by Rebecca Poling.

Did you know that “giving back” stimulates dopamine, a brain chemical that contributes to feelings of pleasures and satisfaction?

Donating can be every bit as empowering as volunteering and it helps solve community issues. According to The National Council of Nonprofits, “Nonprofits play a fundamental role in creating more equitable and thriving communities.” Your donations to a local shelter or rescue group have a direct impact on improving the lives of pets right in your community – not to mention helping the people who love them.

In order to be a nonprofit 501c3 organization, the IRS requires that 1/3 of income be from public contributions. Few local charities struggle with that requirement since many rely on donations for 50% to 100% of their annual budgets.

So, when your favorite local charity says they can’t do what they do without your support, they are not exaggerating.

Common Misconceptions

There are a number of misconceptions about the need for donations to animal shelters and rescue groups. The two we hear most are, “Don’t adoption fees cover the cover of caring for homeless pets?” and “Doesn’t the City pay the animal shelter to take care of lost and homeless pets?” The answer to both is no.

In most cases, the cost of caring for a homeless pet far exceeds the adoption fee. Spay/neuter surgeries are not cheap, with local options running from $100-$300 per pet, plus the cost of vaccinations for rabies, disease-preventing vaccinations like FVRCP and DHLPP, deworming, flea and tick meds, food, shelter, grooming, supplies, bedding, and veterinary care for illness or injuries.

Most nonprofits receive no money from local, state or federal governments. Some nonprofits do have contracts to care for loose or stray pets from local cities and towns, but those contracts rarely pay more than the actual cost to house the animals for the minimum time required by state or local law – 3 days for pets without identification, or 5 to 7 days for pets with identification. municipal fees often don’t cover the cost of veterinary care, spay or neuter, or treatment for non-life-threatening injury, illness, or needed dental care.

It all adds up, and with veterinary costs rising and more homeless pets staying longer in shelters and rescues, the shortfall between the cost of caring for homeless pets and the income from adoption fees will only grow in the years to come.

Ways to Give

There are lots of ways you can make a monetary donation to a local shelter or rescue. The simplest – write a check and drop it in the mail or go to the charity’s website to charge your donation. You can even donate to many nonprofits via Facebook, or just call and ask to charge a donation over the phone.

Looking for a budget-friendly way to contribute? Consider automatic monthly donations from your checking or credit card. Recurring donations are easy on your pocketbook and enable the nonprofit to better predict future revenue.

If you’re over 70 1/2 and required to make a distribution from your IRA, you may be able to direct that distribution to your favorite charity while taking advantage of favorable tax laws.

If you have a financial planner you rely on, ask them how best to contribute. They’re familiar with all the ways to maximize your gift while taking advantage of tax benefits. You may want to talk to them about a legacy gift as well – designating some part of your estate as a donation to your favorite nonprofit.

There are even ways to give back while shopping – Amazon Smile and Chewy both have give-back programs for their customers, and grocery stores often link their reward cards to local nonprofits. One word of caution – always ask ahead of time how much is donated to charity. Don’t purchase something just because a portion is donated. A direct gift to your favorite charity always has the greatest impact.

Giving back – whether by donating or volunteering – is the right thing to do. It can lower blood pressure, decrease depression, extend your life, and make you happier. For some giving back is a family tradition, while others are looking for a way to honor a friend or community member or create a memorial to a beloved person or pet who has passed on. One of my favorite quotes, loosely credited to Winston Churchill, is “You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give.”

Throughout this issue, you’ll find profiles of a number of deserving local non-profits, along with links you can use to donate or find out more about them. Your support truly makes their work possible. Please consider a gift today.