Eliza Newlin Carney: The Civic Power of Charity – Rochester Minnesota news, weather, sports

From omicron infections to weather disasters, gun deaths to economic uncertainty, congressional deadlock to lingering threats to democracy, Americans arguably have more to worry about than celebrating this holiday season. .

Yet bad times also have a way of bringing out the best in people, and nowhere is this more evident than in the charitable sector. Charitable giving in the United States reached a record high of $ 471.4 billion in 2020, a 5.1% increase from the previous year, driven by concerns among Americans about the pandemic, the hardships economic and racial justice.

“Giving is an important measure of civic participation, a way to build the kind of society we want to live in,” Asha Curran, co-founder and CEO of GivingTuesday, told The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

GivingTuesday, the World Giving Day launched in 2012, grossed Americans $ 2.7 billion this year, a 9% increase from last year. Said Curran of the increase, “Our hope is that this outpouring of generosity is an inspiration to continue to give, to show kindness and to recognize our shared humanity every day of the year.”

The picture is not all rosy for charities, of course. More than half of the nation’s roughly 1.8 million nonprofits (57%) cut their overall spending in 2020, according to the Independent Sector, and the nonprofit workforce lost 1, 6 million jobs.

Donations increased for nonprofits focused on human needs, racial inequalities, and environmental and animal organizations, but were dropped for arts, culture and the humanities groups. Almost half (47%) of nonprofits reported serving fewer people by the end of 2020.

Yet charities continue to demonstrate the power of individual Americans, both through charitable giving and volunteer hours, to help solve massive problems that there is little the government can do to solve.

From public health and poverty crises triggered by the pandemic to global warming and disaster relief, social justice, animal welfare and the arts, Americans are donating millions of dollars and billions of dollars. volunteer hours to help each other, often neighbor to neighbor. On GivingTuesday, volunteering was also up 11% from 2020, and donations of food, clothing and other goods were up 8%.

For Americans wondering where their charitable money could go the most, there is no shortage of guides, lists and leaderboards. According to Forbes, the top three charities in the country are United Way Worldwide, Feeding America, and The Salvation Army. But there are literally millions of local and civic groups, hundreds of them with tiny budgets, working to help their communities.

A “how to help” guide offered by CNN provides an overview of the diverse world of nonprofits across the country, including the Broadway Cares and Actors Fund groups, which provide financial assistance to struggling artists. The New York Times Holiday Giving Guide 2021 features a series of articles from opinion writers on their favorite charities. For those who wish to research charities on their own, Candid collects and disseminates comprehensive data on the nonprofit sector.

Here are a few nonprofit success stories that demonstrate the civic power of charities in 2021.

  • After tornadoes killed 90 people and displaced hundreds across the South and Midwest earlier this month, Jim Finch of Clarksville, Tennessee, traveled with his meat smoker to hard-hit Mayfield, in Kentucky, to feed hurricane victims with barbecue chicken, burgers and soybeans. pancakes. Said Karen Smith, Kentucky coordinator for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, which has gathered volunteers for brush clearing and meal deliveries, “We want to give people hope. You watch it all, and it’s hopeless. I think if they have hope then they can start to heal.
  • Amid the food shortages caused by the pandemic, WhyHunger created a participatory map that identified free meal sites in the United States and parts of the world. The World Central Kitchen has distributed more than 300 million meals in some 400 cities across the country, according to CNN. Collecting, preparing and distributing food is a major voluntary activity in the United States.
  • Teresa Dilka, a 68-year-old retired nurse from Colorado, used to donate to the Food Bank in the Rockies, but now that her income has shrunk, she volunteers there instead. “Sometimes it seems like it helps me more than I help them,” Dilka told The Chronicle of Philanthropy. “It feels good to be able to help. About 1 in 4 of American volunteers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, donate service hours in the billions.

National leaders have long appreciated the essential social role of the charitable sector, both civic and monetary. Nonprofits contributed $ 1.2 trillion to the economy in 2020, according to Independent Sector. As President George HW Bush said when he first awarded more than 1,000 volunteers “points of light” in 1990, the capacity of government is limited, “but the potential of the American people is unclear. no limits “.

Eliza Newlin Carney is a journalist and founder of The Civic Circle, which uses the arts to empower young students to understand and participate in democracy.

© 2021 The Point of Support
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Comments are closed.