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It’s the most wonderful time of the year to help others

Just after Halloween, almost on cue, Andy Williams’s “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” bubbled up from my childhood. I hummed along and thumbed through the local craft store’s most festive offerings of “Grateful” paper plates and pumpkin-adorned cups and napkins. Standing in front of turkey-day decor, catching glimpses of Christmas decorations just beyond, I considered the privilege of buying holiday-inspired trinkets while still being able to meet my basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, health care, transportation and access to technology.

Is it really the “happiest season of all” for everyone? What about ALICE?

Mississippi United Ways Association identifies ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained, Employed) households as those with income just above the federal poverty level.

ALICE individuals often are underemployed and undercompensated to provide crucial services that they themselves cannot afford. The cashier scanning my recreational holiday items could be ALICE, for example. Her biggest choice probably is not which cheeses to include in her holiday charcuterie board. It’s more likely she is making impossible daily choices between paying for quality childcare or rent, filling a prescription or fixing the car.

Marian Wright Edelman said service is the rent we pay for being alive. Particularly at this time of year, Gulf Coast nonprofit organizations, which are connected to the pressing needs of our community’s most vulnerable residents, stand ready to receive our service of time and cash or legacy giving.

As high-profile midterm U.S. elections shake up our congressional and gubernatorial seats, individual giving toward political campaigns is flowing to both parties. Inflation and economic fluctuations seen at the grocery store and gas pump also impact individual giving, with an average 4.7 percent increase during years of growth and a decrease of 0.5 percent during economic downturns, according to one expert.

December is a good time to reflect on the entirety of our portfolios, beyond what we have accumulated in cash. Mississippians with giving hearts always find a way to support the community, even when inflation diminishes the value of their donor dollars.

Financial advisors and community foundations are uniquely positioned and qualified to give good direction on non-cash gifts of stock, real estate, retirement plan assets, personal property, life insurance or any planned gift beyond your lifetime. The 2022 Planning & Progress Study conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Northwestern Mutual found that people who work with a financial advisor feel as though they are on more solid ground in affording housing and healthcare, managing their level of debt, understanding personal finances and planning for emergencies and retirement.

Charitable giving wisdom says that the wealthier we feel, the more we give, and it is well established that the needs in Mississippi are great. Daily susceptibility to a volatile financial market weighs heavily on ALICE children. Six of every 10 Mississippi children are born daily into economically stressed homes, impacting their socioemotional development, general outlook on the world and their contribution to a safe society.

The Bible says our treasure follows our hearts’ passions. December is the most wonderful time of the year to connect with your passion as a giver, identify a need and invest cheerfully.


Alisha Johnson Perry, CFRE, is director of donor programs at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community Foundation. She is celebrating her 15th anniversary as a fundraising professional, supporting social justice and human rights organizations in the Gulf South region.

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