Charitable Giving In Tough Times | Bruce Turkel

Today I had lunch with an old friend and very successful attorney who is the founder of an important charity.

His girlfriend is in the real estate business and she’s in touch with people’s current economic situations. Her suggestion to him was that the charity postpones their big fundraiser this year because people won’t be able to donate. He wanted to know my thoughts.

Granted, I tend to see most things from a different perspective than most people but I thought there were at least four reasons why “the show must go on.”

First, it’s presumptuous to believe that just because some people can’t give that all people can’t give. Plenty of businesses, such as my friend’s, are more profitable than ever. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Second, I think by cancelling the event they would lose the momentum they’ve worked so hard to build over the past few years. Why not send an invitation and tell people that if they find themselves in a situation where they can’t afford to attend, then they should not contribute but they should attend anyway? Our message should be that you were there for us when things were good, we won’t abandon you when things are not so good. I’m sure we can find a sponsor to subsidize the “scholarships.”

Third, we have to be careful not to make the obvious mistake of believing that charitable giving is a one-way street and that only the giver is doing the receiver a favor. Truth is, most non-profits provide wonderful services not only to the recipients of that service but also to the givers. Charities provide donors with the opportunity to make the world a better place and so the transaction is really a win-win-win (Donor-Charity-Recipient). When we worked for the United Way, we coined the phrase “Giving People Help and Helping People Give” to specifically communicate this sentiment.

Finally, charities represent hope. And when is it more important than to offer hope then during tough times? Further, when is a better time to have a celebration than when people need something to celebrate? In my opinion, right now is the perfect time to stage a fundraiser and give people something to feel good about.

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