Today is “Black Friday,” which is not a bad thing in the world of retail. After yesterday’s turkey and football games comes the realization: Retailers see the next five weeks as their “make or break” time, the short season to get out of the red of debt and into the black of profits for the first time in this long year. Sales mean taxes and taxes are the life blood of the cities and counties of middle-America. Unfortunately, the telltale signs for the economic outlook are pointing in the wrong direction.
Mid-Missouri has seen its share of layoffs, increased crime, lower expectations of new housing starts and lower pre-owned home sales. Yet the most telling comes from a story out of Seattle — Starbucks sales are down and for the first time in its business history, they are advertising. This last bit translates to less disposable income for the average American family, and who is more average than the citizens here in the middle of the country? Lower disposable income means lower holiday retail sales, which means lower taxes collected for 2007 which equates to fewer services that cities and counties can provide.
This is also Black Friday for many nonprofits, and they are looking to you as much as to our retail neighbors to climb onto a positive financial base. The New York Times and The Washington Post suggest that giving this year may not meet either the financial expectations or the needs of many of these smaller charitable agencies. Not just in New York or our nation’s capital, but countrywide, including here in our fair region.
Now, I am not suggesting that you leave retail behind and only give donations to your favorite charity as gifts to those you love. I am suggesting that you put a little aside for those charities that really need the money. The small charities, the ones serving your neighbors and your heart, the ones you have to search out to support, that fall off the boutique list.
I have more than a few soft spots in my pocketbook for giving this year, including the Senior Trust and donations to the ACLU, PBS and NPR (yes, I am one of those liberals). You may give donations through your employer to the United Way or your heart strings may be tugged during the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon for Jerry’s Kids. But these are the biggies. Not that their work is any less important; the lives saved, the research accomplished and the services rendered are unsurpassed. Yet there are many other local charities that need our financial support.
Don’t know what these organizations are? Check the Volunteer Action Center’s “Directory of Community Services,” a listing that contains more than 160 pages of nonprofits just in Boone County, available at the Daniel Boone Regional Library. Contact the United Way in your county for information about members. Ask your elected officials, they know. The lists include city, county, state and federal services, as it should, but it also includes other organizations such as Coyote Hill, a residential foster care facility in Harrisburg; Freedom House, providing “barrier-free living” for those with physical limitations; and Happy Tails Sanctuary, a no-kill center providing a multitude of services for animals. What do you care about?
Kathy and I were talking about having enough money to drop an occasional South African Krugerrand into the Salvation Army’s kettle or the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee “Guest at Your Table” collection box. Our altruistic spirit is strong, but we are still waiting to win Powerball. For now, our loose change jar is our means of holiday donations and maybe the Central Missouri Food Bank, the Phoenix Programs, detoxification treatment and residential facilities for men, or the Rainbow House, a children’s shelter, can be added to our list of supporting gifts this year. Maybe you can add a few to yours.
I wish you and yours a wonderful and giving holiday season.
David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and instructor at Columbia College. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.