I am the executive director here at Hinsdale Humane Society. A large part of my job is to solicit financial support from individuals and corporations so we can fulfill our mission. I am not going to focus on animal welfare in this blog, but instead on non-profits as a whole. Regardless of the mission you support, charitable giving should be viewed as more than just a gift or a financial transaction to lower our taxes. Supporting a charity should be viewed as an investment in ourselves and our community.
Why do charitable organizations exist? The answer is much more involved than a simple one-line answer, but in essence, they exist to fill a need that is not being met by our free market society. In other words, there is not enough, if any, financial gain in the services offered by charities to warrant a for-profit company entering the market. A for-profit company exchanges money for a product or service that is wanted by the customer. For nonprofit organizations, the customer is not the person giving the money, but instead, the customer is the person/animal/environment which needs the services provided by the charity yet cannot pay for it themselves. That is why the donation is called a “gift”, because, just as with birthday presents, the giver is not getting anything in return, someone else is. But is that a true statement?
When I was growing up there wasn’t much worse than having to go shopping. I would rather have to eat all my vegetables than spend one second in a department store, except when I was getting a present for my family. I loved to shop for Christmas and birthday presents, not because the shopping experience was any different, but because the outcome was vastly different than my normal excursions to the mall.
Watching my sisters open their gifts was so much more satisfying than opening my own. For the longest time I thought I was a really strange kid. It turns out that I was more normal than I thought. How many times have you heard people tell you how they like giving gifts more than getting them? I am guessing you have heard that quite a bit. So, if giving your family or friends a gift makes you feel so wonderful, isn’t it natural that giving a gift to help a person or an animal or the environment will make you feel the same way? Shouldn’t you get the same rush of endorphins you get when seeing your sister light up because you found the perfect gift for her? Shouldn’t you tell everyone how great you feel because you helped someone you don’t even know get a warm meal or medical assistance or helped an animal off the streets?
I titled this article as thinking of charity as an investment in ourselves because making yourself happy and feeling good about helping others IS an investment in your well-being. You are doing something that makes you happy and feel good.
As COVID continues to haunt us and the economy struggles to recover, please think about all those who are being helped by a charity and, even if it is less than in the past, invest in yourself and give them a gift.
Tom Van Winkle
Tom has a degree in mathematics from the University of Illinois, an MBA from Loyola University in Chicago and is a certified animal behavior consultant. He has been the Executive Director of the Hinsdale Humane Society, which operates the Tuthill Family Pet Rescue and Resource Center in Hinsdale, since 2017 and has over 20 years experience in animal welfare. Tom currently serves as a board member for the Illinois Animal Welfare Federation, sits on the steering committee for the Chicagoland Life Saving Coalition and has also been on the board of the National Federation of Humane Societies.