Overwhelmed by appeals for support? You may have Giving Fatigue!

Giving fatigue can be a problem

Giving fatigue is real and a sign that you may need some time off-line this holiday season!

Let’s face it: we are tired. Over the last year we’ve heard a lot about fatigue—pandemic fatigue, workplace fatigue, Zoom fatigue. Science reveals the truth is that we may be collectively experiencing all of these, mixed with a good dollop of Giving Fatigue.

As we’ve entered the “happiest time of year”– we hope, we may feel even more compelled to “give” and be “merry.” Which may leave some feeling a bit flat.

When it comes to supporting projects and non-profit organisations, the largest challenge faced is which ones to choose. In South Africa, there are over 100,000 registered non-profit organisations and at least 50,000 unregistered non-profit organisations.

There’s no doubt that many charities, non-profits and social organisations are the life-line of our country. It is these organisations that play a critical part in making things better in the world, and yet, while these organisations are struggling, we too are struggling to support them, even the helper needs help occasionally.

But why? While people want to help, we are exposed to more need, devastation and despair without having the tools to know what to do about it.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever turned off the news because it was just too much to handle.

According to the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, we live in an age of “donor fatigue”. Donor fatigue is closely related to Compassion Fatigue – when people become desensitised to problems, hardships, and struggles because of the scope of the issues at hand.

People can become overwhelmed when they don’t see progress being made, and may become desensitised to the latest tragedy. When you hear too many terribly sad stories without also hearing about new solutions, progress or change, the world’s problems may feel overwhelming.

Donating to fix an unsolvable problem feels futile.

But we need to give? Right? It makes us happy!

Compassion and empathy are vital to our emotional well-being and our sense or purpose, yet compassion fatigue can leave us feeling numb and disconnected.

It’s important to remind ourselves how giving appropriately adds value to our lives. It’s also important that we remember that we really do need to help each other where we can. And the act of giving boosts our mood leaving us feeling good in the process!

Donors who see the impact of their donations, no matter how small have the opposite to a feeling of fatigue. They often also feel more connected to society, more motivated to support change, less pessimistic and more self-actualised in the process.

So how do we choose the most impactful place to give to? We have spent some time tracking down all the information you may need to make it easier.


Giving wisely is the key!

If you are considering donating to a charity, it’s worthwhile to read beyond their appeals and look for specific information about what steps they have taken to make sure your donation will be used as effectively as possible. Knowing you are making a difference is preferable to hoping you are making a difference!

10 things to consider before donating to a charity:

Are they registered?

If a charity organization is registered and reports on their activities, this means they have made the considerable effort to get set up properly and work in a way that offers full insight into their operations. Completing the many statutory requirements and reports that they submit annually, implies they take what they do very seriously, and have the basics of a good operating structure.

Who are the key role players?

Having a board is another key sign of a great charity. Again, it shows that the organization is set up to run with maximum efficiency while allowing for oversight and input.

Are they transparent?

Before donating to a charity, ask yourself: who are they? What do they stand for? How are funds used? All this information should be easy to find, both in public records and on their own website. Good charities have nothing to hide.

Do they run like a business?

Charities are actual businesses and must be run as such. The difference is, they don’t turn a profit and instead put their funds toward helping a cause.

Do they have permanent staff?

This might sound like a strange one. Volunteers are a great part of any non-profit’s success and are absolutely vital, but volunteer turnover can be very high. It can also be difficult to compel well-meaning volunteers to complete tasks timeously when they may suddenly have other priorities. An NGO with  professional staff is more able to define roles and responsibilities while fulfilling important operational and legal requirements.

Check out the charity’s website and social media pages.

Before giving, it’s important to do your research. Look up the charity online and read the reviews. Does it give you details about the programmes you want to support or how it uses donations? How much of your donation will go directly to support the programmes you care about? If you can’t find detailed information about a charity’s mission and programmes, it may be a warning sign.

Check if your donations will be tax deductible.

You may want to find out how you can support your charity in the most tax-efficient way. Section 18A of the Income Tax Act allows individuals to donate up to 10% of taxable earnings towards an approved Public Benefit Organisation on a tax-deductible basis. Taxpayers should check that they are donating through an organisation that is registered as a tax-exempt organization at the time of donation.

Do they have outside auditors assessing their impact?

Auditors should always be independent and must ensure that the financial statements make sense and are trustworthy. To do this, they will look at where the money comes from, as well as where it goes and also the systems within an organisation for controlling income, expenditure, staff resources and management information among other things.

Are they sustainable?

As a donor it may be important to you to give to organizations that will successfully carry out their mission for years to come (or to completion). Past performance is a good indicator of future performance. Ask for a copy of the most recent strategic plan or have a conversation about how they evaluate their success and measure their progress. Non-profits who value transparency and know you are considering a major gift should have no problem sharing this information.

Look for organizations that demonstrate their impact on the community.

We all need to hear more stories of transformed lives, revitalized neighbourhoods, and game-changing interventions. These stories are indeed worth telling and remind us how our support has made positive change.

In a time of tapped-out, touched-out and tuned-out communities, overwhelmed with all-kinds of fatigue, it is important to make sure your donations count!

And when you see the progress or the results achieved with your help, it will feel good to give again and again as part of your legacy of hope. And remember there are lots of different ways to get involved, not just financial.

With a little research, you might connect with local or national groups that inspire your contribution to society in new ways that make you feel clear, connected and calm.

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