As Kansans put together Thanksgiving menus and Christmas lists in the coming month, nearly 4,000 nonprofit organizations are working to make our state a stronger and more compassionate place for those in need. These organizations need our help, now more than ever.

The holiday season is a critical time for charities. Not only does cold weather increase threats to vulnerable people and animals, but many charities collect more than half of their annual donations in the final two months of the year. Their resources are used to shelter homeless people, educate children, provide health care, protect the environment, care for animals, offer cultural enrichment and meet other community needs. The nonprofit sector is also a significant economic driver in Kansas, employing more than 150,000 Kansans, or 9 percent of the state’s workforce, as reported by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies.

These organizations seek food, clothing and other basic supplies from donors, but financial donations are incredibly important. Running a nonprofit organization requires being able to pay the light bill, communicate with stakeholders, conduct outreach and fairly pay professional staff.

Kansans are generous. As a state, we give over $1.8 billion to charity each year, according to annual data from The Chronicle of Philanthropy, but individual giving was down slightly in 2018, a trend many fear will continue. Federal tax policy that doubled the standard donation has removed one incentive many middle class Americans had to donate, one of many factors likely responsible for the dip in giving.

As charitable giving drops or remains stagnant, our nonprofit community is expected to fill growing gaps in the social safety net. Mental health care, for example, was shifted government-provided institutional care to community-based services as part of a nationwide strategy to care for people in their own homes. The strategy was sound, but the dollars to provide adequate care have never been available. Private donors make it possible for community mental health charities throughout Kansas to serve those in need.

Health care nonprofits are also increasingly tasked with patching the coverage gap caused by our state’s failure to expand Medicaid and shrinking reimbursements. Over 130,000 Kansans who make too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to afford private insurance, and other low-income Kansans, still need health care. Local hospitals, primary care clinics, and nursing homes rack up millions in unreimbursed and charity care serving our state’s elderly, children and others, with support from donors.

Many Kansans will soon see their mailboxes and social media feeds filled with solicitations from charities. Take a moment to give the appeals a careful look. Research those that speak to your values, and give generously as you are able.