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  December 5, 2014
A Season of Giving...


"It’s not how much we give... but rather how much love we put into the gift of giving"

                                     ~ Mother Teresa

I suppose it all started with "Black Friday".

Retailers, solely interested in having people start their Christmas shopping early in a way to boost end-of-the-year profits, devised a clever scheme to coerce people to start the buying season off with bang.

Here’s the winning formula marketers concocted: 

  • Find a day when people aren’t typically working
  • Offer a few select "door-busting" items at a loss
  • These loss-leaders then create an incredible demand for those limited sale items
  • The demand causes people to wait all-night to earn the opportunity to buy these loss-leaders
  • The people waiting in line become "news" on a typically slow news day
  • The media attention feeds the frenzy causing greater demand

It was perfect... and everyone benefited...

Stores were happy... marketers were happy... credit card companies were happy... the media was happy... oh and shoppers were happy... well they were happy if they happened to get one of the great bargains being offered...

And even if people didn’t get there in time for the big bargains... they were still getting all their holiday shopping done early as the stores rarely closed (if at all) during the entire 3-day weekend in order to keep up with the buying demand.

...but the malls were crowded with people... no parking... long lines at the check-out... misbehaving children... misbehaving adults... Thanksgiving day hangovers...

Who needs all that hassle?...

...but what to do?

Marketers, once again, to the rescue...

They began telling us... "hey guys... you don’t need to spend all of your time waiting in lines and fighting the crowds at the malls... we’ll offer you those same great in-store deals online... you can now shop from your comfortable sofa without having to deal with the crowds of the malls... and if you don’t have high-speed internet at your house... you can just wait until Monday and shop on your employer’s Internet connection".

Let’s call this "Cyber Monday"...

So this past Monday, millions of people rummaged through their e-mail inboxes to find exclusive coupon codes being offered by their favorite online retailer... and bought and bought and bought... in fact... this past Monday people collectively purchased more merchandise online than any previous day ever recorded.

Retailers and shoppers alike were once again happy during this season of giving...

As it turns out... gift giving isn’t reserved for items under a Christmas tree...

The end of the year also signals a time for charitable giving.

In 2013, according to statistics compiled by charitynavigator.org, Americans donated $335.2 billion to charitable organizations (those sanctioned with an IRS section 503 (c)(3) status).  

71.9% of those donations came from individual donors.  Individual bequests (8.2%), foundations (14.6%), and corporations (5.3%) make up the balance of all charitable donations.

The other interesting thing is that 41.6% of all charitable giving occurs in December... perhaps because people are in a giving spirit or perhaps it’s a consequence of end-of-the-year tax-planning...

All this emptying of wallets at the malls and online seems to have caught the attention of the non-profit charities.

So this past Tuesday, my e-mail box was stuffed with pleas from worthy charities and not-so-worthy charities in an attempt to get me to support "Donor Tuesday".

I have to admit... this was the first year I have actually been solicited under the guise of Donor Tuesday so I’m not sure if it’s a sustainable trend yet... and I’m still unsure if I like the idea or not...

What all the e-mail solicitations did do, however, is make me cognizant of just how many charities and foundations that there are... and to try and examine the merits of charitable giving...

I believe that charitable giving is essential in a civilized society for a variety of reason and rationales.  

Charitable giving however isn’t limited to direct monetary support.  There are several ways to help support charities that are also incredibly important such as: 

  • Offering to donate time and manpower on a regular basis such as volunteering to coach youth sports teams, visiting the elderly, delivering meals to those unable to leave their homes, helping veterans, or being an adult leader in civic organizations such as scouting or Big Brothers / Big Sisters.
  • Joining a service organization such as Kiwanis, Rotary, Lion’s, Junior League, or Optimists.
  • Pitching in during a time of crisis with disaster relief efforts such as the Red Cross.
  • Donating unused or unwanted items to the Salvation Army, AmVets, or Goodwill.
  • Donating blood to the local blood bank.
  • Volunteering on a building project such as Habitat for Humanity or an urban garden.

There are literally thousands of different charities that would welcome your time and efforts.

But sometimes it’s just easier to donate money rather than time...

The key to donating a sum of money to a charity is to do a small amount of research before giving.

As it turns out... many charitable organizations are "charitable" in name only with most of the money going to fund-raising activities, administration and/or salaries to paid staff members.

Some of the worst offenders operate under names that are intended to pull at our heart-strings...

Names like Kid’s Wish Foundation... Cancer Fund of America... National Veterans Service Fund... and Project Cure litter the list of the 50 worst charities (click here to see the entire list)...

These organizations hire professional solicitors to raise 10’s of millions of dollars, with a large majority of the money being kept by the fund raisers.  Of the 50 worst offenders, some 70% of the money collected went to fund raising activities and another 27% went to overhead cost leaving just 3% that actually went into the hands of the people that the charity was supposed to help.

The good news is... that for every badly-run, non-profit organization... there are 25 others that are doing great things with our donations... helping those who need it the most.

My wife and I, have several local charities that we support each year donating both time and money to help those making a difference in our community.

In addition, OptiFuse is also a supporter of several national and international charities.  

We are proud to support the Arthritis Foundation, Cancer for College, Charity: Water, and Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Fontieres).

The true meaning of the holidays is to spread a bit of joy to those who are a bit less fortunate than ourselves... but sometimes this message is hard to hear as the noise from marketers grows louder each year...

Now is the time to rejoice and find peace... by bringing a little ray of happiness into the lives of others this Holiday Season...

Thank you for your continued support of OptiFuse.  It is through your continued patronage that allows us to give freely to deserving charities... to make the world a slightly better place.

May this holiday season bring safety and sanity, peace and joy, and love to you and all yours...  

Jim Kalb

Email -  jimk@optifuse.com
Website - www.optifuse.com
Blog - www.optifuse.blogspot.com 

Twitter - @OptiFuse

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