As a non-profit board member, I spend a lot of time talking about fundraising as we prepare for a specific initiative or event.
I find that in the midst of strategizing for specific donations, we don’t take time to think about the big picture of giving in our community. Recently, I have taken a step back to look at the forest, not just the trees, and found a beautiful, diverse landscape.
At work, as we have moved from being part of government to being part of an organization with a well-oiled fundraising machine, we are beginning to have conversations about developing our fundraising skills and focus. In these conversations, the question has come up: What does philanthropy look like in our community?
On reflection, my answer is – it’s everywhere. Almost every week, I open the Truro Daily News to see a story about giving in our community. Some of these could be classified as big news, such as the incredible generosity of the lottery-winning Smalls, but the majority reflect the many small (no pun intended) ways we help make our community better. There are the standard donation pictures with big cheques from local companies, information about local fundraisers, and inspiring stories about young children working to help a cause.
We may not realize it, but we live in a very generous community. Our daughter is currently working for a non-profit organization in a medium-sized city in Massachusetts, and she is struggling to find sponsors for their programs and events. When she worked here in summer jobs supporting local events, she had no problem finding businesses to support their efforts.
If we want this kind of generosity to continue, we need to appreciate our local businesses who donate and support them with our own business. The next time you are at an event, look at the program and take note of the supporters. Then, make the choice to shop or dine there, and thank them for their community support. In many cases, the money we spend in our community comes back to our community.
Not only do our local businesses give money to help our community thrive, but they also give their time. Many local businesspeople serve on non-profit boards, sharing their expertise and their connections. They also serve as resources, by hosting events in their space or providing equipment, and as front-line volunteers, helping to make big events happen. Stay tuned – soon there will be an announcement that some of our more well-known businesspeople are going to be stepping up to share their time and talents to help United Way of Colchester County celebrate its diamond anniversary.
Recently, giving has even become social, with teams working together to support a cause. We have a strong tradition of community teams supporting the Relay for Life. This spring, two local women led the initiative to start a chapter of 100 Women Who Care, which brings women together in a social event to pool their funds to support a local charity. At their first meeting, they gave away $13,000.
United Way has also launched Colchester Women United for a Day of Caring, where teams are raising funds by pledging to complete special projects for local agencies, with all the funds going to provide community impact grants to help non-profits with one-time projects or expenses. With an overall goal of $20,000, this is an ambitious campaign, but one that has many enthusiastic supporters.
Social media has been a powerful tool to help people spread the word about these new initiatives, but gathering in-person to make donations or provide services helps build community. I know I’m grateful for the many personal connections I have made through charitable work. Bringing people together also leads to creative problem- solving. It was because a group of committed volunteers worked together regularly to help the homeless that our newest non-profit was born – the Truro Homeless Outreach Society.
The landscape of giving in Colchester County is just like our physical landscape. We have some large, obvious features, like mountains and the Bay of Fundy, interspersed with interesting fields and forests that, on further examination, contain an incredible diversity of life. Combined, it creates a beautiful picture, with each part contributing to the whole. Similarly, we have large donors who provide significant contributions, a variety of organized initiatives, and countless individuals who give in small, but still significant, ways. We are truly blessed in both respects.
One last note. There has been a lot of local activity involving women pooling resources and efforts to make a difference. A few weeks ago I saw a story about “100 Men Who Give A Damn” on the South Shore. Men of Colchester – it’s time to step up your game!
Keltie Jones lives in Truro and is on the board of three local non-profits.