It’s Day three – and it’s time for a little mistletoe love! Today’s got a surprise giveaway in it…to qualify to win, leave a comment and tell me how you learned Santa wasn’t….well….real. Dang, I hope I didn’t blow the secret for anyone! LOL! I’ll pick a winner on the 7th to receive a pack of crafty goodies.

Plus it’s #givingtuesday – so go give away some of what you have been blessed with to someone who has less!

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Today’s song to inspire a tag is a blast from the past…most people think of it as a John Cougar Mellenkamp rock version, but the original was recorded in 1952 – Jimmy Boyd! I remember sitting on the floor in the living room going through our family’s record albums, and this was on one.

That brought back memories! The challenge for this one could be easy or hard. Easy would be a sprig of mistletoe. Hard: watching mommy kissing Santa! I opted for hard, of course, that’s how I roll. I used Beach Lady to be the child, wiping the mouth off the stamp so I could draw in a shocked mouth. The green wall next to her has just the shadow of Santa’s hat…and I used some dramatic lighting to complete the story of a nighttime peek!

Giving Tuesday

It’s my favorite holiday! There is just something that feels SO good about giving things and money to those in need. Not with big fanfare or hashtags, but just DOING it. For the sake of it. Giving makes me feel so JOYFUL that I just can’t not do it.

All classes purchased on #GivingTuesday are 5% off – and 15% of class fees will be donated to World Central Kitchen!


And now, my annual tradition: a little soapbox speech…..

In this crazy world, so much of the news is all about the bad stuff and people, criminals and scams….but there are SO MANY GOOD PEOPLE and GOOD ORGANIZATIONS out there. Every Christmastime, and this year is no different, I see a lot of the old memes popping up trashing charities falsely; and not only are they passing off wrong information as true (just coz its in a meme and makes you mad does NOT make it true!)…..they are CAUSING more skepticism. Let me explain.

First, there are some folks who are already complete skeptics, and there’s not much hope of changing that. They’re somehow certain everyone is always out to make a buck, and they don’t understand the passion that drives working in the nonprofit sector. Studies show that if your mind is set on an idea, though, however wrong it is, even learning actual facts won’t change your mind. I don’t believe those folks will let go of their ideas, so my little message here isn’t aimed at them.

The people I want to influence are those I call “swing skeptics.” The folks who aren’t sure; they’ve heard there are some charities that had scandals at some point, maybe years ago, but they don’t know who, or remember what it was all about. It’s these folks who’ll see a meme that tells them all the top charities have people making millions at the top and 5% of the money goes to the beneficiaries, etc. — and since it’s hard to look up the truth, they’ll just believe it. They’ll suddenly “know” every big charity is bad. They’ll consider it “fact” that those big scary numbers are right. They can swing into hard skepticism with just a nudge.

Brandishing the “scam” word can push the swing skeptics over the edge. But it does more than just trash the org it’s attached to. It increases skepticism of ALL charities. It makes people question EVERYONE’s motives. And having worked at one worldwide charity, and run another of my own, I can tell you – people who choose to work in the nonprofit sector are not in it for the money. They’re in it to HELP. The last thing they’d do is misuse funds.

Yes, some have had scandals over the decades. Some of those have totally turned around – but the recirculation of old memes penalizes them even though they have done EXACTLY what everyone wanted them to do: clean up their act and be transparent! The lies pursue them, and it’s a depressing constant battle; we have the power to stop that by just not reposting it, and commenting about the truth to those who do spread it.

Now if you see an actual article about a particular charity scandal, with actual facts in it – not just an op ed – sure, share it, but before you share:

  1. Check the source. Is it a reputable news outlet? (Far-left and far-right blogs aren’t reputable, nor are Facebook “news aggregators” that just collect and post the most outrageous things to get clicks)
  2. Where is the reporting done? In the country where the charity is founded, where they can access tax filings and do fact research? Other countries may have ulterior motives for trashing charities from outside. (Note there are some on Facebook that pretend to be American but are not. Do your homework.)
  3. What’s the date on the article? Has the org responded and cleaned up its act since then? If so, they deserve support.
  4. Check Snopes. They’re really good at finding out what’s behind the memes. They go through the text line by line and tell you what’s true, what’s old, and what’s distorted.

Misunderstandings about overhead %

Calculating the overhead rate for nonprofits is not a standardized thing. If you take the number of dollars brought in, and the number of dollars put out, you might think that’d give you the overhead rate, right? Well, yes and no. That’s their cash overhead.

Most nonprofits rely on gifts in kind and volunteer labor, to one extent or another. Those aren’t calculated into that cash number. Reporting them on a 990 tax form is, well, challenging at best, and finding what those numbers are can require experience in reading a 990. Every org has a different mix of how much of their work is donated goods/services vs cash, how they set the value, and comparing them is really really really hard.

For example, with the charity I ran, if you only calculated the little cash dollars we brought in with the number of dollars we spent on supplies and shipping for boxes (programs) and everything else like website, marketing, legal fees, wages, etc (admin)….. we would have reported an overhead rate in the 55% range. But no one could argue we wasted our donors’ money; we delivered millions of blessings to service members and their families on a shoestring budget based on the impact of millions of cards delivered!

One calculation I think would be most interesting, if more orgs would do it, is how much value is delivered to beneficiaries per dollar donated. These are a made up examples, but show you how poor an “overhead” calculation is in judging the efficacy of a charity:

  • A charity gives donated overstock tennis shoes to people around the world. To the person who receives a pair of shoes, that gift is worth, say, $10. The org may spend 98 cents of your dollar to collect the shoes, store them in a warehouse, sort for appropriate country to send it to, shipping it, and delivering that pair of shoes to the village, paying all those staff members along that chain. Only 2% of your dollar is left after all that work getting the shoes delivered, but: $1 donation = $10 benefit.
  • Another charity gives funds to startups in small remote villages. There’s no staff to provide business support, no training on how to market their goods, no assessment of who’s got potential to succeed. But boy is their overhead low because they just hand out the bucks nice and directly the way we like! They report back that 98 cents of every dollar goes directly to the beneficiaries. Delivering….just 98 cents. $1 donation =$1 benefit.

These are made up examples, but not unheard-of in the nonprofit sector. I hope they at least show you how looking at context matters when deciding what charity to give to.

Just don’t give up because it’s hard to understand how charities work…. do what I do and give anyway. Assume good motives among those choosing to serve those in need, and trust they’re doing their work to the very best of their abilities. Refrain from sharing broad-swiping memes that trash charities without evidence; share charities that you love and trust without tearing down others – and encourage others to give, too.

Donations are down $57 billion in America since the tax bill last year – we need to do more building up and less tearing down….in this and many other areas!

*steps off her yearly soapbox….