Thoughts often turn to charitable causes at the end of the year
Research from the University of Oregon finds that charity stimulates parts of the brain associated with meeting basic needs such as food and shelter—suggesting to researchers that our brains know that giving is good for us.
Researchers describe this sensation as a ‘helper’s high,’ or the feeling that comes as a direct result of giving to others. “The act of making a financial donation triggers the reward center in our brains that is responsible for dopamine-mediated euphoria,” writes Christine L. Carter, PhD, in Psychology Today.
The research suggests that not only is giving good for others, but it does good for the do-gooders themselves.
Leaving a Legacy
Volunteering your time or your talents shows your family that it’s good to give back (many children learn through example). There are many organizations who wouldn’t be what they are today without the support of volunteers.
Charitable giving is another way to support causes and organizations. It helps people to not only leave a legacy and give to the greater social good, but offers tax benefits: reducing or eliminating federal estate taxes, capital gains taxes, and income taxes. (Though most people don’t give solely for the tax deductions.)
“People make charitable gifts for many reasons, but at the core is the kindness and compassion they have for the causes they support,” says Tina Palmer, senior director of development, Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. “At Catholic Charities, many people give to us because they feel blessed and want to help others who have not been as fortunate.”
Nonprofits benefit enormously through the generosity of donors. A large percentage of a nonprofit’s budget is often through “planned gifts,” when individuals or families bequest money to the charity of their choice. A planned gift can be made with cash or by donating assets such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, or business interests—even property/collectibles. When it comes down to it, charitable giving is fundamentally an expression of values.
But how does a person know which charities are worth their time and money? First, research the organizations you’re interested in supporting.
“Take the time to get a sense of what you are investing in,” says Jeremy R. Wells, vice president of philanthropic services, Minnesota Philanthropy Partners. “Make sure those organizations can articulate—either in person or through their materials—the impact of your gift.”
Finally, your local community foundation can be a great source of information. And contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be Warren Buffet to give to a community foundation. They aren’t just vehicles for wealthy donors—people of all income levels contribute. Community foundations are uniquely positioned to help individuals with multiple charitable interests give efficiently and effectively to not only the organizations they care about, but to certain causes. They act as a sort of savings account for the entire community’s benefit, a tax-exempt public charity.
“Individuals, families, businesses, and organizations work with and through community foundations to create permanent charitable resources to help meet the challenges now and as times change,” Wells says.
If donors don’t have a specific charity in mind, donor advised funds allow them to contribute cash, stocks, or other assets to a charitable foundation that manages the money. A donor receives the charitable deduction in the year they make the gift, but can determine over many years where those funds go. Donor advised funds are easy to establish and offer a low-cost, flexible alternative to give.
According to Wells, “Donors can see cost savings, tax advantages and administrative convenience with donor advised funds. The community foundation will perform due diligence for all grants made from donor advised funds and donors have the ability to grant anonymously.”
Making a difference
Some private nonprofits, such as the Animal Humane Society, receive no federal, state, or government funding and rely totally on private donations and program fees. In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013, 60 percent of the Humane Society’s annual budget came from community support, the majority used to provide care, shelter, food, medical attention, and sterilization for more than 23,000 animals every year, in addition to funding cruelty investigation and rescue efforts, education programs, training, affordable spay/neutering services, and boarding costs.
“Donors are true partners in our work at AHS and we couldn’t create a more humane world for animals without their generous support,” says Katie Nelsen, chief advancement officer, Animal Humane Society.
Community support also helps the Angel Foundation, a nonprofit organization offering financial assistance, education, and support to adults with cancer.
“A cancer diagnosis can pose a tremendous financial burden on an individual and their family,” says Mark Wilkening, Angel Foundation president. In addition to providing financial assistance for food, gas, utilities and rent or mortgage payments, the organization runs support groups, a summer Kids Kamp, a teen outreach/mentoring program, and family topic nights.
Charitable contributions help Washburn Center for Children provide compassionate, expert therapeutic services to children struggling with depression, anxiety or other mental health challenges, the American Red Cross prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies, and the Emergency Foodshelf Network feed those in need. “Regardless of why a family falls on hard times—everyone needs to eat and deserves access to healthy food,” says Jessica Rochester, EFN development director.
The reality is you never know when you, or a loved one, may need help. This holiday season, think about supporting a nonprofit organization.
In the wise words of Erich Fromm, “Giving is more joyous than receiving, not because it is a deprivation, but because in the act of giving lies the expression of my aliveness.”
Charitable Events Around Town
Spotlight on Angel Gala
Who? Angel Foundation, benefiting Minnesota families facing cancer
What? Angel Gala
When? January 25, 2014 at Hilton Minneapolis from 6–11 p.m.
Why? Join emcee James Denton (of Desperate Housewives fame), motivational speaker Jearlyn Steele, and the uplifting Twin Cities Community Gospel Choir for an entertaining, inspiring evening. Enjoy a silent auction and reception, elegant dinner and program, and after-party dancing. Last year, more than $425,000 was raised at this event. Go to www.mnangel.org for more information.
To Benefit the Kids
Star Gala: April 5, 2014, to raise funds to support Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.
Dawn of a Dream Gala: This black-tie gala benefits the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, supporting research at the University of Minnesota that is related to the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure of childhood cancers.
Friends of St. Jude Masquerade Ball, benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Twin Cities Official Oscar Party presented by Aegis Foundation, benefiting Smile Network, a humanitarian organization that provides life altering, reconstructive surgeries and related healthcare services to impoverished children and young adults in developing countries; and The Sanneh Foundation, using the appeal of sports, especially soccer, to unite diverse communities, helping at-risk youth develop into leaders.
Fight for the Kids, a benefit for the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (MOFAS), with funds for training, education, and prevention efforts for fetal alcohol syndrome disorders.
To Benefit the Animals
Walk for Animals, benefiting the Animal Humane Society.
Fore Paws Golf Tournament, a fundraiser for Helping Paws, furthering the independence of individuals with physical disabilities through the use of service dogs.
Chef’s Brigade Dinner, featuring the talents of over 40 local chefs during a multi-course feast, is the premier fundraiser for We Can Ride, providing quality therapeutic horseback riding programs to people living with disabilities.
Whisker Whirl Gala, benefiting the Animal Humane Society.
Pause for Paws, a fundraiser for Second Chance Animal Rescue, dedicated to rescuing, caring for and adopting out homeless dogs and cats into loving and responsible homes.
If You’re an Adventure-Seeker
The Most Amazing Race: July 26, 2014. Up to 30 two-person teams race around Minneapolis and St. Paul, solving clues at various checkpoints. The money raised benefits the Salvation Army’s Bed and Bread Club, alleviating hunger and homelessness in the Twin Cities.
Mississippi River Challenge: This two-day, 39-mile paddling event benefits Friends of the Mississippi River, a nonprofit organization raising funds and awareness for a cleaner, healthier river.
MuckFest MS: August 2, 2014. This military-style obstacle course of mucky fun benefits The National MS Society, Upper Midwest Chapter, providing programs and services to those living with MS, and supporting research to find a cure and cause.
Minneapolis Polar Bear Plunge: March 1, 2014 (other community dates range from January through March). Presented by Law Enforcement for Special Olympics Minnesota. In 2013, over 15,000 participants raised over $3 million for Special Olympics Minnesota by plunging into an icy lake in 16 different communities.
Walk, Run, Bike, or Climb
Fight for Air Stair Climb: February 22, 2014. A timed stair climb (660 steps!) on Feb. 22, 2014, benefiting the American Lung Association.
March for Babies: April 26, 2014. A 2-mile walking route at Como Park with funds benefiting March of Dimes research and programs, helping Minnesota moms have healthy,
The Twin Cities Heart Walk: May 31, 2014. Support the American Heart Association’s efforts to raise funds and awareness to save lives from the country’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers—heart disease and stroke.
Bike MS 150 Ride: June 6-8, 2014. A two-day bike ride from Duluth to the Twin Cities, helping the National MS Society fund cutting-edge research and support programs and services
for more than 17,000 people living with multiple sclerosis in the Upper Midwest Chapter area.
Run for Blood: July 26, 2014. Quarter marathon & 5K around Lake Calhoun. Participate and support American Red Cross Blood Services, because “blood is the gift of life” and there are no alternatives to blood transfusions for accident victims, women giving birth, cancer patients, people undergoing surgery, and children with blood disorders.
The Susan G. Komen 3-Day: August 22-24, 2014. A 60-mile three-day walk Aug. 23-25, 2013, funding local and national breast cancer research and public health outreach programs.
*Support all of your favorite Minnesota charities on Give to the Max Day. For more information, visit www.giveMN.org.
**For an online calendar of charitable events, visit http://www.minnesotamonthly.com/media/Minnesota-Monthly/Events-Pics-Calendars/Charitable-Registry/.