Christmas charities depend on our generosity

In addition to the high-profile charities, others capitalize on the generosity and gift giving at this time of year.

December can be an exhausting month.

For retailers, although it often means more revenue, it also means longer hours. Depending on the weather, the city work crews face some all-nighters now and then. But no more so than the non-profit societies and charities trying to make this year the best one yet for some of Nanaimo’s most vulnerable people.

Nanaimo’s Hamperville is in full swing, a partnership between Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank and the Salvation Army to prepare food hampers for Christmas dinner. The goal is to collect 150,000 pounds of donations this year or enough to feed 2,500 families.

The Great Nanaimo Toy Drive is also collecting donations. Toys, plus stuffed animals and books, will go to hundreds of families who struggle to afford the gift-giving traditions at Christmas. Some would argue (myself on occasion) that toys are not a necessity, that given the choice between food and material things, the choice is obvious. But we live in a consumerist culture and for many children, those gifts from the toy drive give them a boost of self-esteem when they compare what they got to their classmates in January.

The News Bulletin’s annual Coins for Kids campaign goes toward the toy drive. It’s a fundraiser that everyone can contribute to – just a handful of spare change from each of our readers adds up to a big difference for toy charities at Christmas.

In addition to the high-profile charities, others capitalize on the generosity and gift giving at this time of year. Nanaimo Community Hospice provides its Celebrate a Life tree at Country Club Centre, helping people who lost a loved one at Christmas. Vancouver Island University Foundation held Giving Tuesday – a day for charities after a weekend of capitalist gluttony – which helped raise more than $20,000 for smart students and those needing some financial help.

These community-based charities allow donors to see exactly where their donations go and to see first-hand the change their donations wrought. The difference from charities like World Vision are less tangible. Money goes overseas to worthy causes that we hope are making a difference.

Whether you donate locally or globally, ensure you are an informed donor. A portion of every donation will go toward administration costs; how much depends on the charity. Some of the best charities run at 10 per cent; most run at 20 per cent, meaning that for every dollar you donate, 10 to 20 cents pays for managers, accountants, administrators and events that help make more fundraising dollars. Some charities, however, can run as high as 30-40 per cent.

Perhaps the biggest donation anyone can make is that of time. If you don’t have the money to give to Hamperville or the toy drive, volunteer to help sort and package the hampers. Or take a shift ringing the bells for the Salvation Army’s kettle campaign. A few hours on a mild December afternoon will make all the difference to someone in need – and it won’t cost you a dime.