Helpers come in all sizes and forms. It has been such an odd year. I can’t imagine what things might be like at the North Pole. What would Santa Claus do without his helpers, elves in green suits with pointy toes, to prepare for the all-important worldwide delivery of packages to good boys and girls?
Santa is not the only person who needs helpers. Ours may not come dressed in red or green, but we sure won’t get very far in life without a few of our own. For us, it’s a helper who is usually also a mate of one kind or another.
Helpmates abound, from spouses to friends to professionals trained to provide specific assistance of one type or another. Information is easy to find with a few strokes of the keyboard. But is it what we most need to know; is it dependable? Does it answer all our questions?
While growing up, most information and facts lived in our living room bookcase, home of the encyclopedia Britannica and the Book of Knowledge, supplemented by dad’s National Geographic Magazine collection. The information between their covers was reliable, a valued source of information. They were full of dependable facts.
Today’s sources—internet, television, talk radio, Facebook, and Twitter gleefully mix facts and opinions so absolutely it’s impossible to tell the difference. I hesitate to mention books, magazines, and newspapers as those sources are outdated before the ink dries under the editing pen.
My childhood favorite, The Book of Knowledge, provided just the right amount of information for a young mind. When I needed meaning or context, I turned to mother, dad or teachers.
Now it can be a considerable challenge to find the right helpers depending on what I need. But it has never been more critical as nonprofit organizations fill my email and mailbox with letters, return envelopes and newsletters.
The letters sound more critical than in past years. Newsletter stories bear out the effects of COVID-19 mixed with a year of strangeness. Pictures of masked faces veil the smiles that comforted us in the past, leaving us with only the eyes. Are their eyes smiling or conveying some other emotion?
Questions to Ask
As you sort through the appeal letters and newsletters, ask yourself what draws you to that organization. How can you most help those they help, the organization itself, perhaps even the wider community?
- If they ask for support, they must need our help to fund operations.
- If they announce a change in how they deliver services, they must need funding.
- If the virus’s impact has created a moment when the organization can do out-of-the-box thinking and make changes, they will need help to fund what’s different.
Many organizations face unavoidable changes to continue delivering services while keeping everyone safe and healthy. Other organizations need general operating support to finish this year in the black and prepare for what’s to come in 2021. Some organizations work overtime to provide services interlaced with unique ideas on how to serve in new and different ways, maybe even better ways.
How do you decide? Ask questions. Don’t make decisions solely on what you read on the internet, Facebook or Twitter. Ask a friend or family member: “what do you think that means, or where do you think help is most needed?”
Questions are crucial this year with so much change. Call the organization, identify yourself as a donor, and I promise someone will be glad to answer your questions.
Seek helpmates to answer your questions. Check with financial, legal and philanthropy advisors. Don’t wait till the end of December.
Take a few more minutes to read the appeal letter and the newsletter. If you are a fan of social media, use it wisely to learn more about an organization’s work. Check their websites for messages about how they’re working during these times.
Mr. Rogers always said, “When I was a boy, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” Be one of those helpers; give now so that they can help well into 2021. Finally, be thankful for our ability to help.
Have questions about giving right now? Call me or send me an email. Let’s talk about it.
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