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AP Perspectives—Encouraging Charitable Giving This Holiday Season

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It’s an all-too-familiar refrain nowadays—supply chain issues. It’s become somewhat of a catch-all for delays. Sorry for the delay in my response – supply chain issues! Parents began encouraging kids to write their lists to Santa back in October, in the hopes of being able to find a few of the items in stock in time for December 25th. Even with the government’s focused effort to relieve some of these bottlenecks, experts are not confident this problem will be solved in time to have all of the items we need delivered in the next six weeks.

This presents an interesting opportunity for nonprofits to encourage charitable gift giving this season, in lieu of consumerism. Personally, I have always made donations to organizations in my immediate family members’ names as stocking stuffers – but then again, I’m in the biz. This year, charities can ask their donors if they really need that store-bought item, or if perhaps giving the gift of saving a life, feeding or clothing an individual will feel more fulfilling. Rather than scrambling to purchase items or frantically tracking that USPS delivery only to be disappointed, you can rest easy knowing your donation made a difference to a charity that may be struggling to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

The natural instinct to shower our friends and family during the holidays with things they might love is already born out of generosity. We like to show our gratitude for the important people in our lives by gifting them with items that show we are thinking about them. We like to browse stores and websites for things that we imagine will bring them joy. It’s a way of making our appreciation for them tangible, and it releases endorphins to both give and receive these keepsakes. 

With the right messaging, nonprofits and fundraisers can channel that instinct to their charitable cause this year. It’s a natural connection to be made. With Giving Tuesday approaching and a large percentage of donations received in the last months – even down to the last days of each year, we can encourage people to think about paying it forward to the charity of their choice, or one that reflects the recipient’s values. Giving Tuesday is a wonderful initiative and we have seen participation grow by leaps and bounds in recent years, but without the right messaging your ask can get lost in a barrage of communications that day. Rather, think of this day as the kick-off to the end-of-year giving season. 

If your organization is holding an in-person event this year, think of a tangible item the donor can write the gift recipients name on and present to them—this is one of the simplest options. This does not have to be expensive – a postcard, small ornament or something that feels unique to your mission can be enough. The more personalized, the better! You may look to items that were being planned to use prior to the pandemic, and don’t require an investment of any more capital. 

If in-person events are not yet on the table, you can utilize your virtual event, social media, email list and website to reflect the message of giving the gift of philanthropy this holiday season. Perhaps there is an urgent need your organization is experiencing – putting this front and center and identifying the funding goals to solve it, is often fundraising 101 that gets overlooked, due to time or staffing constraints. It takes a fair amount of time and brainpower to harness the stories and program work required to translate internal content to external messaging. 

As fundraisers, we know that we are selling a feeling. Unlike placing an Amazon order that will arrive in 24-48 hours, our transactions are not transactional. After receiving a donation, it is up to us to communicate how that money is going to work. A donation is just the first step in what can be a long, fruitful relationship, when the donor sees the work being carried out to reflect the change they want to see in the world. No matter how large or small the amount, paying it forward can feel even better this season. 

Meredith AyanMeredith Ayan is a global animal welfare expert and consultant, advising clients on
international issues and initiatives. Ms. Ayan is a Certified Fundraising Executive, the
only professional accreditation in nonprofit fundraising. She also serves as a board
member for two New York based nonprofit organizations; Groove With Me, a nonprofit dance studio in East Harlem and Putnam County SPCA, a humane law enforcement agency in the Hudson Valley.

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