The Santa in Us: Wise and Wonderful Holiday Giving
I hope everyone noticed that the Ukiah Daily Journal has kicked off its annual Food Bank Fund Drive. This drive is CRUCIAL to delivering food to those in need within our community.
Jacque Williams, the Executive Director of the Ukiah Community Center and Ford Street Project, told me that when people give to the Ukiah Food Bank, their dollars stay local. “When people give, they’re giving back to their own community,” she said.
Donations are more important than ever because food costs have risen. This has the two-fold effect of 1. Increasing the number of people who need food, and 2. Reducing what the Food Bank is able to do with the funding it receives. Each month, the Food Bank serves an average of more than 1,500 residents in inland Mendocino County: 51 percent are families with children; 21 percent are seniors; and 28 percent are individual households.
What cold statistics don’t adequately represent is the emotional toll it takes to constantly struggle to try to afford the most basic food needs. And the need just keeps growing. Referrals for people who face a food crisis, as well as those referred by Adult Protective Services and Faith-Based organizations, has doubled since 2009, rising from 54 a month in 2009 to 110 a month in 2012.
Jacque said that 100 percent of the Food Bank Fund Drive donations go directly providing food at the Food Bank. Amazingly, the entire Food Bank operation is run by one Food Bank coordinator, one part-time drive, and the amazing help of volunteers. Fifteen people a week, Jacque estimates, volunteer to help at the Food Bank. The entire overhead and administration costs for the Food Bank is paid by the Ford Street Organization.
All a person has to do to obtain Food Bank services is provide proof they are from inland Mendocino County.
Jacque encourages community members to donate, even if they can’t afford monetary donations; the Food Bank is always in need of canned goods and non-perishable food staples. “The Ukiah community is so generous. During the last two years, we have been so lucky to raise over $100,000 each year. It is so nice that people in our town take the time to help us. I feel like the whole community cares!” she said.
Donations can be made by dropping off a check at the Ukiah Daily Journal Office, 590 S. School Street, or at the Food Bank, 888 N. State Street.
Each year many deserving charitable organizations – and a few suspicious ones – ask for donations. The suspicious organizations try to prey on our generous natures, especially during the Christmas season. Be sure to educate yourself about organizations you choose to support, either through donations or volunteering.
Here are some tips from the California Attorney General for giving wisely, and additional resources to help guide you in making charitable donations.
- Be an informed giver. Ask questions before you give. Give only when you feel comfortable that your donation will support an organization and activities in which you believe.
- If a solicitor calls, find out how much of your donation will actually go to the charity. Ask what percentage of donations will be used to pay for fundraising expenses. This information can better inform the consumer as to how much of the contribution will go to the cause versus overhead.
- Refuse high-pressure appeals. Legitimate charities won't rush you to donate.
- Ask for written information. A legitimate charity will be willing to send you information before you donate. Ask for information on the organization's mission, how your donation will be used and proof that your contribution is tax deductible.
- Call the charity. To avoid falling victim to sham solicitors, contact the charity directly before giving a donation by mail or to the person knocking at your front door. This will allow you to make sure the solicitation you received is authorized and legitimate.
- Watch out for similar sounding names. Scam artists often try to take advantage of names that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate charities.
- Don't send cash. For your security and tax records, make your donation by check. Jot down the official name of the charity on your check for record keeping purposes.
- Be wary of a group that offers to pick up your monetary donation. A legitimate charity will have an official address where you can mail your donation. Be wary if an organization thanks you for a pledge you don't remember making and offers to send someone to pick up your donation. If ever in doubt, check your records for any pledge or donation.
- Keep the right records. Make sure your donation is tax deductible from federal and state income taxes. Donating to some tax-exempt organizations may not necessarily result in a tax-deductible donation and some organizations may even try to use terms like "tax I.D. number" or "keep this receipt for your records" to suggest they are tax-exempt charities when they aren't.
- For record keeping, a canceled check or credit card statement generally is sufficient for IRS purposes when you donate less than $250.
- For larger donations, be sure to get a properly worded receipt from the charity confirming your donation. And remember, your tax deduction is reduced by the fair market value of any gift, meal or other incentive received from the charity.
- Consider alternative forms of giving. Consult with your tax advisor about the many ways to support a charity. These alternative forms of giving include charitable gift annuities, gifts in-kind, and endowments.
- Volunteer. Giving of your time and personal skills can be as valuable as financial donations to nonprofit organizations. You can also benefit by meeting people who have similar interests.
- The most important thing you can do is learn about a charitable organization, its activities and its fundraising practices before giving.
On the Ukiah Police Department (UPD) website we have included links you can use to reach a searchable online database of registered charities and registered professional fundraisers maintained by the California Attorney General. You can also find the California Attorney General publication, The Guide to Charitable Giving for Donors.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.