No doubt many of you spent some time over the final days of December deciding where to do some year-end giving.
The needs are great, always, but with globally rising inflation, the increasing wealth chasm, the impact of climate change on costly and severe weather incidents, and the affordability of housing, it seems the needs are growing. Everywhere and with everything.
Year-end giving is wonderfully good. In fact, non-profits rely heavily upon it which is why your physical mailbox and email in-boxes are chock full of appeals. But when the everyday needs of those in-need in our communities is persistent and growing, supplementing year-end giving with a giving plan throughout the year will have an even greater impact.
Inflation hits everyone, but it doesn’t hit everyone equally. Food prices, for example, have exploded under the recent tidal wave of global inflation. Yet, allocating an additional $50 for food this week is a much tougher prospect for those already living paycheck to paycheck.
When the COVID pandemic hit in 2020, and as someone working in philanthropy and providing grants to nonprofits working to feed people, I saw firsthand how very precarious the line is for so many families when it comes to being able to afford food. The queues at food pantries in my own community and in communities across the US became the subject of news headlines, underscoring a deep yet frequently hidden reality.
Just as COVID drove food insecurity, so too is inflation. As a result, many local food banks find their annual budgets for food purchasing completely exhausted within just a few months of their new fiscal year’s starting.
Here is one example of what is happening. I learned once during a visit with one of our grantees that the highest quality and least expensive protein was the simple egg. I further learned on that same visit that the size large egg had the highest amount of protein for the price and so, that grantee ensured that every family or individual who received weekly staples from that food pantry received a dozen size large eggs.
The price of eggs has exploded in recent months due to both the overall impact of inflation coupled with avian flu outbreaks. CNN Business reports that at the end of December, the benchmark price for a dozen large eggs was $5.46 compared to just $1.70 this same time last year. When many food pantries rely on eggs to be a staple of healthy proteins for their clients, that price jump is catastrophic.
A great plan for 2023 is to consider making a monthly gift to your local food pantry. While year-end gifts can and do help fill gaping holes in a budget, monthly donations can create a steadier flow of cash for nonprofit food pantries to ensure our neighbors do not go hungry.
2022 also brought into focus the issue of home afford-ability. The COVID pandemic shifted housing patterns in dramatic ways and these shifts are still figuring themselves out. What we know is that the dynamics let to a strong housing market with higher prices and limited inventory. As inflation crept in, interest rate hikes increased the costs of borrowing putting that dream home even further out of reach for many. Limited inventories also drove rental prices into the stratosphere.
Underneath all of this, is an expanding class of people finding themselves priced out and unstably housed. There will always be need for those organizations that provide shelter and supporting them is vitally needed. But I would argue is that charitable investments in 2023 for those organizations seeking a systemic change to housing policy at the local levels is needed more than ever.
The housing crises has many dimensions, but at the core, is a lack of political will to identify and invest in permanent solutions. Yet, in nearly every community, there are organizations working on housing issues at the policy level and from a rights-based approach. Unfortunately, these same organizations are not frequently at the top of the list of giving for those who care about the unhoused. They should be.
These organizations tend to be what I call “scrappy.” That is, they are frequently bare bones, especially when it comes to the financial resources to do the work that creates inclusive and thriving communities. As a result, their efforts are often held back by a lack of money. Finding these groups is as easy is reading about housing issues in local newspapers or checking out local list servs.
These are but two areas where philanthropy can and should make grand investments in 2023 and beyond. When our neighbors are hungry and without a roof over their heads, entire communities themselves suffer. Making investments on a regular basis in the organizations that seek to alleviate and solve these calamities is among the wisest of investments.
Whatever issues or needs appeal to your heart, sense of justice, or desire for a world of greater beauty, consider making a plan that creates opportunities to financially support them throughout the year. Now that’s a Happy New Year in the making.