Large, small donations impact lives

  • Published
  • By Kat Ohlmeyer
  • 28th Security Forces Squadron commander's spouse
I used to give because I could. I used to give because it was the right thing to do. And I used to decide who to give to without much thought.

Then in January I lost my mom to acute lymphocytic leukemia -- she was 53.

Giving to charity is a personal experience and preference. My family's contribution to the Combined Federal Campaign this year will benefit cancer charities. Who will you support?

The Combined Federal Campaign is an annual fundraising effort that benefits charitable organizations throughout the country. It is the only authorized solicitation of employees in the federal workplace, but more importantly, it is an opportunity for military members and their families to give something back to the local community and organizations across the Nation.

Giving may be personal for me, but not everyone feels as strongly about donating through the CFC as I do. In fact, many people argue that they can't afford to contribute to the campaign.

However, J.R. Huddleston, West River President of the CFC, said that people shouldn't feel bad if they can't give a large donation.

"Anything they could give is greatly appreciated by the organization they wish to contribute to," he said. "A dollar goes a long way."

The campaign offers people two ways to make a donation, either through payroll deduction or by cash or check.

With payroll deduction, people can specify an amount to be withheld during each pay period for the duration of one year, Mr. Huddleston said. The minimum payroll deduction is one dollar per pay period.

Contributors can choose to designate their donation to a specific charity or apportion it between several organizations. Mr. Huddleston said there are 53 local organizations in this year's catalog as well as national and international charities; there are over 25,000 organizations donors can choose to support.

With worthy causes ranging from the American Cancer Society to Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and even some local base Airman and Family Readiness Centers, everyone is sure to find a cause that is important to them. And with the minimum monthly payroll deduction equal to just over the price of a bottle of soda, supporting that cause is very manageable.

However, some people will still hesitate to contribute to the CFC because they fear the majority of their donation won't reach their selected charity, but will be used to cover overhead costs of the campaign and their selected charity.

According to the Western South Dakota CFC brochure, campaign costs nationwide historically average 10 percent. Those funds are spent printing materials, training volunteers, auditing contributions and on other administrative expenses.

Additionally, Mr. Huddleston said each charity listed in the brochure is mandated to list the percentage of their donations that goes to administrative functions of their organization.

This administrative and fundraising expense rate is calculated as a percentage of the organization's total support and revenue, according to the CFC brochure. And AFR rates exceeding 35 percent are considered problematic by the philanthropic community as a whole. For this reason, the brochure encourages donors to review their charity's AFR to fully understand and accept the organization's situation before donating to them.

Many worthy organizations; however, have an AFR above 5 or even 10 percent. One of the charities I'm considering is, CancerCare Inc., which lists their AFR at 20.9 percent. While this may seem high compared to the Ellsworth charities, Jeanie Barnett, Director of Communications for CancerCare, said her organization takes pride in receiving the highest ratings from independent charity evaluators, including the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Navigator, which awards CancerCare their highest, four-star rating for excellence.

"CancerCare is a national nonprofit organization that provides free, professional support services to anyone affected by cancer," Mrs. Barnett said, "including people with cancer, caregivers, children, loved ones and the bereaved. We encourage anyone wanting to support CancerCare to visit our website to learn more about the free professional services we provide and how our funds are allocated."

With the AFR information provided in the CFC brochure you can make an educated decision about who will receive your donation.

Yet some people still feel their donation won't make a difference to their preferred charity.

Barnett argues that no donation is too small for organizations like hers that rely on the generosity of individuals and private companies in order to provide their services free of charge.

"The CFC provides considerable contributions to our organization and has resulted in tens of thousands of dollars annually in contributions that help support our many services," she said.

In fact, Barnett said a five or 10 dollar donation can cover the cost of travel to a doctor's appointment for a cancer patient, or the cost of their childcare. And a 20 dollar donation can support one-on-one counseling with a professional oncology social worker for a cancer patient or a family member, like me, who is dealing with the loss of someone they love.

Additionally, Huddleston gives further examples of the impact your dollars can make.

"One dollar will provide 10 pounds of food," he said. "Five dollars will purchase a toy during the holidays for a young child. Ten dollars will provide support to someone who has lost someone to suicide. Thirty dollars will provide one free book a month to a child under the age of 5 and $184 will provide one child a backpack filled with food every weekend for the entire year."

Whether it's a large or small amount, your donation will make a difference.

If you're like me and have watched someone you love fight for their life against a disease like cancer, the decision to give is an easy one. But if you don't have a personal connection to a charity, remember that the cause is personal to someone. Your donation, even if it's just a few dollars, will impact a life.

So, take the time to choose a charity and donate. While it's not mandatory, the charity will benefit from your gift, and you'll feel great about giving something back through the Combined Federal Campaign.