Charities look for a boost

Published 11:33 pm Thursday, December 22, 2011

Area nonprofit organizations are bracing themselves for yet another year in which their normal benefactors are forced to choose between cutting back on gifts to loved ones or on charitable donations.

Some nonprofit groups in the area have seen stable donations this year, but others have not been so lucky.

Cindy Jackson, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross’ Coastal Virginia Region, said many donors have continued to give as much as they did in more prosperous years.

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“It’s been just amazing to see that people who have had to cut back are giving at the levels they were in 2005 or 2006,” she said. “We haven’t really noticed any fallout.”

In fact, according to a Red Cross survey released earlier this month, the majority of Americans are even more committed to charitable giving this year.

While 80 percent of the 1,020 adults that were polled said their finances were the same or worse than last year, almost 60 percent planned to give to charity between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“People are most generous at the year end, partly because of the holidays and partly because of the tax deductions,” Jackson said. “We’ve been very pleased with the generosity from people across the coastal Virginia region.”

The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia also has seen steady donations, but the organization also is serving more people.

“Even though our monetary donations are flat, the need for our services has increased about 7 percent this year,” chief financial officer Karen Joyner said. “We are buying more food to make up for the fact that our need is greater.”

Another change for the Foodbank is in the mix of its benefactors.

Food donations for the year have increased, for instance, which she attributes to enhanced relationships with retail partners, such as Farm Fresh, Walmart and BJ’s Wholesale.

Also, large donations during December have held steady, but there has been a decrease in the small contributions.

“We depend heavily on $25 to $100 donations,” she said.

While Red Cross and Foodbank have had steady donations, Suffolk Humane Society has seen a slight drop in giving.

“I would say monetary donations are down a little bit,” executive director Heidi Giroux said.

However, she said, more residents have held supply drives.

“We have some individuals that have had Christmas parties and in lieu of hostess gifts, they have asked for items for Suffolk Humane,” outreach community director Kay Hurley said.

Giroux said Suffolk youth also have helped out by asking for Suffolk Humane donations instead of birthday gifts.

“We have been especially fortunate a lot of the young people in Suffolk have done a lot for us,” she said. “We certainly have a very supportive community.”

One thing both Red Cross and Foodbank have enjoyed during the season is people donating to their groups in the name of their loved ones.

Jackson said she recommends last-minute shoppers consider doing the same for the people on their lists that are impossible to buy for.

“This is a meaningful gift to give,” she said. “You want to give someone something, but you are also giving something to the less fortunate.”

Additionally, those who give before Dec. 31 can claim tax deductions for the donations.