State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

I'll Be Making a Donation This Week

by on January 19, 2016 6:00 AM
State College, PA

I'll be making a donation this week.

Here in Happy Valley, where there are countless generous people and businesses, that's hardly a unique statement.

However, my donation involves some advance planning -- in my case that means scheduling the specific date and time I'll complete it. Again, not altogether distinctive, but certainly outside the norm of writing a check or entering credit card information online whenever one feels the urge to give to a good cause.

Finishing up the holiday season and starting the New Year I find myself -- as many of us do in the Centre region -- in a bighearted mood. We've received letters and postcards and emails and phone calls from our favorite charities asking us to be benevolent donors and continue or increase our giving amounts.

The end-of-the-year push for money is a regular occurrence for many non-profit organizations and, as with for-profit businesses, can mean the difference between ending the year in the black, or less happily in the red. And as we know from our accounting classes, if income doesn't exceed expenses and you're in the red, you won't be in business long.

Oddly enough, the donation I will be giving guarantees this charity will end up in the red. This charity loves being in the red. It can't get deep enough in the red.

What charity would have such a seemingly self-destructive business model you ask? Why, the Red Cross, that's who. I'll be donating a pint of blood.

Before I go any further let me state that I do not now nor have I ever worked for the Red Cross. To my knowledge neither has anyone in my family. It's just that, as far as charitable giving goes, there are many simple pleasures to donating a pint of blood.

The first is knowing that your donation physically goes to someone in need. It could even save their life.

In the late 1980's I gave blood for the first time. Good friends had a special-needs baby that required several blood transfusions. I and a few others were the same blood type, so we gave what they call a "Directed Donation" specifically for him. It was energizing, realizing that part of you could physically help someone else survive. That baby survived and grew.

Years later when our son was born, my wife lost a lot of blood during his birth and required a transfusion. In what was a scary personal moment, it was comforting to know someone had given of themselves to help us.

When giving blood I envision my blood cells as battalions of healthy little soldiers going off to help someone else. While lying there you think, "Okay, you little fighters, go do your thing and make whoever gets you be the best they can be." It's a good feeling.

Another simple pleasure of donating blood is it doesn't cost you anything but time.

As much as we in our household try to give financially to many different charities, we do have finite resources and must pick and choose where to spread our goodwill. Granted those resources are greater than they were years ago and we are certainly grateful for that. But I can easily recall a time in my life when, upon being solicited for a donation, my thought was, "Yes, I'll be giving a donation to charity. To the charity of me, that's who!" Because it seemed like we only had enough money to make ends meet for us, let alone give cash to others.

The beauty of giving blood is it doesn't matter how much money you have or make -- or if you have any at all -- you can give blood. All it takes is an hour to answer some questions, lie on your back, and drink some juice. Then back to life as you know it.

One other pleasure of giving blood is not wondering what the charity does with your donation.

Some people are concerned that their donation not only goes to a good cause but is used to do something and not cover overhead. As someone who has worked with non-profits for years, this concern often gets undue attention. No one expects a manufacturing business to have the same expense allocations as a service business, but for some reason people have no issue lumping all non-profit organizations together regarding their expense ratios.

Locally, THON touts that 96 percent of all funds raised go to the Four Diamonds Foundation. This is an extraordinary percentage in the non-profit world, but is possible because of special circumstances -- all-student volunteer labor and a university that covers various expenses. And it ends up being an unfair bar for other charities.

The point being that when you give blood you don't have to be concerned with those thoughts. They can't use blood to make payroll, buy ads, or get a new copier. They can only use blood for one thing -- helping others who need it.

One final pleasure about giving blood is that as a result of the digital age, if you register with the Red Cross and give them your e-mail address they will let you know where your blood gets used if it's needed outside of the area. The information age gives you the warm fuzzies!

There are blood drives almost every day somewhere around Happy Valley. Just go to, enter your zip code and you'll find the locations. It's convenient, you can make an appointment or walk-in, and it won't hurt your wallet.

What are you waiting for? Like they say, give all you want, you'll make more!

John Hook is the president of The Hook Group, a local management consulting firm, and active in several nonprofit organizations. Previously John spent 25 years in executive, management and marketing positions with regional and national firms. John lives in Ferguson Township with his wife Jackie and their two children.
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