From Scrooge to giving


I know this time of year can be a bit overwhelming. Rather than receiving tons of holiday greetings in your mailbox, instead, you get nonprofit requests for money. Instead of reading your favorite weekly column to learn about all the wonderful nonprofits doing great work in our area, you get appeals for Give Local and Giving Tuesday. It is enough to turn anyone into Ebeneezer Scrooge – before the ghosts. Well, a recent CNN article tells us that there may be more Mr. Scrooge’s around than Tiny Tims.

Perhaps America needs a visit from some ghosts?

Americans seemed more willing to spend money on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but less willing to donate money on Giving Tuesday. According to the CNN article “while the raw number of dollars donated, $3.1 billion, represents a 0.6% gain from 2022, the number of Americans who participated, roughly 34 million, indicates a 10% decline from last year according to data GivingTuesday/Data Commons shared with CNN”. You may recall from my previous column, that the goal with GivingTuesday is for it not to be just a one-day event but rather to be year-round. “To create an ecosystem of giving that helps communities, causes, and organizations across the globe,” said Asha Curran, GivingTuesday’s CEO said in a news release. “However, we are concerned to see a decline in participation in line with giving trends from the past year.”

A few well-meaning business people.

Giving Tuesday started in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y in New York City and the United Nations Foundation with the intention of inspiring generosity on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. The CNN article states that “over 200 million Americans, more than 60% of the nation’s population, shopped online or in person during the five days from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, according to the National Retail Federation, also known as “Cyber Week.” Adobe Analytics reports that Americans spent a record $9.8 billion for online Black Friday sales and $12.4 billion on Cyber Monday, representing gains of 7.5% and 9.6%, respectively when compared to 2022.

Will Scrooge learn his lesson?

Giving Tuesday’s decline in participation is not an isolated incident, but rather, as its organization acknowledges, part of larger trends philanthropic organizations are experiencing. According to a recent Axios article while Americans are some of the most charitable people on earth according to some studies, some wonder if the current trend toward Ebenezer Scrooge is a temporary or longer-term effect. One of the reports that I follow is from Giving USA which reported this past June that Americans are giving the lowest percentage of their disposable income since 1995. Americans gave just 1.7% of their disposable income in 2022, with charitable giving declining from 2021 by 3.4% to $499.3 billion, which represents an even larger decline of 10.5% when adjusted for inflation. This is especially shocking since before 2021 the percentage of giving has always increased each year.

Redemption in the end

All this being said, according to the Charities Aid Foundation’s 2023 World Giving Index – the US remains one of the most generous countries as 76% of Americans surveyed helped strangers, 61% donated money to charitable causes, and 38% volunteered. While most people do understand the need to donate to nonprofits, when folks must make tough decisions, nonprofits often are the first to be cut. Of course, that is when people need them the most.

The Olympian’s Light of Hope

While I make every effort to do my own reporting for this column, there are times when it is best to partner with others for the good of our community. Therefore, if you are looking to be more like Tiny Tim and less like Ebeneezer Scrooge this holiday season, The Olympian’s annual Light of Hope listing shines a light on the needs of South Sound residents who lack resources and the nonprofit organizations that work with them. The following are some wish lists from local nonprofits and the people they help, and suggestions for how you can help meet those needs:

  • SOUTH SOUND READING FOUNDATION is a nonprofit organization based in Lacey that serves the children and families of Thurston and Mason counties. It envisions communities where all children read well and enjoy reading, and where reading opens new opportunities. Primarily, it serves lower-income children and families and those considered Title 1 in schools.

However, its mission is to bring the joy and promise of books and reading to all South Sound children. You can give the gift of literacy by donating new and gently-used children’s books — board books, beginning readers, and Spanish language books for all ages. For more information, call 360-412-4411 ext. 35001 or visit

  • SOUTH SOUND YMCA’s mission is to provide youth and the community an affordable and accessible resource for the positive development of spirit, mind, and body through recreational, health, and leadership programs.

Its impact is felt when an individual makes a healthy choice, when a mentor inspires a child, and when a community comes together for the common good.

The YMCA is seeking donations of hats, gloves, men’s crew socks, and foot/hand warmers. Contact Lesli Baker for information at or at 360-918-0306.

  • SENIOR SERVICES FOR SOUTH SOUND is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving people's quality of life as they age. Celebrating its 50th year of service, this organization runs senior centers in Lacey and Olympia, feeds thousands of people through Meals on Wheels deliveries and congregate dining and offers many activities and programs to keep the senior populations of Thurston and Mason Counties thriving.

They need gift cards of $20 or more to share with various clients for clothing and other basic needs. Visit to make a gift online or learn more about the organization. You can also call 360-586-6181 or email

  • LEWIS MASON THURSTON AREA AGENCY ON AGING connects vulnerable adults with information and social and health services that help them remain in their homes. They also support people who provide informal caregiving assistance to family members or friends.

Most clients have very modest means combined with health conditions that limit their ability to care for themselves. Every year, LMTAAA organizes the Light of Hope program, where financial donations fulfill client wishes that would otherwise go unmet. This year LMTAAA is purchasing gift cards so all participating clients will have the ability to buy the holiday wish items of their choice.

All financial donations will be pooled and used to purchase gift cards of the same amount, meaning the more raised, the bigger the impact on participating client’s lives this holiday season. Donations are tax-deductible and will go towards helping clients manage unexpected personal expenses during the rest of the year. For more information or to donate visit

Soliciting your ideas

If you know of a nonprofit that is doing something great, celebrating a success, needs some outstanding volunteers, or hosting an event, let me know! This column (aside from a little education) celebrates nonprofits!

Mary Beth Harrington, CVA (Certified Volunteer Administrator) lives in Tumwater. She travels the country speaking at conferences and to individual organizations articulating issues facing nonprofits. Send your ideas to her at


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