Uncertainty can increase our desire to find security and safety. When the economy is experiencing volatility, it makes sense that we might feel inclined to hold on to loose change and limit our frugal spending. However, it remains true that organizations and people are still in need. It is important to reevaluate our situations to understand how we can continue helping others while still ensuring that we are taken care of. 

PLNU marketing analyst Dave Gladson spoke about his concerns: “I make or have made donations to a lot of nonprofits, so I’m on a lot of email lists from organizations that are struggling right now. I’ve tried to step up my giving during this time, cutting my discretionary spending in order to do more [but] I want to make sure that my giving makes an impact.” He feels deeply connected to several different causes but also knows there are a lot of unknowns. He wants to help without hurting his own family’s stability in the process. 

This question of how to balance feeling stuck between wanting to do something and being cognizant of our own financial situation is something many might be grappling with right now. Professor of business Robert Gailey, Ph.D., reflects on how “COVID-19 has provided a sense of pause with how we spend our money. As the world froze economically, people questioned how we’d survive.” If someone is limited in their resources, it might be best to prioritize and find where they are most passionate. He recommends being “intentional about your giving.” 

If we want to be sure our gifts are being utilized in the most effective ways, Gailey also recommends we “look at how an organization measures impact – see how they spend their money. The product for a nonprofit is impact.” 

Places like guidestar.org and givewell.org  allow us to view an organization’s expenditures, but he reminds us that going to nonprofits’ websites and seeing the stories they are telling about what they have been able to do can also be a huge indicator of the results they are achieving. 

Kim Berry Jones (90), the director of PLNU’s Center for Justice & Reconciliation (CJR), also has a lot of experience with giving in a personal and professional capacity. “I’ve watched my family give, even out of scarcity,” she said. Despite the times when money was tight, they continued to supply what small donations they could to the organizations making the changes they wanted to see. 

She also recognizes the impact donations can have in any form because she sees this in her work. Some people contribute as little as five dollars monthly or take the time to share the CJR’s cause with others, and these small investments make a huge difference in the support CJR receives and the things they are able to accomplish. 

An example of this is the Beauty for Ashes Scholarship the CJR created to supply financial aid for victims of human trafficking to be able to obtain their bachelor’s degree at Point Loma. The success of this scholarship has been maintained by the diverse donations, including small but consistent monthly commitments, received from current PLNU students and alumni and even those with no affiliation to the school who feel passionate about being able to help these individuals get their degrees. 

For those who do not have the financial resources to give even a small amount, there are many other ways to make an impact. This can take the form of volunteering as Gailey shares: “There’s time you can spend to help the organizations you care about.” Looking into those causes and finding ways to offer your abilities is one form of this. Working pro bono in graphic design, event planning, tutoring, or other skilled capacities can offer assistance to the places where people want to make a difference. 

Even making the effort to share about a passion for certain causes can help. Gailey explains how using social media or other platforms to share the volunteer work one might be doing or the interest they have in a specific cause can get their family and friends to donate or also be invested in this nonprofit. 

If one is unsure about which organizations they want to support, Jones challenges us to, “Ask God to break your heart for the things that break His.” This is something she has done many times in the search for places where she can invest her extra resources. There are countless people and places out there doing good in the community and the world at large. She admits that it can be hard to determine where people might want their efforts to go but encourages us to start by looking for causes which align with our values. 

In times of uncertainty, nonprofits can become even more important for providing aid where it is most needed. Though the number of organizations looking to help others can seem overwhelming, the wide range of nonprofits ultimately offers more opportunities to tune into and offer what we can where we are most passionate. 

Related Story: Gen Z: A Generous Generation?

Micah Renner is a writer with a passion for helping people tell their stories.