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To volunteer & To give, as a urbanMamas Family

The Willamette Week's Give Guide is out and got us thinking about the giving season, which usually coincides with the wintertime.  The urbanMamas community is generous and giving, but it surprised me to find only one conversation in our archives about volunteering opportunities and we have an occasional suggestion of opportunities on the uM exchange.  We have adopted-a-family in 2007  and 2008.  (Anyone want to spearhead that effort this year?  email us!)  A good number of us volunteer at our children's schools and have little time for much else.  

This year, the urbanMamas want to give back.  We are hoping to coordinate opportunities at anywhere from 1 to 3 area community-based organizations where mamas, papas, and children can contribute their time together, as a group, as a family.  We're also hoping to provide financial support to those chosen organizations as well, on behalf of all of us.  Do you have giving and volunteering traditions?  We would love your suggestions.  


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I hope that as families think about giving they aren't allured by the Give Guide. The Give Guide charges nonprofits a hefty fee to be "selected" and the incentives that they offer mean that your gift isn't completely tax deductible.

It is always better to give directly to charities that you support.

CLA - what is your evidence of this?

It is common knowledge, you could verify with the Willamette Week. They charge each nonprofit $600. Simple math shows that if they have 30 nonprofits (and they may have more this year) the willy week makes $18,000. If people gave directly, this money would go directly to those in need. Also,
any donation that gives an incentive makes the donation not fully deductible. Check the IRS for more info.

P.S. It appears they have 79 nonprofits this year. That is a total revenue of $47,400.

Still better to not throw the baby out with the bath water. Seems like an excellent way for non-profits to market themselves ($600 is way less expensive than sending out a mailer and then you're dependent on having a strong mailing list) and if it makes it easier for donors to connect this first time, they'll probably be more likely to support the organization in the future.

There is a tremendous amount of great work happening at non-profits every day in Portland. I'm sure it won't be hard to find one to support. I vote for The Children's Relief Nursery.

I work for a nonprofit that is in the Give Guide and can provide some much-needed clarification.

Yes there is a fee to participate, and Willamette Week refunds money back to each organization that doesn't make their $600 back in donations. For my office, we've already received way more than the $600 fee, not to mention the great publicity we've had. There's an extraordinary amount of value in being able to spread the word about our program to new donors and to people who might need our services.

Since our agency gets the full dollar amount of the donation we are able to give back a receipt for the full amount of the gift. We don't give out the incentives, Willamette Week does, so the donation is truly 100% deductible for tax reasons.

We are THRILLED to have been chosen to participate in the Give Guide this year!

Thank you Allison. I was just coming back to post info I got from a friend who works at a non profit that is in there. It was very similar info.

I am constantly impressed by the variety of non profits that WWeek finds. I've been giving for a few years. I would never have found many of these non profits.

I agree with Allison that for small nonprofits, there is immeasurable value in the outreach and exposure that comes with the Give Guide. Many organizations vie for a spot in this guide for that reason!

I love the Children's Book Bank and have organized a couple book drives for them with my son (they provide all the info you need - it's really easy).

So, I wrote to Willamette Week for clarification because CLA's post got to me so much and got the following back. I'm happy with their response and will continue to give through them...

It is correct that Willamette Week's Give!Guide charges for participation. The poster of this item fails to consider the following:

1. WW's Give!Guide provides full-color advertising for the nonprofits. It alone is worth more than $600. It helps the nonprofits raise their profiles in the community and brings in donations of goods and services as well as volunteers — in addition to substantial cash donations. (Over $100,000 in the first 10 days of this year's campaign. See wweek.com/giveguide.)

2. The cost to process donations over the internet is considerable, with many nonprofit services providers charging as much as 5 or 6 percent of each transaction. WW pays all interchange fees and provides all accounting services for participating nonprofits.

3. Creating an internet presence for the Give!Guide is five-digit expensive. WW covers that cost as well.

4. To run the Give!Guide, WW hires an executive director for seven months out of the year.

5. Some of the fees go to help underwrite the cost of the Skidmore Prizes, in which four employees of local nonprofits under the age of 36 are awarded checks of $4,000 apiece, given fancy framed certificates, and celebrated at a City Club Friday Forum.

6. WW arranges for well over $100,000 in incentives to help promote the Give!Guide.

7. A number of Willamette Week employees spend a significant amount of time on this project each year.

7. Employees and volunteers of the nonprofits involved do more than just pay the fee to participate. They also help with the planning of each year's guide, promote donations, and help with the delivery of incentives.

Willamette Week hopes to generate over $1million in donations to the 79 participating charities this year. We consider this a good trade off for the fees involved, especially considering what credit card companies charge just to process donations. Hopefully, others will agree.

As a family, we are donating items to Dignity Village, which is a safe-haven for homeless in Portland (a.k.a. "Tent City").

My children and I have been making pillowcases--they're fairly easy to sew (basically a straight line), and since I already have tons of fabric, it's not too expensive. We have about 8 pillowcases all ready. (I think I may bust out a bunch more one night without the *help* of my kiddos).

Scarves are fairly easy to knit and well-appreciated during the cold weather months. I believe there is an organization in town called "Hats and Scarves" or something similar, where you can donate finished projects. Often yarn shops and fabric stores will take donations of finished goods for donation, but obviously check with the store first.

My son helps me shop for the family my mom' s group at work sponsers, we shop for food for the food bank together, and he helps pick out toys to donate. Hope to add an actual "volunteer" location this year, but lots of places are too old for the 5 year old.

It seems as if some folks are interpreting my feelings about the large amount of money WW is collecting as something to discourage them from giving. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, it is a hope that people will do a little bit of research to find and analyze the nonprofits that are doing good work and support them directly. Much like some of us try to buy our food locally. The Give Guide does package it up nicely and we are all busy, but true philanthropy for me and my family is about values.

My work for the past decade has been in nonprofit fundraising and management, working with people in extreme poverty. I have opted into the Give Guide. Many of us chafe at the fact that almost $50,000 is being charged to nonprofits to put this program on. As a percentage of the total raised, it is a very poor percentage, an ineffective use of resources and one that if spent by a nonprofit, would not be a best practice. Also, the Give Guide asks nnprofits to route their donors who would give anyway through their system to have the total impact look large. the $1million in donations is inflated.

If I had to stereotype the group on Urbanmamas it would be one that is educated, connected, thoughtful about living our values and intentional. We can our own food. We fight for the right schools; we are advocates for healthy choices, simple living and keeping BPA out of our children’s products. We work to make choices for our families that mimic what we think is best, despite a status quo. Overall, we are conscientious consumers. I will continue to advocate for us being as conscientious with our giving and deciding how to support the work of nonprofits.

I'm happy to hear that the incentives have been changed. In past years, it was an issue.

I would love ideas on how to involve our 6 year old on the act of giving during the holiday season. Last year, we donated food and toys to the Neighborhood House and got a tour of their facility and some education on what they do in the community.

This year I want to do something where we participate as a family volunteering verses just dropping items off.

Hi All-- I'm looking for a way to help my 3 year old understand the importance of giving during the holidays (and all other months too). Any ideas for such a young child? I want something to do at home or go somewhere to do instead of giving money. Thanks!!

Thank you CLA! Very good reporting and assessment. I encourage everyone to listen to Dan Pallotta's Ted Talk to get the full balance on the many excellent issues CLA has raised. https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pallotta_the_way_we_think_about_charity_is_dead_wrong

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