. The American Red Cross is close. So that's our Christmas wish list (but feel free to surprise us). And please, let us know about your wish list in return.

1 comment:

cj said...

Check out Markmakers.org. It is an online charity mall for kids organized by causes such as poverty, hunger, health. Each main category or store, has multiple options within. In the Kids in Need store, you have the option to provide laptops, fund organ transplants, supplies after natural disasters, repair musical instruments and much more.

It is a great program for educating kids on humanitarian efforts while empowering them to have the positive affect of their choosing on the world.

This is my gift of choice for the children in our lives this holiday.