Now that the holiday season is over and retailers in general are reporting slightly higher sales than last year, the business community is letting out a shared sigh of relief: It could have easily gone the other way, continuing the recession we have all been dealing with for the last three years.
As USA Today reported last week, "many businesses say they are ready to increase hiring in early 2012 after seeing stronger consumer confidence."
With this cautiously optimistic news, why do our non-profits continue to report having less money to provide the services our society has counted on them to deliver? Is it because with our gridlock in Washington, our government can't provide for those in need, so it falls back on charities to pick up the slack? Is it because America has now passed the giving season and we are back to our selfish little worlds? Or is it just a sign of our times where non-profits are in the rearview mirror to all of us lucky enough to have jobs?
The Tacoma, Washington TriCity Herald reported last week that" families were turning to private charities for everything from medical care to diapers."
Beverly Weber, CEO of the United Way in Tacoma, calls it a "squeeze from two directions, with less government funding of human and social services and a greater demand. When families can't get services through scaled-back state programs, they turn to charities."
Last month, CNBC reported that "U.S. non-profits see slow economic recovery, and many of the nation's non-profit organizations are digging in for another three to four years of financial distress. Most of the nation's smaller charities saw donations drop again this year; and food pantries and homeless shelters reported a funding crisis because of an increase in need coupled with a drop in donations."
In November, it was also reported that the First Baptist Church of Danville, Ky. closed its food bank, which was feeding 200 families, because of donation and volunteer shortages.
The Pocono Record in Stroudsburg, Pa. reported: "Some of the people that were donors last year are looking to the charities for help this year." And in Roanoke, Va. ABC News reported that 65 percent of non-profits are reporting an increase in requests for help in 2012.
Oregon's Daily Astorian reported that the United Way, which receives much of the funding from donations of voluntary payroll deductions, has seen those contributions decrease in each of the last four years because those generous people are not employed anymore -- or they have had to cut their donations to survive themselves.
This same story is repeated in community after community where the "have-nots" are suffering more than ever and the "haves" are just moving on with their lives. The season of giving is over except for anyone with a conscious. Most of us made New Year's resolutions, and hope we can keep at least one.
The one all of us should keep is to go out of our way to help our fellow Americans, at least until this economy gets back on track and our non-profits can get healthier, even if it takes three to four years.
Businesses should be leading the rest of us in this effort to help. This month, the small contribution my company, DollarDays , is doing is giving away 1,200 socks to 13 different non-profits on our Facebook page. In Cabarrus County, N.C. surplus office supplies and furniture are being donated to the non-profits in their area on Jan. 19.
If every company, and every organization, looked deep within to see how they could support their community, I am sure all of our little efforts will accelerate the non-profits digging themselves out faster and be, once again, able to serve the greater need.
In the history of mankind, those too poor were sent to debtor's prison and society wrote them off. Luckily for us, in 1833, the United States abolished Federal imprisonment for unpaid debts. But we all have a debt to this country that made us the freest society in the world. We need to take care of this debt by taking care of our non-profits who, in turn, take care of those in need. It is the true cycle of life. Don't wait until our next holiday season. Give back now.
Marc Joseph is the author of "The Secrets of Retailing, Or: How to Beat Wal-Mart!" and the CEO/President and founder of DollarDays International Inc.
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