By MATTHEW NASH
— One of the side effects of the economic crisis that our country faced beginning back in 2008 is that charitable contributions have dropped off dramatically.
Many people have less money than they did back then and those that do have money are doing there best to hold onto it. I can understand being careful with your money after seeing fortunes disappear nearly overnight when the economy went south.
A study done last year by the group Giving USA showed an 11 percent drop in 2011 charitable donations from the level they were in 2007. The study anticipated that it may take up to another decade to get back to the giving levels from 2007. This comes at a time when more and more people are in need and some depend on the kindness of others just to get by. I believe that that we can do better at fulfilling the needs of our community.
Recently, the city of New Albany banned the practice of collecting money at intersections citing the danger of standing in the middle of the street. At first I thought this was a no-brainer, but was amazed when several people opposed this new ordinance. I can understand that finding new ways to raise money for organizations has gotten difficult, but I think that standing in the street at a busy intersection isn’t the best.
I personally drive through the intersection at Spring and Silver streets a couple of times most days. This location has been a favorite for groups collecting donations. It is easily one of the most dangerous places in our city and with all the distracted driving going on it was only a matter of time before there was an accident.
Ultimately, I think the city did the right thing by banning the practice. If just one serious accident would have occurred it would have been devastating, no matter how profitable that corner was to groups that count on those donations.
When the idea to ban the intersection collection some people believed that it was up to the city to help organizations come up with new ways to make up for lost revenue due to the ban. These days with so many people relying on social media to find out information, I believe that it is easier than ever to communicate with a mass audience. It is also much cheaper to get the word out if your group is planning a fundraiser.
Seven years ago, I decided that I would do what I could for a charity. I don’t have a lot of money to make much of a difference, but I do have some time and some talents that can be used for good instead of evil. Over the years, I have developed a few different ways to help raise money for the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics. This year was my most successful in collecting donations — I just had to get a little creative.
The Polar Plunge for Special Olympics hosts a “personal page” for each of the plungers that is collecting. I directed people to my page where they were able to offer words of encouragement or a monetary donation over the Internet. I received about 25 percent of my total donations from this process with little effort on my part. I just posted a link on Facebook and Twitter a couple of times in the weeks leading up to the plunge.
While some people rely on the direct approach by just asking people for money, I have come up with a couple of more resourceful ways. I offer a couple of services to people that donate cash in return. For the last few years at work I have cooked lunch for my co-workers. I make a big pot of chili and bring it in for all to enjoy. I don’t charge anybody I just ask that they give what they can. Most people would have spent anywhere from $1 to $20 on their lunch that day anyway and were more than willing to give that money to a good cause.
For the last few years, the Polar Plunge has coincided with opening weekend of “Gravity Head” — a beer celebration hosted by the New Albanian Brewing Co. With the help and endorsement of the ownership team, I have been the “designated driver” for the company for the first two nights. I sit around drinking Mr. Pibb and enjoying pizza and breadsticks while others can enjoy their libations with the knowledge that I will get them home safely.
Over the years, I have developed a relationship with a group from Dayton, Ohio, who come down each year. They stay at the Holiday Inn and are happy to make a small donation in exchange for a safe ride home. It is cheaper than what they would pay for a taxi cab and the money all goes for a good cause. I appreciate what they do and would like to thank Patti and Larry and the crew they bring with them.
I believe that everyone should do what they can to support whatever charity they choose. If you can’t donate money, offer them your time or energy and do what you can. Hold a bake sale or have your kids start a lemonade stand, get your friends and neighbors involved and do what you can.
There are many in our community that rely on the giving of others in order to survive. If everyone just give a little something it would make life better for many people.
— Matthew Nash can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org