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By Stuart L. Harper

’Tis the season to be jolly. And to give.

Nonprofit organizations across the nation generate the lion’s share of their contributions during this last quarter of the year – with particular generosity exhibited at year-end, according to the DMA Nonprofit Federation.

That’s certainly true for the City Mission. And while we always welcome large contributions, because we’re dealing with hungry, hurting individuals and families, even the smallest year-end contribution goes a long way.

Most of us are fascinated by newspaper reports of a wealthy individual donating millions of dollars to her favorite charitable organization. We want to commend the generosity and willingness to share with those less fortunate.

But sometimes that admiration for such large gifts can leave the rest of us feeling intimidated when we pull out our own checkbooks to give to our favorite charity. Will our check for $10, or maybe even less, really help anything? Do such small gifts really help charitable organizations accomplish much?

The answer is yes. While nonprofit organizations certainly appreciate gifts of millions of dollars, there’s a reason newspapers write about them: They’re rare. If a charity relied only on large gifts, it would soon be bankrupt.

According to the DMA Nonprofit Federation, the vast majority of charitable gifts are quite small. One reason is that many people prefer to support favorite charities over time, making several donations during a year. Donors may give in response to specific appeals, or may prefer to do something throughout the year, making a small gift on a regular schedule, such as in a monthly giving program. Giving that way also makes the process easier.

Of course, one reason to spread our gifts over the year is that most of us are not millionaires. Writing one larger check might be a strain on a budget, but the cost can be more manageable if the overall donation is spread out as a series of gifts throughout the year. That’s why a regular giving program, such as being a monthly donor, can help both the donor and the charity budget more easily. But even when small donations are received on a more random schedule, efficient charities know how to maximize their effectiveness.

Here at the City Mission, we serve hundreds of meals every day of the year to our live-in clients and to our community visitors.

Small gifts, of any amount, when multiplied by the millions upon millions of Americans who support our nation’s charities, add up to a great deal that really does make a big difference – $316 billion of difference just last year.

So when you read about a millionaire’s gift, just know that in your own way, by making a year-end contribution to your favorite charities, you’re helping just as much, if not more.

Stuart L. Harper is executive director of the Buffalo City Mission.