My name is Aleta and I work in the sales department at WSOC TV and WAXN TV64. I’ve made an observation, and maybe you have too: it seems that everywhere you look these days there’s someone asking for a donation. Non-profits have sprouted like mushrooms over the past decade, and many of them serve great causes and produce amazing results, powered by donations from corporations and individuals.
According to a report released by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, U.S. giving to charities totaled $316.23 billion in 2012, proof that we are certainly a giving nation.
How does a person decide to donate? And if you choose to give, how do you select the non-profit to give to? What is it, deep down in our souls, that makes us respond or not respond to a request for a donation to a charitable cause?
Giving comes easier when you’ve been raised by parents who give. I grew up in a Southern Baptist family and routinely saw my parents tithe. I remember donating to specific church fundraising initiatives like the Lottie Moon Christmas Fund and the Annie Armstrong Easter Fund.
Giving also comes easier when we’re personally affected. If your family is impacted by birth defects or Alzheimers or blindness or hunger or cancer or lupus or a natural disaster, you are much more likely to contribute your time and money to a non-profit that responds to that condition. It’s easier for us to part with our hard-earned money when we’ve seen firsthand the sadness or difficulty or pain imposed by that condition.
Even celebrities get pulled in as spokespeople when they’ve seen or experienced a need up close. They lobby in DC or allow themselves to be included in advertising or make personal appearances in support of the non-profit they’ve connected with. Anyone over the age of 30 probably remembers Sally Struthers and her long-ago campaign to save the starving children overseas… a campaign that set the standard for celebrity connections to charities.
I have been thinking about this a lot lately as I fundraise for the Oct. 26 and 27 Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Charlotte. My participation includes the commitment to raise $1,800 for the non-profit Avon Foundation that exists to relieve financial pressure of breast cancer victims, provide screening for uninsured women and support national research to eradicate breast cancer altogether. While I don’t necessarily enjoy asking people for money, I have felt no hesitation in telling my friends and co-workers and clients that I am raising money for this non-profit and that I would like for them to donate. After all, the money isn’t for me – it’s for the Avon Foundation to use in my city and in cities all across the country.
When I look at the list of people who have already contributed to my fundraising total, I see that several of them have been personally impacted by breast cancer. It’s natural that they would donate.
But I also see many names on the list of donors to my campaign that have no connection to breast cancer that I know about. What makes them give their money? Maybe they have a story that I am not aware of … some history with breast cancer that they’ve never shared with me. Maybe they just donated so I would stop asking! Maybe they donated because they wanted a tax deduction.
Or – maybe some people who have donated to the Avon Walk fundraising campaign realize that breast cancer is not specific to a race, a gender, an economic class. Breast cancer can appear in anyone, anytime. It can happen to people who are rich or poor, black or white or other, sick or healthy, employed or unemployed, young or old or in between, male or female. It can appear in a parent, a spouse, a child or neighbor or friend or foe. It is completely indiscriminate.
When people donate to the Avon fund, they have their personal reasons. Sure, there are so many options for charitable giving, but I am giving both time and money to this non-profit because I believe that breast cancer can be eliminated in my lifetime. I believe that research can provide preventative measures and a cure. I believe that it is important for us to use modern medicine to attack this killer and stop it in its tracks. I believe we’ve lost enough of our friends and family members to breast cancer and that it has to end.