A panel of top political commentators joins Diane to talk about some of the head spinning events of this last year and to get their perspectives on the challenges ahead.
- Major George Hood National community relations secretary, The Salvation Army.
- Jared Nissim Co-founder, The Giving Effect, a website that connects non-profit organizations with people who have things to donate.
- Jim Gibbons President and CEO, Goodwill Industries International.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. 'Tis the season for giving presents. Americans spend billions annually to purchase holiday gifts for family and friends, but it's also a time to remember those in need. According to one recent survey, more than a third of U.S. charities experienced a decline in donations in the first nine months of the year. In another survey, nearly a third of respondents said they do not plan to make a charitable donation during the holidays this year. Joining me in the studio to talk about trends in giving, Jim Gibbons of Goodwill Industries. Good morning to you, Jim. It's good to have you here.
MR. JIM GIBBONSIt's great to be here with you, Diane.
REHMThank you. And Maj. George Hood of The Salvation Army. Good morning, Major.
MAJ. GEORGE HOODGood morning. Thanks for having us here.
REHMGood to see you again. And from an NPR studio in New York, Jared Nissim of The Giving Effect. Good morning to you, Jared.
MR. JARED NISSIMGood morning, Diane. It's great to be on the show.
REHMAnd good to have you with us. Throughout the hour, I'll look forward to hearing questions and comments from listeners. I hope you'll join us with your thoughts, 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Jared Nissim, I'd like to start with you and get you to tell us about The Giving Effect. Well, we certainly know lots about Goodwill and lots about Salvation Army. This is the first time I've heard of The Giving Effect. Tell us about it.
NISSIMSure. Well, thegivingeffect.com is brand new. Actually, we're about six months old, and it's basically a system that connects donors to nonprofit organizations that need stuff. So the premise is there are tons of organizations and community-based causes all across America in every city and town that are doing really important work in the trenches of community -- animal shelters, food banks, homeless shelters, schools, libraries and all kinds of other cause-based organizations. Now, most of them need stuff of some kind as a part of what they do -- clothes to distribute to people in need, books for libraries, office supplies for animal shelters, believe or not, food for soup kitchens, just for example.
NISSIMNow, at the same time, here in America, people everywhere have things that they no longer need in their homes that will make a big, big difference to some of these non-profit causes -- clothes, toys, books, computers, appliances. The list is really infinite in terms of what we, as Americans, have in our homes, just sitting there that we're not using anymore. And those things could be really useful to a local organization trying to make a difference in your community. So The Giving Effect is connecting donors, who have these things to give away, with the organizations right near them and nationally that need those things.
REHMSo if somebody goes to thegivingeffect.com...
REHMSo what do you do then?
NISSIMSure. If you go to thegivingeffect.com, you can explore the various causes that we already have registered with us. And, by the way, there is nearly 1,100, and we have causes in every single U.S. state. So you can explore the causes that we have registered and find something that you might like to support. And, basically, what happens is you find a cause that you want to donate to, and they have a page on our site. You fill out a simple form, telling them what it is that you want to donate to them. And then they get back to you, telling you how they would like for you to deliver that thing to them.
NISSIMSo maybe you're going to drop it off. Maybe they're going to pick it up. Maybe you're going to even mail that to them. And then they'll acknowledge the receipt of your donation and provide you with feedback. So we like to think of it as a very fulfilling giving experience because you get to see where your donation goes. You get to learn about how you made a difference in this particular cause because you hear back from them.
REHMSo give me a sense of what kinds of organizations you already have signed up.
NISSIMSure. Well, one we work a lot with is Long Island Head Start, and they're throughout Suffolk County, N.Y. And they need clothes, books, food, toys and other stuff to assist over 1,600 families throughout Suffolk County, Long Island. We have one called Books for Kids in Minneapolis, Minn. They need children's books of all kinds that are used by their volunteer tutors, who work one-on-one with at-risk youth. We have the Giants Sports Foundation in San Jose, Calif. They need baseball gloves and gently-used sports equipment to help with their free baseball camps in the South Bay community. We have the Children's Food Pantry in Dumfries, Va. And they need food to distribute to local families with children who are hungry.
NISSIMSo there are many, many, many more organizations like this in the trenches of communities all across America, working very hard to make a difference. And they need the things that we have in our homes.
REHMJared Nissim, he's co-founder of The Giving Effect. That's a website that connects nonprofits with people who have things to donate. Turning to you, Maj. Hood, I know that The Salvation Army has been around for so many years. Give us a sense of the trends that you're seeing this year.
HOODWell, the last two or three years have been very challenging for any nonprofit organization in the midst of a difficult economy. We've seen a pattern of sustainable giving throughout the year declining for us as much as 8 percent. But what I find pretty fascinating with that is that when we put those bell ringers on the street for the Christmas season, that giving begins to surge and builds up. And last Christmas, we set a record for the amount of money that we raised in the Red Kettles in the midst of a very difficult economy.
HOODSo while we lost 8 percent of donations during the calendar year, we set a record of $139 million in the Red Kettle, which was an increase of $9 million over the previous year. So the patterns, long-term, have been a downward slide of sustained giving. But when that holiday season comes along and those Red Kettles hit the street, America digs deep into their pockets and finds ways to give.
REHMMaj. George Hood, he is national community relations secretary at The Salvation Army. And, Jim Gibbons, what about Goodwill Industries? How has the economic downturn affected you?
GIBBONSWell, from a Goodwill perspective across the country, the economic downturn mostly means that people in communities are really knocking more and more on our doors for services. The Goodwill mission really revolves around job training, job creation and employment. And we've served 2 million people this year in various training and other employment-related services, placing 170,000 folks into employment, even in this economy. So we're fortunate, though, that our social enterprise model -- the 2,500 stores that people know us by throughout the country -- are doing pretty well from both a donation flow perspective and a sales perspective, which allows us to, one, enhance the employment platform for 91,000 Goodwill employees across the country and provide services to those 2 million people.
REHMNow, what about the Internet? How has that changed the way you do things, Jim?
GIBBONSWell, the Internet is truly a catalyst for transforming the way that Goodwill interacts with the community. The 2,500 stores and the rehabilitation programs that we provide today are all enhanced by shopgoodwill.com, which is a Web-based auction, where there's anywhere from 37,000 to 40,000 items available that are very popular during the Christmas season. And it's the largest auction site ran by a not-for-profit. We have an extraordinary social media outreach where we get individuals talking and connecting and communicating.
GIBBONSAnd that's really about talking about the mission and the services that are available throughout Goodwill. And we are doing a lot now in terms of developing virtual career services -- so online career services -- so that we can reach people in all of the ways that they want to be reached, touched and served.
REHMJim Gibbons, he is president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to email@example.com. And, I gather, Maj. Hood, for the sixth year in a row, The Salvation Army is doing something very special about people who'd like to ring bells themselves.
HOODWe have an electronic experience that will enable anybody in the country to be a volunteer bell ringer. Now, we still have those hearty people in Minnesota, in Detroit and some of these northern cities that will bundle up and go out on the streets to ring a bell. But there are literally hundreds of thousands of people who would prefer to do that with their house slippers and pajamas on and do it from the comfort of their home. So you can register to be an online bell ringer at onlineredkettle.org. And you manage your own red kettle, and you solicit funds through family and relatives and workmate. And everything is done electronically via the Internet. And we're finding that we're raising $2 or $3 million during the Christmas season by instituting the online Red Kettle, a virtual experience.
REHMBut how does that actually work? I mean, are you concerned about people who get involved there?
HOODWell, they set up an electronic kettle. They send e-mails to their relatives and friends and ask them to donate to their kettle, and it's done through a credit card transaction that doesn't go back to the bell ringer. It goes directly to The Salvation Army in the community where the donor and the bell ringer actually live.
REHMMaj. George Hood, he is national community relations secretary for The Salvation Army. When we come back, we'll hear more and take your calls, your comments.
REHMWell, we've just heard that The Giving Effect site is so jammed with people -- I gather who are listening to "The Diane Rehm Show" -- that folks cannot get on.
REHMI'm sure if you wait just a few minutes, you will be able to get on to The Giving Effect. In the meantime, go to the Salvation Army, represented here by Maj. George Hood, or go to Goodwill Industries, represented here by the president and CEO, Jim Gibbons. In the meantime, call us with your thoughts, 800-433-8850. Maj. Hood, what are people particularly in need of this year?
HOODWell, we've obviously seen a surge in homeless situations where families are without home due to foreclosures and the loss of jobs. Keep in mind, there's still 14 million Americans who are unemployed, and that means that there are children and families that are looking for shelter. They need clothing. They need good, healthy food. They need utility assistance, rent assistance. All of these things just plague the American family when there are no jobs and when there's a very difficult economy.
HOODSo what we have found over the last two or three years is that demand for service -- as Jim has already talked about with Goodwill, demand for service has escalated drastically -- in some of our communities, as much as 500 percent. So what we try to do throughout the year is to find a short-term solution that will help sustain them through a time of crisis, and it comes in all shapes and forms. It could be cash need. It could be food. It could be shelter. It could be a new car. It could be helping them find a job, dressing them for job searches, all sorts of things, trying to help families get themselves back together and back on their feet.
REHMSo if someone walks into a downtown Salvation Army site and says, I have just lost my home to the bank. I have no transportation to get to my place of work. I need clothes to dress for each day. What is your immediate reaction?
HOODWe take them to the family store, the similar stores as the Goodwill operates. We will take them to those stores and help them pick out a new wardrobe so that we can equip it. Our work is temporary. It's an intervention in the midst of a crisis. And we have social workers that will work with individuals and families to try to put them into contact with community services that are best suitable for a long-term program. So, basically, we're trying to address the immediate needs while we give them hands-on counseling and direction with social workers to find a long-term solution to the short-term problem.
REHMHow many people are actually employed by the Salvation Army?
HOODWe have about 70,000 employees across the United States. And, last year, we served 35 million people.
REHMWow. That's quite a record. Now, let's talk about Goodwill. Same situation. Individual lost a home, has to get to work, hasn't appropriate clothes. What does Goodwill do?
GIBBONSYou know, Goodwill really subscribes to the Chinese proverb about, you know, teaching a person how to fish. And so our programming is really designed around job skills and heavily weighted towards job skills for the 21st century. So we have a lot of folks, who have barriers to employment, who work with us. And it could be a person with a disability, looking for that first opportunity, or the single mother without a -- three children without a high school education or the young man who found himself on the wrong side of the law, trying to become a contributor to society. And so the programming really does revolve around developing and working with a person to develop their skills so that they're empowered to get the gift that they want most, which is a job and to gain economic independence.
REHMSo is that working with a person on a long-term basis?
GIBBONSYes, yes. We work with -- what we have, we have abilities to work with people with a full case management approach, which is really the primary focus. And then we also have a lot of online tools available to people so that they can, you know, have access to tools at their convenience.
REHMAnd tell me how many employees Goodwill Industries have.
GIBBONSAcross Goodwill, we have about 91,000 employees across the country, and we'll serve 2 million people a year with those job training programs and employment programs.
REHMAll right. Jared, now, the people who are going to your website, thegivingeffect.com...
REHM...now, they may be saying, I am in need, rather than, I want to give. Now, what do you do there?
NISSIMWell, there are plenty of organizations in every city and town in this country that are working very hard to help people in need. So if you're someone who is in need, we definitely suggest contacting your local food pantry or local homeless shelter -- any of these local organizations that are providing assistance for people in your situation. But we're definitely geared toward helping those organizations get the things that they need to help the people that are in need.
REHMNow, the question, Maj. Hood, about various regions of the country that seem to be demonstrating a greater need right now, what are you seeing?
HOODWell, any place where there was a high rate of foreclosures -- Las Vegas, the entire state of Florida, many communities in California -- and where jobs were lost in the industrial Midwest, those are the areas where we're seeing the heaviest impact. And it's kind of interesting because, right now, when we analyze this Christmas season with the bell ringer campaign, the Northeast and the Southern states appear to be keeping pace with the amount of money that was raised last year. The Midwest and the far West are absolutely demonstrating that they're behind as much as 10 percent in fundraising compared to a year ago.
REHMAnd other than Red Kettle donations, how do you solicit from individuals hoping for greater gifts?
HOODWell, throughout the year, we do traditional direct mail fundraising and major gift solicitation. We have loyal donors that will sign up to make a gift every month. So there's a variety of ways. And, of course, we're using all the electronic angles that we possibly can with sustainable fundraising. We do the electronic kettle during Christmas. But throughout the year, as much as $14 million has been donated online. So there are people out there who want to be monthly donors, and there are many who want to be seasonal donors. So we maximize those relationships throughout the year in whatever way we can.
REHMJim Gibbons, tell us about your background and how you came to be associated with Goodwill Industries.
GIBBONSOh, gosh. I joined Goodwill almost three years ago. And prior to that, I was the president and CEO of National Industries for the Blind, so a similar organization with a focus on employment of people who are blind, but both using a social enterprise model, a self-sustaining social enterprise model for how they operate. And, you know, I joined in. I happen to be blind myself, so it gave me an opportunity to transition from the telecommunications industry, where I was having a lot of fun in the software and systems side of that, to really, you know, shift into the social enterprise world and try to have a direct impact on the lives of people who are blind.
GIBBONSAnd then, since joining Goodwill, I've been able to take that passion and excitement I have for the belief in the power of work and serve a variety of populations through some very exciting local organizations throughout the country.
REHMJim Gibbons, he's president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International. Jared, before we open the phones, I want you to tell us about this flash giving project you're working on.
NISSIMSure. Well, it's a campaign that we're formulating. It hasn't launched just yet. But look for it early in next year. And, basically, the idea is that we want to create a campaign, such as get 10,000 books to 10,000 kids who are living below the poverty line in a very short amount of time. And that formula can be used for anything -- get 10,000 pairs of pajamas to 10,000 kids that are living below the poverty line. So as part of what we're going to be doing in the growth of The Giving Effect is creating these sorts of campaigns that encourage people to give very specific things right now to particular organizations that are working in the trenches of community to make a difference.
REHMAll right. We have many phone calls. We'll open the phones now, first, to Cincinnati, Ohio. Good morning, Stephanie. You're on the air.
STEPHANIEHi. Among my family and friends, several years ago, back before 2008, we started eliminating Christmas presents and doing donations to charities in lieu of Christmas gifts. And I have found that we have actually increased our donation each year. I think, especially with what's happened since 2008, the sense of, you know, feeling like I do have a lot -- I have a home, I have a healthy family, I have a job -- makes me want to try to give more. And the whole thing around the Christmas presents and eliminating that has worked really well.
REHMThat's terrific, Stephanie. And I, myself, have been the recipient of absolutely such gifts, which are wonderful and really make you feel as though you were part of an organization when that gift has been given in your name. Do you see a lot more of that happening, Maj. Hood?
HOODYes, especially with my friend there in Cincinnati. I grew up in the Greater Cincinnati area...
REHMOh, that's terrific.
HOOD...so I'm happy to hear that story. Now, we're finding more and more examples of people doing that. We have a young man in Houston, at the age of 4, was walking through the downtown area of his community and saw a homeless family. And he said to his parents, at the age of 4, I want to give some toys so that these kids have toys for Christmas. And he's now 11. And every year, they hold a big party with all of his classmates and friends and relatives, and that is growing. Thirty-five hundred toys last year that they gave to the Salvation Army from the mind of a child.
REHMThat's terrific. And that brings me to a question from Judy, for you, Jared. "What do you see in terms of demographics, those who give to charitable organizations? Are 20 and 30-somethings becoming donors?"
NISSIMWell, we're definitely finding that people across the board are responding very enthusiastically to this idea. And we're making use of social media, Facebook, Twitter and other ways to publicize causes that people wouldn't have otherwise heard about. So we're definitely finding a much younger demographic of people that want to support local charities that they care about. And it's also interesting to note that, you know, money is tight for people now, but that doesn't mean that they don't want to help. It doesn't mean that they don't want to give to The Salvation Army or Goodwill or whatever their local charity is.
NISSIMBut if you can't afford to give money, you can still afford to give the gift of stuff that you have in your home that you no longer need. And there are plenty of organizations that will accept those things very readily and be very appreciative and give you feedback for your donation, and that's what we're trying to do. And the demographic is across the board. We have over nearly 1,100 causes across the country in every U.S. state.
NISSIMAnd people all across the board donating.
REHMJared Nissim, he's co-founder of The Giving Effect. That's a website connecting nonprofit organizations with people who have things to donate. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Here is an e-mail from Jose who says, "I feel blessed to have mostly everything I could possibly want. I've been telling my friends and family that as much as they want to buy me a gift, to make a donation on my behalf to the ASPCA to help the animals who really need our support." Now, Jared, that's where you'd come in.
NISSIMYeah, Diane, we have a lot of animal shelters that have registered as causes on our website. And you wouldn't believe the kinds of things that animal shelters need you wouldn't have thought of. Animal shelters are like businesses. They need office supplies. They need computers. They need fax machines and just about everything that a regular business would need in order to run. In addition, they need pet food, blankets, towels. They need materials to construct fences to house the animals that they're working with. So there are animal shelters in every town and city of this country that need things that you can afford to give them. They will very gladly accept them. And we have, I think, several hundred of them registered with us at this time.
REHMAll right. Let's take another caller in Baltimore, Md. Good morning, Damien. Thanks for joining us.
DAMIENWell, thank you very much. I thank all of you. My wife is battling stage four metastatic breast cancer. We have two kids with severe learning disabilities. My 7-year-old can't read, can't write, can't control his bowels, will never be able to. My 14-year-old, similar situation. We were featured on the front cover of our local newspaper. And people would come to my house and say, here is some food. Here are some clothes. People have been extraordinarily generous, and they're saying, I don't want to give it to the other charities 'cause I don't know who they are.
DAMIENThey are us. Go to your local charity and bring something. I'm sure I'm the only man in America that -- my house is in foreclosure, and that's the third largest problem I have. If you know there's a charity, bring them something. Don't -- just do something.
REHMDamien, your poignant story is just so powerful. And I hope that because of that story in your local newspaper, help will be forthcoming. Maj. Hood, are there organizations that do help people with mortgage foreclosures?
HOODThere are a lot of organizations. We try to do short-term house payments to help people rent. But there are many quality -- high-quality organizations all across America -- Catholic charities, Goodwill, Salvation Army, World Vision, you can go on and on and on -- who have various programs. What we find is that programs are customized for high needs in specific communities. So you just have to be persistent in researching the nonprofit sector and trying to find the right organization that has the solution for severe crisis and issues such as has been described.
REHMAnd, Jim Gibbons, how does Goodwill fit in here?
GIBBONSWell, we have a lot of programming that we characterize as financial strengthening. Because if you look at our mission and the work that we do with folks who have barriers to employment -- if you get a job after maybe a rough start to life and you've spent a little time in prison, and then you get a job but you don't know how to manage your financials, you know, that level of financial strengthening is very important for society and for the individual so that they don't find themselves back in that situation. But we also work a lot to help educate people in terms of financial predators and so on and so forth.
REHMJim Gibbons, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International.
REHMHere are a couple of e-mails. This, first, from Robert who says, "Sometimes I think the problem is with the number of mailings I receive from various charities, often times, ones I'm not familiar with or don't care to contribute to. Rarely do I have a day when I do not receive at least one or two or more solicitations, often times from the same one I gave to a week before. I feel this constant barrage of mailings works against the charities, causing donation fatigue. I'm a fairly generous person, but I can only handle so much. Most of it ends up in the recycle bin." Maj. Hood.
HOODThat has been a historic problem with direct mail fundraising. And it's important for the charity to be sensitive to the wells and wishes of the perspective donor and especially the active donor. And so there is technology, and what we try to do is if a donor does not want to be solicited more than one time a year or willing to take four times a year, we are able to create the technology process by which you can control the amount of mail pieces that get out there.
HOODWe're beginning to see the same issue with the e-mails and getting a flood of e-mails. And a year ago, I did some research with the emerging generations to find out how they prefer to understand the new charity and be introduced to a charity. I was astounded when the results were, we like getting mail to learn about a charity, but we don't want to give through the mail. We want to give electronically.
HOODSo it's very interesting.
HOODSo this idea of oversaturation and bombardment of a donor -- I hate telemarketing, personally. But when you add telemarketing into the mix of mail, the response rates increases significantly, so it's worth it to do those types of things. But a donor needs to be very straightforward with their charity. Do not solicit me more than one time a year or more than four times a year, and set those ground rules which the charities are obligated to adhere to.
REHMWhat about Goodwill, Jim?
GIBBONSWell, there's no doubt that there's a lot of organizations trying to reach the mindshare -- get to the mindshare. What I think we've learned is that the right way of getting to the heart and souls of people is to really let them -- people want to know the impact. This year, we launched the Donate Movement, which is, really, a public awareness campaign and a corporate social responsibility platform. And our -- the donate.goodwill.org website, I think, helps donors understand the impact.
GIBBONSWe have an interactive donate impact calculator on there, and I think that helps donors really sort through things and make decisions. Because, for example, if you're donating, you know, three dresses, a couple pair of slacks, a couple pair of blue jeans and a dozen books, you can plug that into the impact calculator and see that that results in two hours of financial training for a person in your community. So I think that understanding impact is really the distinguishing factor for donors today. And the broad sweeping direct mail campaigns are not as effective.
REHMHere's an e-mail from William in Tallahassee, Fla. who says, "I've shopped at Goodwill for years, always looking for something used. The last few years, the Goodwill of the Big Bend in Florida has put prices on items I cannot support. Yesterday, I saw Stafford tie for 24.99, others for 19 and 12. What's happened to cheap? How can people of low income continue to shop there with those prices? Until they adjust their prices, I'll shop at Salvation Army or garage sales. Please comment and do something." Jim.
GIBBONSWell, that's -- it's great input. You know, we -- everything that's done at the local retail level is done at the local retail level. And, you know, the average price of an item is three or four bucks. So $24 for a tie doesn't sound too common for me, but that is excellent input. I think, you know, we have people of all demographics shopping at Goodwill stores. We have families constantly really trying to stretch the dollar, and, I think, the norm is really the ability to stretch the dollar. And our goal is to really reclaim the value of both people's lives and of the things, and we try to optimize that for the communities that we could...
REHMAll right. So will you be looking into the Big Bend store in Florida?
GIBBONSYeah, we'll definitely look into that. But, you know, the important thing is that we let the market drive that. So if it doesn't sound...
REHMYeah, but if the market is pricing these items at such a high price...
REHM...that people who are in need can't afford those...
GIBBONSYeah, I -- they won't buy that. Yeah, so...
REHM...they won't buy that.
GIBBONSYeah, I don't think that's the norm, but it's good input. Yeah, so...
REHMWell, I hope you will check that out and make sense. Let's go to Hot Springs, Ark. Good morning, Diane. You're on the air.
DIANEGood morning. Jim mentioned a few minutes ago a little bit about the Goodwill's Donate Movement. Could he tell us more about that and how we could support it?
GIBBONSWell, the Donate Movement is really -- and we're finding that, you know, donations aren't really up this year because people really are starting to understand the value of a donation and the impact that that donation has on their community. The Donate Movement is really a consumer awareness campaign that allows for people to really understand the impact of their contribution to give to credible organizations like Goodwill or to The Salvation Army and to understand the impact of that donation on the environment. Through reuse and recycling we're able to divert -- this year, we're up to, you know, 2 million tons -- 2 billion pounds of product that we've diverted from landfills this year. And the environmental effect, I think, it really does show that the best way to divert from landfills is to reuse.
REHMI want to go back to pricing, Maj. Hood. What is the policy of The Salvation Army in various outlets around the country?
HOODIt's very similar to what Goodwill does. You are guided by market demand and price thresholds that people will tolerate. The important thing is is to remember that the contributions that come in to whatever -- whether it's Goodwill or Salvation Army, the revenue that's generated in those stores is being used to restore lives. They specialize in people with disabilities. We specialize with people overcome by addictions.
HOODAnd so the value of the shopping experience, while we try to always remain sensitive to the demand for low pricing -- in fact, over this last three years of this economy, sales have been very robust because people have not wanted to go out and have to buy new everything. So you try to be sensitive on both sides. You want to cover your overhead so that you're able to deliver the service and rehabilitation, and yet you also want to meet the needs of a consumer public that's looking for value.
REHMAll right. To Albuquerque, N.M. Good morning, Danny.
REHMYes, you're on the air.
DANNYOh, yeah, I'm sorry. I lost connection there for a second.
REHMThat's all right.
DANNYThank you, Diane, and Merry Christmas to you.
REHMMerry Christmas to you.
DANNYI just wanted to add to the course of people that are finding that -- ways to give. I was facing elective surgery on the 30th and thought, oh, my goodness, what do I do about the six grandchildren and their parents?
DANNYI can't go out and shop. And so I decided to give a gift in their name and mail them off a card saying that that's what I had done. And I feel that I'm not only taking care of my own need to give in these stressed times that we're all in, but I think I'm also teaching those grandchildren a valuable lesson. And...
DANNYYes. So anyway, I want to continue this in the years to come and everything 'cause I'm not their primary gift giver, so it isn't like I'm disappointing them in any way.
DANNYBut I just wanted to say that.
REHMI think it's a terrific idea, and I also want to wish you success with the surgery you'll be undergoing on the 30th.
REHMI wish you well and good health.
DANNYAnd good health to everyone. Thank you.
REHMThank you so much. Bye-bye. And here's a comment placed on the drshow website. It's from Dennis in Cleveland, Ohio, who says, "My company provides legal recruiting services in Cleveland. We used to give gifts of thanks to our clients at this time of year. A few years ago, we switched to giving to a local food bank in their names. The response from our clients expressing their appreciation for this gift increased dramatically and has remained strong ever since. It's a testament to our clients, but also to the impact of giving to those who are most in need." Jared, there you go.
NISSIMWell, I think, that shows that people want to give locally. And one thing that we're trying to do is help local causes in the trenches of your community gain more exposure and a wider donor base and if people can discover the needs that they have. So what we're doing is we're registering causes all across the country. And if you happen to run a local nonprofit -- a food bank, a homeless shelter, a library and so forth -- you should register with us because we're building a growing donor base of charitable people who want to support organizations just like yours.
REHMHmm. To Chesapeake, Va. Hi there, Barbara. Thanks for joining us.
BARBARAHi, good morning. I would love to dovetail on what was just said about supporting local organizations. You know, the national organizations like Goodwill and Red Cross are so well-known, but in every single community across the country, there are small shelters, domestic violence shelters and food pantries ran by local faith-based organizations and a variety of other organizations that help people who are being foreclosed on and so forth. And people don't even know the names of those organizations.
BARBARASo in order to give to those smaller groups, I encourage people to find their local information and referral organizations. For example, in many communities across the country, you can dial 211 -- those three digits, 211 -- and find out about all of your local organizations and for those people who are in need of assistance. And, you know, a lot of people who's never had to look for help before don't even know where to start. And so your local INR, your information referral organization or that -- by dialing 211, you can find out where do you begin this process of getting assistance.
REHMBarbara, that's just a great tip. You know about that, Major?
HOODYes. The 211 program was actually driven by the United Way. And it's a great referral program that spans all across America so that you can dial that simple 211, and you'll get a referral service that will connect you with an appropriate charity for whatever the crisis might be.
REHMMaj. George Hood, he's national community relations secretary for The Salvation Army. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Jim Gibbons, you want to add to that?
GIBBONSWell, I think that, you know, the referrals are really critical. And, in fact, a Goodwill up in New York runs the 211 program, employing people who are blind as that resource for the community. So it's a pretty powerful program.
REHMNow, this is a rather delicate situation. It's from Clare. She says, "I used to give regularly to The Salvation Army until about 10 years ago when I learned they discriminated against gays, especially in hiring. Have they changed their policies?"
HOODWell, there was really no need to change policy because our history is pretty solid. We have never discriminated against any segment of society. It's part of our mission to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to serve humanity without discrimination. There's a lot of Internet folklore out there that perpetuate stories that are not totally accurate or truthful. And this is one of them that we've been contending with for a number of years, trying to help people understand.
HOODWe know that we have gay employees. And the reality is that when we're interviewing candidates for jobs, the question is never asked about your sexual preference. We hire people who are qualified to fill the jobs, and we know that we have gay employees. We also know that we serve gay clients on a regular basis. They're in our homeless shelters. They're in our feeding programs. We don't make a big deal out of it. There is not to be discrimination in any way, shape or form. And that's the commitment that we've made in the language of our mission statement. So...
REHMHow do you suppose that got started?
HOODWell, it's hard to say. It just -- there's another one going around that we support abortion, which is absolutely against everything that we stand for and represent. As a church and a charity, we believe dearly in the sanctity of a life, and we have no policy or program, whatsoever, that would be supporting abortion. We counsel a lot of women who get themselves into the situation where they don't know what to do with this child that they're carrying. And our counsel is always, adoption is a solid option if you don't want to raise the child. So the Internet is our best friend. It can also be a terrific challenge in trying to keep facts straight and allow -- not to allow myths to grow.
REHMSo where do you see Goodwill helping out most this Christmas holiday, Jim Gibbons?
GIBBONSWell, I think, most importantly, it's in serving communities for people who are in need of new skills, new training and jobs and opportunities. But I think we had that component of serving the community through our donated goods and retail infrastructure. And, you know, we have great promotions and sales, and people are buying their holiday attire and Christmas gifts and all that fun stuff going on as well. Just -- it's all part of the extraordinary energy that takes place at the local level that is very exciting.
REHMAnd, Jared, I assume that you're going to be a very, very busy organization. And I wish you all success during this holiday season. Maj. George Hood of The Salvation Army, Jared Nissim is cofounder of The Giving Effect and Jim Gibbons is president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International. Thank you, all. Good luck to you.
NISSIMThank you, Diane.
REHMThanks for listening and Merry Christmas, all. This will be our last live show through the end of the year. We'll be back with you on Jan. 3. Between now and then, we'll take a break and bring you some of our favorite programs. Thanks for listening, all. Good wishes. I'm Diane Rehm.
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