The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

January 24, 2013

Bumpy season of giving for local charities

MANKATO — The Mankato Salvation Army barely missed its goal again this year, while the Mankato Sharing Tree  barely satisfied all of its requests for gifts.

“We barely came under the wire where we had enough donations to fill the need,” said Liz Brown, Sharing Tree project manager.

The Sharing Tree relies on volunteers who agree to buy specific gifts, but sometimes the gifts don’t get returned on time and the organization buys them.

“What happens is we just hope we have donations to fill those last-minute needs,” Brown said.

Mankato Sharing Tree has been able to satisfy all of those requests for each of its 27 years, but donations were down 12 percent this year, she said.

That makes returning gifts before the deadline, which was Dec. 15 last year, even more important.

“What happens is we need wrapped gifts back by the middle of December, but people think they have until Christmas,” she said.

She acknowledged Sharing Tree could do a better job of educating its volunteers.

98 percent of goal

The Mankato Salvation Army came up just short of its $265,000 goal, Capt. Mike Parker said. It also raised about $4,700 less than last year.

“The difference was, last year we had done more kettle matches,” where donors agree to match money received in the Red Kettle Campaign, he said.

The decrease in donations is difficult to explain except in general terms, Parker said, such as the economy not improving quickly, the fiscal cliff talks creating uncertainty and discussions about ending the tax deduction for charity giving.

Parker said other Salvation Army branches also saw a decrease in giving this year.

This year’s goal was substantially reduced from last year in order to make it more feasible.

Parker said there’s some good news: Many people signed up online to ring bells.

“We were able to broaden our database of volunteers,” he said.

He said he hopes the fundraising deficit, about $6,000, isn’t large enough to require program reductions. He also said some people donate in late January.

Mankato’s Toys for Tots program received its most-ever donations of cash and toys, Coordinator Bernie Thompson said in an email.

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