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Help wanted

The holiday hangover contributes to a trying time for metro nonprofits.

Greg Horton February 1st, 2012

Christmas might be the season for giving, but the period that follows can be challenging for local charities, with many seeing a sharp decline in volunteers and donations.

Angie Gaines, marketing director for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, said the nonprofit sees as much as a 60 percent drop after the holidays.

“During the holidays, people think of giving,” she said. “After the holidays are over, volunteers and volunteer hours drop.”

Gaines said volunteers are critical to the work of the nonprofit, which feeds approximately 90,000 people each week. She said the food bank is asking organizations to allow their employees to volunteer on weekdays as a way of helping “get the food to the people who need it.”

Jo Lynne Jones, director of development and communications for Infant Crisis Services, said her organization also sees a lag in January, but of a different kind.

“People keep their commitments to volunteer after the holidays because the holiday season was busy, so they will make time in January,” she said. “However, we do see a sharp decrease in gifts in kind: diapers, formula, clothing, et cetera.”

right, Volunteers at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

For the 2010-11 fiscal year, ICS served more than 11,000 visitors, providing lifesaving food and formula, as well as diapers, clothing and support for families in crisis. A large portion of the in-kind gifts comes from individuals who drop them by the center.

“Those gifts [decrease] sharply after Jan. 1,” Jones said. “In fact, they all but stop.”

The decrease in donations is due partly to tax deadlines, as well as holiday hangovers, she said. “We take in 30 percent of our annual budget in December, and 10 to 15 percent of the annual budget the last week of December.”

That’s attributed to last-minute charitable donations for tax purposes. Unfortunately, a combination of factors — 11th-hour contributions, holiday gift-overbuying and subsequent debt, the drying up of Christmas charity — leads to a perfect storm for charities.

ICS holds its annual gala in early February to redirect attention back to charitable giving. “From Jan. 1 to the gala, we subsist largely on sales of tickets, sponsorship dollars and table sales for that event,” Jones said.

That event is slated for Saturday. The food bank utilizes traditional outreach methods to generate needed voluntarism, including the push for corporations to help during the week.

“We ask for groups of six or more, unless they are families, to schedule a time so we can have an appropriate amount of work ready for them,” Gaines said.

Photo by Shannon Cornman

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