Gotham Gazette

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Year-End Giving: Five Ways to Help New Yorkers in Need

A helping hand (photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayoral Photo Office)

While inflation is unsettling for many of us, for fellow New Yorkers who were already struggling financially, it can be catastrophic. 

Imagine entering a store with only $50 to buy your family’s groceries, and watching the register ring up $75 on your usual shopping list.

This month — which The Wall Street Journal dubbed the “humbug holiday season” — is ominously clouded with inflationary prices and the threat of a recession. While our first instincts may lead us to reduced spending and restrained year-end giving, the need to help our neighbors, especially those who lack food and shelter, could not be more urgent. 

If you want to make the most of year-end giving, here are five suggestions to help ease the burden for New Yorkers facing hardship this holiday giving season.

1. Contribute to programs housing and feeding New Yorkers. People are experiencing homelessness in New York City at rates not seen since the Great Depression. More than 63,000 people—including 20,000 children—slept in the municipal shelter system this November. Consider making a gift to one of the nonprofits that advocate for or serve New Yorkers who are without permanent housing or unable to buy enough food.

2. Make generosity a family tradition. Younger children can help choose and deliver toys for families living in shelters. Older children can be part of an annual discussion of which nonprofits or causes to support. The whole family can watch a documentary together or research an issue you care about. Consider setting aside a regular time each year to foster a tradition of helping others. 

3. Prioritize racial justice and equity. In November, New York City voters supported three ballot measures to address systemic racism. To build on this momentum, consider supporting nonprofits working to disrupt systems that have contributed to racial inequities. When selecting nonprofits to support, consider who benefits from the nonprofit’s work, the composition of its staff and board, and if the group is targeting systemic changes in order to have a long-term impact.  

4. Open a donor-advised fund. Donor-advised funds offer an immediate tax deduction on a charitable contribution from which you can recommend grants over time. Starting a donor-advised fund is a great way to ensure that you can support the causes that are most important to you well into the future, even in an unpredictable economy. Donor-advised funds can be used to make a meaningful gift, commemorate a life event, or honor the memory of a loved one. You also can establish a donor-advised fund for someone else.

5. Join forces with other donors to stay informed and maximize your giving power. Join a giving circle and collaborate with like-minded friends and colleagues to pool resources to make a larger impact. Working together can lead you to learn collectively and more deeply about the most effective nonprofits working on key issues in New York.  

If you need help with any of these pursuits, remember that your local community foundation — and there are many — has a team ready to help you be the most impactful donor you can be.

This holiday season, we hope New Yorkers uneasy about the economy will act counterintuitively: by tapping into their empathy for their neighbors and leaning into generosity.  

After all, what is more holiday-appropriate than buoying our spirits with the joy of giving? 

John Oddy is vice president for donor relations at The New York Community Trust, the community foundation for New York City, Long Island, and Westchester. On Twitter @NYCommTrust.

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