DENVER (AP) – Demand has far outpaced donations to food banks around Colorado, but The Denver Post reports charitable giving this holiday season is expected to be about the same as last year.
At places such as the Weld Food Bank, there’s a 50 percent increase in the number of people seeking help from its 104 agency partners.
In Boulder County, the Community Food Share’s “Let’s Bag Hunger” food drive so far has netted 15,000 pounds less than the 41,588 pounds donated by this time last year. Meanwhile, its direct service program has grown from 600 to 700 clients a week.
“We had to close enrollment for now until we can evaluate our resources,” said chief executive James Baldwin.
At the Jeffco Action Center, which distributes about five tons of food daily, donations are flat though demand has soared.
But as many food banks struggle, charities such as the American Red Cross in Colorado have seen a 17 percent increase in donations from fiscal year 2010 to 2011.
“A lot of that is probably due to the disaster in Japan, which got a lot of coverage,” said Patricia Billinger, spokeswoman for the Mile High Region of the American Red Cross. “When people saw the need, they gave.”
The American Red Cross on Friday released the results of a telephone survey of 1,020 adults showing that although 67 percent hadn’t expected the economic downturn to have lasted so long, they still want to give. More than seven out of 10 said they expect to donate more or about the same this holiday season as last year.
“Consumer confidence doesn’t necessarily track the actual economic indicators,” said University of Colorado psychology professor Leaf Van Boven. “That moves somewhat independently. So something else is driving the reactions.”
Van Boven recently co-authored a study of what motivates people to give — to whom and how much. It found people are motivated by emotion — things that upset in the immediate moment.
“Food banks are not charities that respond to acute crises that crop up out of nowhere,” he said.
Still, when they get a reminder, people do step up.
Last year, when the Denver Rescue Mission put out notice of near-empty freezers, the community responded by stocking the mission with nearly 20,000 birds before the holiday season got in full swing.
Likewise last year, in the teeth of a steep economic downturn, Coloradans gave nearly $9 million to local charities on the first Colorado Gives Day — more than eight times the sum organizers expected to collect in that 24-hour period.
The online-giving event will take place again this year on Dec. 6, with FirstBank providing an incentive fund of $300,000 to match donations.
People such as Baldwin, of Community Food Share, welcome such innovations.
“If people have the ability to give now, they never know when they might need help like this,” he said.
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