Just like being a part of a family means washing the dishes and taking out the trash, being part of a community means rolling up your sleeves and getting involved in community activities. For many, that investment is in local nonprofit organizations. We work, we have a family, we fulfill our obligations and we still want to band together and give some of our precious time and money to organizations dedicated to making a difference here in Central Oregon.
What makes a difference to you may be very different from your neighbor: one person may invest in youth, another may help purchase land for conservation, another support education or health. Our community does not speak with one voice and those varying passions and philanthropic investments are fundamental components of what build a well-rounded community. Communities are shaped by the people who create them and in return, people are shaped by the communities in which we live. So in a very real sense, investing in your community is a daily double: by giving to the community you give to yourself.
In the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, panicked people come to the bank and demand their money during the Great Depression. The bank owner, George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, explains how their money is not physically in the bank but is being loaned to their neighbors to buy homes, start and expand businesses and to pay for college tuitions. In effect, he explains that they are a mutually interdependent community. Just like Bedford Falls, Central Oregon is an interdependent community and the nonprofit sector is key to making our community better together.
Health care philanthropy is a prime example of how private investments make a tremendous difference. St. Charles Foundation recently completed a capital campaign to build a new integrated cancer center for Central Oregonians. Of the total cost of $13 million for the new cancer center, people, foundations, and businesses within Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson Counties contributed $5.7 million. It was charitable dollars that transformed this new cancer center from a good cancer center to a great one.
Those of us who work in the nonprofit sector are often asked “can’t you just write a grant for that?” as the way to fund whatever project needs funding. The reality is that philanthropy is driven by people: in 2013 charitable giving reached $335.17 billion in the United States, fully 72 percent of that came from individuals (Giving USA Foundation 2014). This was a 4.4 percent increase over giving in 2012.
Philanthropy is about helping people meet their passions and achieve that good feeling that results from helping others. There is a difference between being a donor to an organization and being a philanthropist and it’s is not about the number of zeros on your check.
Becoming a philanthropist means engaging with “your” nonprofit. Philanthropy is an expression of passion for an organization and is a significant way to act on your beliefs. People who are committed philanthropists generally are known for their “cause” –one or two specific charities or a specific area of interest where they focus their efforts.
Nonprofit organizations need you, community members, to be philanthropic. Pick your favorite charities and make time to visit and talk with their staff and volunteers. Ask for a tour of a facility or visit a restoration project. Ask the staff what gaps exist in their services or what the most creative idea they have is. Consider volunteering or seeking board service.
Our community is once again experiencing an economic uptick and that provides an opportunity to employ some of this wealth for the benefit of creating the Central Oregonian community we want. Please know that nonprofit executives and board members understand what a privilege it is to work with committed and passionate philanthropists and that we will do all that we can to deepen our engagement with you. We continue to need your ideas and your financial support to make both the big things and the small things happen.