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It’s that time of year when, with joy or dread, we all get ready for the holidays. There’s dinner to prepare and parties to attend. Everyone’s making a list for someone to check twice before hitting the stores for the sales to buy gifts for the naughty and nice.
Christmas carols take over the air waves. Every television station has at least one holiday special. Our mail boxes are stuffed each day with cards from friends and family we probably haven’t heard from since this time last year, unless, of course, they’re friends on Facebook. ‘Tis the season to be jolly! And at some point, even the most cynical holiday hater is going to be warmed at least a little by the joy of it all and be thankful.
It’s also the time of year when your mail box – snail mail or electronic – is filled with year-end requests for donations from nonprofits new and old. Unlike the holiday cards from friends and family, these letters don’t get taped on the door or placed on the mantel. Some don’t even get opened, going directly to the “circular” file or trash bin on your desktop. So I’m here to do an intervention on behalf of these year-end “asks.”
Hopefully giving to nonprofits is something everyone does regularly. Of course, if that were the case we wouldn’t be receiving those year-end letters. You see, the sad reality is that, although so many benefit from the great works of organizations both locally and nationally, most of us don’t support them with our time, talent or tithes.
The government for the most part doesn’t fund them. Foundations and philanthropists provide some funding but there, for most organizations, remains a gap. So why should we care?
If you’ve been fortunate, really fortunate, you’ve never been hungry, cold or homeless and relied on an agency for a warm meal, a place to eat or shelter from the elements. In 2014, there were 578,424 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States. According to the Williams Institute, 40 percent of the homeless youth served by agencies identify as LGBT.
If you’ve been fortunate, really fortunate, you can afford safe, decent housing. Unfortunately, affordable housing is a scarce resource in many cities. Decent and affordable housing has far-reaching consequences for people’s health, quality of life and access to opportunities.
If you’ve been fortunate, really fortunate, your life has not been affected by poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and a host of other socio-economic challenges impacting the lives of millions not just in this country but globally. You’ve never been alone and afraid looking for and/or being helped by a hotline manned by volunteers trained to help or just listen. You’ve never needed someone to advocate for your basic human rights so you can be free to be the person you were born to be.
If you think you have been that fortunate, open your eyes, wake up and smell the proverbial coffee. LGBTQ people are born into all types of families and face the same socio-economic challenges that other people who share their sex, race, ethnicity, age and disability face. We all have been and are touched by these societal woes and owe a huge debt to the nonprofits, their staffs and volunteers who step up each and every day to provide a safety net for those in need and the most vulnerable which, quiet as it’s kept, could be you tomorrow.
So as you sort through that holiday mail, take a moment to open those letters. You don’t have to say yes to everyone, but look them over, especially those in your community. Are they accountable – fulfilling their mission/vision as an organization and to the community? Are they building sustainability for core programming? Are they transparent not only with their finances but their governance? What are their goals/achievements – are they being met/accomplished?
Make your list and check it twice then show your thanks by making a gift. Instead of those tacky $10 gag gifts, make a group donation to an organization on your list. Volunteer to serve food, distribute clothing or relieve staff/volunteer during the holiday so they can spend time with family and friends.
For the fourth year, the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (U.S., not Canadian) has been designated as “Giving Tuesday.” This year it falls on Dec. 1. You can support organizations participating in #GivingTuesday online.
Yes it’s the season to give thanks for all the friends, family and things that make our life worth living. It’s also the time to remember those less fortunate and thank the organizations, staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to make a difference in their lives.
I’m hoping, like me, you show your support with a donation of time, talent and/or cash every month. If so, on behalf of the beneficiaries of your generosity, I thank you. But please say yes one more time (remember, it may be tax deductible) and make this the season to thankfully give.