Metro-East News

Metro-east charities, non-profits amp up for Giving Tuesday

After Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, bank accounts might be looking a bit strained, but local charities and non-profits are hoping to appeal to both the heart and the wallet on Giving Tuesday.

For the past four years, charities have piggybacked on the traditional start to the shopping season by encouraging consumers to add charitable giving to their holiday to-do lists.

The metro-east is no exception to the Giving Tuesday trend. Local organizations like the Belleville Area Humane Society, radio reading service MindsEye, social service Call for Help, Inc. and McKendree University are hoping to see a hike in donations and volunteerism.

Giving donors a specific reason to contribute is one way organizations are hoping to bump up funding. Katie Nelson, executive director of the Belleville Humane Society, says the non-profit organization is seeking donations for a new cat enclosure with kennels and a free-roam area.

“Picking a specific reason to donate gets people a little more interested. Cats may be their favorite pet,” Nelson said.

The humane society needs $15,000 for the project. Veterinarian Karen Louis of Metro-East Home Vet Care plans to match donations up to $2,000 toward the new enclosure, Nelson said.

Marjorie Moore, executive director of MindsEye, which broadcasts readings of more than 150 publications for people who are visually-impaired, says Giving Tuesday has become increasingly important over the past three years the organization has participated.

“It’s really important to us because it kicks off the holiday giving season,” Moore said. “Even if people don’t participate in Giving Tuesday, I think it still gets it in their mind that it’s time to write those holiday checks.”

Last year, MindsEye raised about $2,600 on Giving Tuesday, Moore said.

State-supported organizations like Call for Help, Inc. in East St. Louis are also hoping for an uptick in donations with Illinois’ temporary spending plan set to expire at the end of the year, said James Kellerman, executive director of the multifaceted social service organization.

“We were hit hard over the last year with the state budget crisis,” Kellerman said. The organization lost about $250,000 alone in state funding for its transitional living center for women and children during the budget impasse, he added.

The organization, which offers care for sexual assault victims among other services, lost about $30,000 in overall state funding after lawmakers passed a temporary spending plan in July, Kellerman said. He said he hopes state funding comes in at the same level or higher next year, but just in case, “we’re planning that it won’t be here.” The organization also receives federal funding.

Though Call for Help says monetary donations are welcome, volunteer hours and item donations like clothing and toiletries are just as important.

McKendree University is also hoping alumni and others in the university community will give big on Giving Tuesday. Last year, the university raised $100,000 from 855 donors, according to Vincent Piazza, director of annual giving. This year, the university hopes to garner donations from more than 900 donors. Donations will go toward a renovated science hall and library, improvements to historic academic buildings, and general support, according to a news release from the university.

But the Better Business Bureau encourages donors to do their research before they decide to give to a charity or non-profit organization. The bureau maintains a list of local charities that meet its Standards for Charity Accountability, looking at governance, effectiveness and fundraising practices.

Claire Costello, a philanthropic practice executive with U.S. Trust, told USA Today that donors should first identify causes they care about, and then thoroughly research related charities before giving.

“A good place to start is asking yourself some key questions: What are your values? What are you passionate about? What issues of the day matter most to you? What is your ultimate vision of the impact you wish to make? Is your goal to advance a global cause, to engage with issues in your local community, or perhaps both? Your answers will help inform the issues that you choose to address,” Costello told the newspaper.

Other websites with information about charities include GuideStar.org and CharityNavigator.org.

The bureau also reminds donors that donations given by Jan. 1 are deductible on 2016’s tax returns.

Kelsey Landis: 618-239-2110, @kelseylandis

Tips from the Better Business Bureau on how to “give wise”

  • If you are unfamiliar with an organization, don’t hesitate to ask the charity for written information about its programs and finances.
  • Don’t succumb to pressure to give money on the spot. A charity that can use your money today will welcome it just as much tomorrow. Watch out for appeals that bring tears to your eyes, but tell you nothing about how your donation will be used.
  • Before making online donations, determine whether the charity’s website is secure and that it has a privacy policy concerning the use of your name, email address or other personal facts. (Secure sites’ addresses begin with https://.)
  • When considering support for a cause-related marketing campaign, find the answers to these questions: What portion of the purchase price will benefit the charity? What is the duration of the campaign? What is the maximum or minimum total contribution? If the information is not on the item, check the organization’s website.
  • Before donating used items, make sure they are in good shape to reuse. Donating junk puts an undue burden on the charity and could do more harm than good. You might want to consider selling the item and donating the proceeds to a charity.
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