OPINION: ‘No one has ever become poor by giving’

George Mathewson

When the scattered members of the Mathewson clan gather for turkey dinner this Christmas we’ll be doing a cool thing about the presents.

Rather than buy for everyone, as was once the custom, and rather than draw names, as we’ve done more recently, the adults will pool their money and give it all to one charity.

Our names will go in a hat and the winner can donate the whole kit and caboodle to their favourite cause.

And my family isn’t alone in wanting to give back.

Charitable donations in Canada have risen three straight years now and increased another 8% in 2014 to an average $624 per person, according to a recent BMO Charitable Giving Poll.

Another survey, done by Imagine Canada, found that 62% of Canadians intend to donate to charity this holiday season.

That’s an impressive number when you factor in the working poor, elderly and unemployed who can barely pay for heat and groceries this winter, let alone give to others.

Eight-in-ten of those who say they intend to donate to charity this Christmas cited “helping the less fortunate” as their motivation. Others said they hope to set a good example for their children, while some said they simply want to experience the joy of giving and celebrate the spirit of the holiday.

And why not? Giving to a cause that resonates with your personal beliefs not only helps the charity do its job well, it makes you feel good, too.

As Anne Frank noted in her diary, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”

Sarnia-Lambton residents are incredibly generous people and never more so than during the holiday season. Sadly, though, this time of year also brings out the cheats and charities that aren’t what they appear to be.

In fact, surveys have found the biggest impediment to charitable giving is a donor suspicion that their hard-earned dollars will go to inflated overhead and bloated administration.

So before you give, do a little research.

A good place to start is the Canada Revenue Agency’s website (www.cra.gc.ca) where you can verify if an organization is registered under the Income Tax Act. Only an officially recognized Canadian charity can issue an official donation receipt for income tax purposes.

Another good site to check is Charity Intelligence Canada (www.charityintelligence.ca) where you can find top-rated charities and look up information on individual agencies, including their financial statements, staffing and salary ranges.

I really like what my family is doing this Christmas. The pot of money will probably go to health, welfare or an environmental cause, if I know my relatives.

But whoever’s name is pulled from the hat, I think everyone will be thrilled that our collective spending was turned into one meaningful gift.