Charitable giving

At this “giving” time of the year, I’ve been doing a bit of thinking about the amount of money donated to charities.

Whether it’s religious organizations, academic foundations, health-related (seems there’s an association for every disease known to mankind!), the environment, or a multitude of other causes and interests, statistics show 70 percent of Americans donate to charity in any one year, and the average amount contributed is 3 percent of their income (unless they’re totally out of a job). I didn’t make this up; it’s according to statistics.

In fact, nonprofits took in $1 trillion in revenue for 2006 alone.

That’s a LOT of money, folks!

Doesn’t it seem reasonable to wonder what happens to all that money? I think so.

Most solicitations I receive in the mail come with fine print on the back, indicating what portion of the monies collected goes for administrative expenses, marketing, staff salaries, etc. You ought to read that before you donate, especially if you’re concerned whether the people actually needing the money get the money. Most charities, I’m sure, try to be frugal with their resources, but at this time of year, one can’t be too careful in avoiding scams!

In addition to cash donations, of course, are contributions of goods, services, and time. Some families choose to work a soup kitchen during the holidays; others donate to Goodwill or Toys for Tots; still others send sons and daughters overseas as missionaries, or build homes with Habitat for Humanity, or work the red kettles of the Salvation Army. The options are practically endless.

Why do people donate? Obviously, some do it because of the tax write-off, but others give because they believe in the cause or organization, and it makes them feel good to contribute.

St. James wrote: ‘Faith without works is dead.’ It’s hard to be a person of faith without giving. We can’t out-give God, who gives so richly to us! Catholic tradition has always called for service to humankind; many other religions also encourage their members to donate time and talents for the good of others.

But since we’re giving so much, has it ever crossed your mind: how come there’s still poverty in our world??