Saturday, December 25, 2021

Now and always is the time to help

Charitable giving in 2020 increased by 5.1% from 2019, according to Giving USA’s annual report on philanthropy. Individual and institutions gave a total $471.44 billion last year to charitable institutions. Giving USA doesn’t release its annual report about the previous year until spring, but some commentators on its website seem optimistic that giving in 2021 and 2022 will be similarly strong.

Perhaps not surprising, researchers such as Tim Sarrantonio of Neon One, a technology company that advises charitable organizations on raising funds, note that while there are opportunities to attract donors throughout the year, December remains a big month for donations flowing in. And even though Giving Tuesday falls during the first week of December, “the final days of December tend to attract the largest flow of gifts no matter what.”

Here we are at the end of December. If you have the urge to give or help before the month is up, there are plenty of opportunities.

Some readers already have local, national, or international charities to which they contribute. Shortly after the tornadoes devastated parts of Kentucky, organizations like CARE ( and Feeding America ( put out the call for cash donations that would help get food to those affected.

For those of you trying to sort out how much of you cash donation actually goes to the cause rather than running the charity, Charity Navigator ( remains a valuable source of information. Another organization, Give Well ( goes a bit further and tries to measure how well specific charities succeed at their missions and provides a list of top giving opportunities on its website. It also has developed its Maximum Impact Fund where rather than choose a recipient, you designate how much you want to give and Give Well donates the funds where they determine they can do the most and then reports back to donors on where their money was donated.

Cash contributions are not the only way of giving to others in need. The American Red Cross ( indicates on its website that its blood supply is dangerously low. For those who are able to donate blood, the website makes it simple to find local blood drives by typing in your ZIP code. And for those who donate blood between December 17 and Jan. 2, the American Red Cross is even offering donors a long-sleeve T-shirt while supplies last.

There are also ways to donate time or expertise to local organizations in person or to those more far afield remotely. If you want to do some good for those who might be in need, there are plenty of opportunities and there is still time to do so before the year comes to a close. If you know of a particular good organization or effort to help others, tell your friends who might be in search of some as well.

But if you really want to make a difference, the right thing is not to wait until the end of the year, but instead spread out all the acts of kindness over the course of year. The need for help from others doesn’t appear only during specific holidays or seasons.

Thank you for whatever you are able to do. May your holidays and coming year be full of patience and kindness.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of, a blog focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need to have answered? Send them to

Follow him on Twitter @jseglin.


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