The Giving Season

By - Nov 1st, 2010 04:00 am
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Photo courtesy Mr. Kim via Flickr

Americans are generous, even in hard times. According to a 2010 study by the Charities Aid Foundation, only four countries in the world have higher percentages of individuals who give their time and money, and the total point spread between top-ranking Australia and us is only 2-percent (57% vs. 55%).

In all, Americans gave almost $308 billion in 2009, only a 3 percent decrease from 2008 (and a wash when adjusted for inflation). And 75 percent of that came from individuals.

In Wisconsin, we give an average of 2 percent of our income to worthy causes, which is not bad at all. And 1.5 million of us volunteer an average of 36 hours of our time each year.

Not surprisingly, charitable donations spike in the holiday season. And while people love to give, they choose carefully where their money goes, based on both their own interests and the credibility and vibe of the receiving organizations.

Upon the heels of recent census data ranking Milwaukee as the fourth poorest city in the country, we givers have our work cut out for us.

A Milwaukee food bank. Image courtesy Hunger Task Force

Sherrie Tussler, Executive Director for Hunger Task Force, says that in Milwaukee alone, there are an estimated 40,000 people who rely on soup kitchens for meals, and that nearly 80,000 hot meals are served in shelters and food pantries every month.

Gina Styer of Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin (formerly America’s Second Harvest) says that the number of people who rely on their resources has grown dramatically.

“We have seen a 30 percent increase in the demand for food over the last two years. Many of the people turning to those programs for food are doing so for the first time” says Styer. “330,000 people rely us for food in the 36 counties of eastern Wisconsin.”

But there’s more to personal generosity than food bins and red kettles.

Individuals and businesses are stepping up to meet the demand in creative ways, creating events, incentives and promotions that tie in with their own business goals and personal values – and create more memorable experiences for those who give.

Throughout the month of November, TCD will feature some of the individuals and organizations doing just that — from art auctions to good old fashioned rock shows and everything in between.

Let the Season of Giving begin.

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