Crunch Time for Local Charities

| 02 Mar 2015 | 05:04

Non-profits scramble as most generous period of the year begins

Once the last of the pumpkins have rotted away, and the scarves and peacoats are taken out of storage, New York charities will begin gearing up for what is their busiest time of the year.

The Greater New York chapter of the Salvation Army, for instance, sees about two-thirds of its individual donations during the months of November and December -- an end-of-year rush that is typical for even smaller New York charities.

"These donations are crucial to us," said James Winans, a representative from The Bowery Mission. "It's a massive community effort and it's due to the generosity of our neighbors who come in with their sack of potatoes, checks or whatever they've got."

Some New York charities, like Pajama Program, a small non-profit that gives away pajamas and books to children in shelters, rely almost entirely on the colder months for their annual donations, because they are focused on keeping kids warm (and well-read) during the winter nights.

Most charities agree that the holiday season puts people in a more giving mood, especially for food-based charities that use Thanksgiving and Christmas as a way to deliver turkeys, stuffing and all the trimmings. But a less doe-eyed reason, said Anne Corry of New York Cares, is that people want to get in their donations before December 31st so they can put the donation on the year's tax returns.

On average, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the median New York household will contribute $2,361 to charity each year. And that money can only stretch so far.

"We are really looking to make sure City Harvest is highly visible this time of year because there's a lot of competition for charitable dollars out there," said Heather Wallace, a representative from City Harvest.

Natalie Greaves, from the Ronald McDonald House, said most New Yorkers know what their interests are (from food and shelter, to education and the arts), and they will give based on that, as opposed to a mail-order flier. This year to celebrate the holiday season, the Ronald McDonald House is hosting a "Share a Night" party on December 5th, where donors can pay $35 for a one-night stay for a family, or even sponsor a week.

But for the quieter or lesser-known local charities like the West Side Campaign Against Hunger, they really feel the crunch time. In November, they host a Thousand-Turkey challenge, in which they pay for turkey dinners for thousands of needy West Siders.

"There's a lot of competition for year-end money, you want to be on the top of the mail pile," said Stuart Desmond from WSCAH.