I’m a freelancer. There are months when checks are coming in – and others when things feel tight. After five years of doing it – I’m used to the financial roller coaster and do a fairly good job planning for it. What I have learned is that even during times of an abundance of work, I never feel like I have enough. There’s always some justification to save, or pay off a credit card, or get a new back splash in the kitchen. As a result, I don’t always do a great job “tithing” to charities doing the good work our communities depend on.
Apparently – I’m not alone. Late last month the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Office released a report that found that donations are down in the state by 33%, and this year had the lowest amount donated in the last four years.
How could that be? Aren’t we overcoming the recession? The impacts of the recession are still lingering. I see it in my own family. Sure – we’re doing better each month, but it’s hard to forget the lean times and “saving for a rainy day” seems extra important.
While those of us making enough to live are squirreling away our “nuts” for the winter – nearly one in five families in the state aren’t making enough to cover their basic living expenses. While employment levels now match those at pre-recession levels – they’re still not matching the job growth that should have occurred based on our population growth. And many of the new jobs that replaced the lost ones don’t come close in salary.
The task of helping to support and lift up the population impacted by job loss and low salaries often falls on nonprofits. Increasingly the state and federal governments are counting on the groupons “on the front lines” to do the job they can’t or aren’t doing.
On top of a reduction in donations, the Secretary of State found that of the more than $21 million dollars donated so far this year, just over nine-million went directly to the charity. That’s a return rate of 42% – which underscores why it’s also important to make sure you’re donating to a reputable charity whose operating costs are a fraction of their money raised. Websites like www.charitynavigator.org can help you do that. Also, I found it very interesting to review the state’s report because it lists the actual percentage given to each charity. There are many instances of for-profit companies collecting money on a charity’s behalf and pocketing as much as 95% of the profit.
So back to my admission that I’m a “greedy squirrel” sometimes when it comes to my wallet … It’s human nature to want to take care of yourself and your family first – and that’s what we have the responsibility to do. But when I’m honest about it – I waste money every week. That fancy coffee that didn’t do anything but cost $5 and make me jittery for the rest of the day, or that $3 toy my daughter begged me for at the store that just added to the pile of other plastic junk in their toy bins. I bet I waste about $20 a week – at least – and that money could feed families, or buy warm clothes for people where every penny counts.