The season of giving is upon us

By Jill McKenzie

October 11, 2017 1:47 PM

The kids are back to school and their activities are already in full swing. With the flurry of team meetings, practices and fees comes also the much anticipated … fundraisers.
As parents and community members, so much of what is possible in the community rides on us—on our ability to juggle our responsibilities, pay our share and come up with creative ways to raise extra money to keep our kids’ activities affordable.
But it doesn’t stop there, does it?
In almost every small town there’s a hall that needs maintained, an aging school and playground, and possibly an arena that’s the hub of the community.
The upkeep of our public spaces often falls to the same individuals that actively run the programs and do the fundraising that keeps the wheels turning.
Thank goodness for the volunteers in the community that give up their own free time to ensure we have hot lunches in our schools, ice in our arenas, museums to enjoy, fall suppers to attend, an information desk at the hospital, and the list goes on.
Look around you today and notice how much of what we take for granted was actually the result of someone choosing to work for free.
Let’s go out of our way to thank these people for their efforts.
Everywhere you turn there are good causes that need financial support, from the community infrastructure already mentioned, kids’ clubs and charities, the continual asks at the cash register in stores or the devastating International crises that grow more alarming every day.
Whether these disasters be natural or man-made, the toll of human suffering in the world seems only to grow, while our capacity to understand and help feels diminished by the helpless sense that nothing can truly make a difference.
Not only that, but how do we know our money is actually getting to the people that need it rather than paying an inflated salary and supporting the cumbersome bureaucracy of a huge organization?
Luckily, there are a number of charity watch websites concerned with that very question.
Check out or to see where your favorite charities rate in their efficiency with your donations.
This is not meant to degrade your confidence in large charitable organizations.
Dealing with disasters at home and abroad is a costly business, and support is needed. All the more reason to do your homework and see that your dollars are used honestly and efficiently.
Did you know that the large charity lotteries you might be supporting see, on average, about 27                                 per cent of every dollar retained for funding charity programs?
The rest of the money goes towards paying for those huge prizes.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t support charity lotteries—it means those donations should be looked upon as entertainment that has the added benefit of supporting a cause.
If you buy a ticket on a house, though, and consider that your annual charitable donation, perhaps you aren’t getting the bang for your buck that you expected.
From time to time we are moved, personally, by a cause or emergency that captures our attention and makes us urgently want to help. In the case of a local emergency, we might be able to get our hands dirty and pitch in to help a neighbour in need.
An emergency like the Fort McMurray wildfire saw people across Alberta taking strangers into their homes and campers in an inspiring display of brotherhood and caring.
It could have been us, and we stepped up to help.
Unfortunately, there’s something called “The Disaster After the Disaster” you may not have heard of.
When people have lost everything, as they did in Fort Mac, people rush to donate goods out of the generous desire to help.
But imagine having lost your whole neighbourhood only to see truckloads of donated appliances show up before you’ve had time to find your insurance policy number.
In many cases the donated clothes, appliances and furniture must be warehoused and end up being disposed of years later at great expense, not because people didn’t appreciate the gesture but because it wasn’t what they needed when they needed it.
The truth is, during a disaster, people need money most of all.
Having a community yard sale to raise funds for disaster relief would allow people to feel that they’ve helped while also being a more efficient way to give.
Christmas is coming, and with it comes dozens of causes competing for our attention and dollars. It feels good to give.
But let’s face it, the call to help gets overwhelming and it becomes necessary to prioritize. Budgeting your money year-round allows you to focus on causes that matter to you. Be strategic.
And remember that volunteering your time is a gift to your community.

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