I simply cannot stop thinking about Leah Crabtree, the 9-year-old girl who celebrated her birthday last month by donating 200 pounds of food to the Sequim Food Bank.
Instead of birthday gifts, Leah asked friends and family to give gifts of food “for kids that don’t have what she has.” It’s a tradition she began when she reached the wise and mature age of 7. (See article in the Sequim Gazette, “Donations in lieu of birthday gifts,” page A-11, Dec. 3, 2014 edition.)
As someone who has been involved in nonprofit work for years, I nearly swooned with delight as I read Leah’s story. Especially the paragraph where she asserts that she “wants to keep on doing it because it makes her happy.”
Leah’s story offers a timely reminder about that which epitomizes the American spirit. She focuses our awareness on those in our community who lack sufficient resources to meet basic needs, like food, shelter and health care. We can gripe about how commercialized the holidays have become, but Leah reminds us that year-end charitable giving is an American tradition.
It’s no secret that year-end is the most fruitful time for fundraising. Organizations can make or break annual revenue goals based on year-end gifts or the lack thereof. These days, nonprofits everywhere endure increasing pressure to raise more money through donations from individuals, especially smaller organizations that serve vast needs in our rural community.
Millions of Americans enthusiastically give their financial support to help community nonprofits help others. Although, many of us wait until the last minute to make our year-end contributions.
In fact, 30 percent, of the projected $300 billion in total annual donations to U.S. charities are made during the month of December — with 10 percent or $30 billion made during the year’s last 48 hours!
The strength of our local safety net of health and human services organizations depends significantly on private donations to supplement funding from other sources. This holds true for the array of organizations that contribute to the quality of life in our community, enrich us culturally, conserve our heritage, protect the environment, offer educational and recreational programs for our youth and care for abandoned and stray animals. Not to mention the numerous faith organizations, trade associations, sports clubs, our local tribes … the list goes on.
I’m privileged to work with the Olympic View Community Foundation, a 501(c) 3 organization whose mission it is “to improve the quality of life in our community by matching people who care with causes that matter.”
Our mission requires us to cultivate relationships with nonprofit leaders and to steward donor relations. We also strive to strengthen local nonprofits with leadership and sector-specific training programs to increase the collective community impact of donor dollars on services rendered. It’s no small task.
Right here in Clallam County, well over 100 nonprofit organizations exist to improve our collective quality of life with a combined value of more than $90 million.
About 35 agencies provide $67 million in health and human services to men, women and children in need. Another 28 spend over $20 million protecting our environment, wildlife, and rescuing animals. Seven visual and performing arts and heritage organizations stimulate our minds and senses with programs and projects with a combined value of about $550,000. Last and not least, 10 organizations provide critical educational, recreational and care programs for youth to the tune of $2.5 million.
If one is poised to give, but needs help establishing philanthropic goals or identifying nonprofit organizations that might help one meet those goals, OVCF is here to help.
A useful rule of thumb is to select two or three areas of giving, such as human services, environmental conservation and the arts. Depending on the amount of money one has budgeted to donate, identify one or more nonprofits that fall into each category. Make sure the nonprofit is a recognized 501(c)3 with which one is familiar and that it can demonstrate results in its selected cause.
There are many avenues for charitable giving: cash, check, credit card, online fundraising, traditional year-end mail appeals. It’s best to consult a financial advisor if considering gifts of stock, life insurance or a contribution from an IRA. And, to maximize one’s tax deductions, make the gift by midnight Dec. 31.
As Leah reminds us, giving feels good and it brings out the best in us. Perhaps that’s why the holiday season seems to lift folks up; they smile more. So, do yourself a favor and give from your heart this holiday season. In the end it doesn’t matter how much you give or where you give … you’ll feel so much better for it!
Leslie Lauren works on special projects for Olympic View Community Foundation. She has been involved in some aspect of nonprofit work, primarily marketing communications and fund development, for more than 25 years. Call 797-1338 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.