Some local nonprofits see decline in donations during holiday giving season

It’s supposed to be a season full of giving, but the amount of money donated to nonprofits, nationwide, is declining.

Giving USA said Americans gave less money to charities last year compared to the year before. Some local nonprofits in Spokane are feeling that effect.

It may be hard to believe, but the Salvation Army in Spokane is hoping to raise $350,000 by bell-ringing alone.

Right now, they’re short. More than $80,000 short because of the calendar change this year. A late Thanksgiving means there are six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That means fewer opportunities to ring bells.

“We’re praying that we’re going to hit that number and be able to serve all the people we want to,” said Major Ken Perine, with the Salvation Army of Spokane.

Major Perine said they believe the amount of donations has been even for the last few years because there are different ways people can donate, such as donating online or in person.

Charities are always hoping for more. The United Way of Spokane County is one nonprofit that has seen a decline in the last few years.

“We have, as other United Ways have seen across the country, there has been a decrease in individual giving,” said Tim Henkel, the president and CEO of United Way of Spokane County.

The United Way collects donations year-round. The organization goes off a fiscal year basis. Just last year, it said it received $3.7 million. The year before that, it was $3.8 million.

They also lost 1,500 donors last year. Now, they have about 8,000 people donating to the organization.

Although that number of individual donating to its cause has decreased, more contributions are coming in from companies they work with.

“We’ve been in kind of this even space,” Henkel said.

One reason he believes the numbers are dropping is because there many different nonprofits out there people can choose from.

“Because of all the needs that are out there, that’s kind of what people are wanting to do is to make a difference and to make an impact,” he said.

Another reason is because of the tax law change in 2017. Donors have to give more to be able to write off any donations on taxes.

Both organizations say the need is greater than the amount of donations they receive.

This year so far, 3.6 million pounds of food went out the Salvation Army’s food bank. Last year it was 3.2 million pounds of food.

“For us, what we see and especially here in Spokane, we seen an increase in need. Whether the homeless or folks losing their job, they become homeless, there’s an increase in need for that,” Major Perine said.

“I have been doing this for 36 years. There is always more need than what any organization receives,” Henkel said.

Whether it’s donating money or time, the organizations are hoping to continue getting help.

“The recipients, the organizations, the individuals that are affected by that appreciate it and see the value in it, and in turn, it comes back to you. You also feel good about it,” Henkel said.

There are several ways to get help this holiday season or year-round.

The United Way of Spokane County has a list of resources on its website, ranging from financial stability to education and health.

The Salvation Army has resources for housing, foster care, finding clothes and more, on its website.

Families in need can get toys through Toys for Tots and the Christmas Bureau.

Second Harvest offers ways to get food assistance, if needed.