San Francisco charities need help year round, not just during the holidays

Sara Donchey

Illustration by Sara Donchey

It’s usually about the last week of November that the spirit of the holidays starts to take hold. Twinkling lights line windows, bows wrap around the trees along Market Street and the streets are full of holiday cheer.

No matter what you celebrate, there is a universal sense of goodwill that seems to peak in the holiday season. But this attitude and willingness to donate must last year-round to make a positive change in the world. Regardless of the motivation, the trend of only donating during the holidays is one that must be bucked. Charities and nonprofits run on a tight margin the whole year round, not just in December.

Eighty-five percent of Americans donated to a charitable organization in 2010. Of them, 34 percent were more likely to make contributions during the holidays, according to an online survey conducted by causes.com, an online platform for social activism. Many cities surveyed reported double-digit increases in giving during the holidays, with San Francisco coming in at the top of the list with 56 percent.

Humanitarianism should not just be a December trend.

Unless you are donating to a charity that finds ugly Christmas sweaters a home, the work that nonprofits do is relevant and needs support the whole year through. Not all charities face their toughest battles in the winter months.

A 2011 study by the California Food Policy Advocates found that only 35 percent of schoolchildren in San Francisco ate a free or reduced priced lunch during both the school year and summer. Organizations like the San Francisco Food Bank are left to pick up the slack and feed them during the summer months.

Look beyond the holiday season for opportunities to contribute to the change you want to see in the world. Find a cause that is doing work you sincerely believe in. From homeless outreach to civil liberties, there is sure to be a cause out there you find worthy. There are a wealth of websites that exist to connect volunteers with charities, including volunteermatch.org and americorps.gov. Volunteer with your time or your money. Holiday giving is not just a way to reconcile for not donating during the rest of the year. Resist apathy and make a difference.

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