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The Season For Giving

Why Do They Send all Those Requests for Money?

It’s that time of year when your mailbox fills up quickly with holiday solicitations from charities - both local and national-all asking for your donation.

I know, because Joy Junction contributes to your mailbox infusion. While we mail all of our regular donors monthly, during the holiday season we make an extra push to acquire names. It’s essential to our smooth and ongoing operation.

Why so much attention to this time of the year? There’s an easy answer. People tend to be more philanthropic, and we receive as much as 40 to 45 percent of our annual budget. That number includes a relatively small portion of funds donated online.

Our in-house analysis and national research show that while online giving is on the increase, the backbone of our income comes from the regular monthly mailers we send each month and the holiday specific appeals we send out during this time of year.

But I was curious what people think about this mailing barrage – are they affected positively or negatively – and so I turned to our Facebook followers. The responses were interesting. Here are a selection.

Viola said the appeals affect her positively, but she wondered, “Why they keep sending mailings after I give? It seems wasteful.”

Good question, but here’s why. It brings in more donations, and while we’re a charity, we still have to pay the bills. The income generated from doing so far outweighs the minimal cost incurred in sending the letter.

Greer felt that online media is more effective, and doesn’t feel mailings are necessary. “Get people to share and follow your page, and do frequent updates to show the community your program.”

Kin said online (social media) posts are more convincing than mailings. Our responses doesn’t bear that out.

Someone else suggested a billboard. However, that is very expensive. Our experience has shown us that a billboard is not an effective income generator, and a billboard is only seen by a small number of our population.

Note that Joy Junction is very prolific in its use of social media - probably more so than any other local charity - but the bulk of our income continues to be received through the (tried and true) postal service.

It’s my guess that if we stopped mailing, we would soon be out of business. That, of course, would result in about 16,000 meals not being served, and as many as 300 homeless people nightly not having a place to stay. That would be heartrending and tragic!

Brenda said mailings don’t affect her, because “my husband and I split up charities at the beginning of the year and donate only to them ... Our budget is already set.”

Polly said, “My mailbox is loaded with solicitations everyday. I know who we donate to but my shredder really gets a workout.”

Barbara also liked the idea of the shredder, saying that she has her favorite charities to which she donates, and other solicitations end up in the shredder.

She added that she also wants as much of her donation as possible to “go to the cause.”

And Vesta said while hasn’t seen any mailings, she would probably toss them if she did.

So here’s the million dollar question. While we’re happy when you give, are you? A recent study from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy says donors are happier than non donors, and that gender matters in philanthropy.

Speaking to the Non Profit Times Debra Mesch, professor and director of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, said “It’s the joy of giving, (and fundraisers are in the business of explaining the joy of giving with donors they work with.”

She added, “Donors may appreciate that charitable giving makes you a happier family.”

If you are unable to give financially even to your favorite charity, give out of that you have already – the unique person that is you. Your eye contact with a lonely homeless person on the street, a handshake or even a smile could make a huge difference in their life. It could turn a day of despair into hope.

Of course, your options are not limited to helping the homeless. Just find any charity whose cause connects with your heart. Go check it out, and plunge right in! It may change your life.

Let me know if you do this and what the reaction was.

Jeremy Reynalds is the founder of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest homeless shelter.

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