Americans donated an estimated $428 billion to charities in 2018 according to the annual Giving USA report on philanthropy. That was a record in dollar terms, though it represented a 1.5% decline from 2017 when adjusting for inflation.
Nonetheless, it’s a staggering amount of money that is put to tremendous use by the many charitable organizations lucky enough to be on the receiving end of some of it, says Peter Schieffelin Nyberg, the Chief Financial Officer of the Charlotte-based non-profit Camino Community Center.
In the case of the Camino Community Center, it uses the donations it receives to provide a wide range of free or very affordable services for the Charlotte community, which includes running a thrift store, offering various classes and programs, providing healthcare services, and aiding families in need with food supplies.
More than a quarter of that $428 billion sum was earmarked for religious organizations, which routinely reinvest some of those funds back into local communities through initiatives like food banks, homeless shelters, addiction counselling, and other support services.
While one of their main roles in society continues to be spreading the word of God and cultivating doctrinal values, the extent of the charitable donations that they receive allows them to do a great amount of good and build stronger communities across all faiths and walks of life.
Nonetheless, as charitable organizations go, churches are one of the worst for generating results says Peter Nyberg, noting that their vast overhead dwarfs those of most other charities, meaning a much smaller percentage of donations ends up being put towards the benefit of the community.
Other non-profits, like human services groups, which received $51.5 billion in donations in 2018, have a clean slate to push for whatever initiatives they feel are needed, without concerns over how their actions tie into scripture and without being handcuffed by excessive overhead.
Providing Much Needed Tools and Resources
Many of these non-profits play vital roles in their communities, providing valuable services like homeless shelters, job and skills training, mentoring, and the safeguarding of human rights. They also give a voice to those who so often don’t have one, using their intimate knowledge of their local communities to advocate on behalf of the powerless and voiceless with local leaders and policymakers.
For those intimately involved in charity work themselves, the benefits are numerous, most notably in the form of enhanced socializing and feelings of civic pride. Working together with others for the sole purpose of making the world a little bit better creates unshakeable bonds, while boosting volunteers’ longevity, mental and physical health, and self-esteem.
If there’s one thing charitable groups could be doing better, it’s in their own outreach efforts says Peter Nyberg. He believes that many in the public generally underestimate the incredible impact that non-profits have not only on local communities, but on society as a whole.
By better communicating their mission and impact to members of the community and being more transparent in their outreach efforts, non-profits could build more trust among locals, pull in more resources, and further strengthen their ties with the community.