Northern Nevadans have lived through economic downturns, changes in local industries, heavy snow winters, and drought. Now we face unprecedented opportunities and challenges, and perhaps the most significant growth in our history. Growth challenges are welcome because they are the challenges that pay dividends on our investments.
Each of us is an investor in our local economy. We invest by owning or renting a residence, retail purchases, running a business or working in a job or even through attending a local school or college. We invest our time and our money. And, we’ve chosen northern Nevada to be the place to put our investment to work.
Charitable giving is part of that investment, as is volunteerism. Our regional culture boasts a higher than average level of volunteerism and generous charitable giving.
The “Greatest Generation” contributes primarily because of strong community values and because they believe charitable giving is the right thing to do. Today charitable giving by the Boomer and Gen X generation is considered investment. The need to make charitable investments locally is apparent. If you haven’t made an investment in a local charity, now is the time.
Recently I was speaking to the Nevada Retired Teachers Association about good and bad charities. They invited me to speak on this topic because of a recent column I wrote about charity rip-offs. A 2015 Gallup survey showed that Americans lack confidence in the Supreme Court, public schools, banks, newspapers, TV news, the criminal justice system, and Congress. American ranked confidence in nonprofits slightly higher but still low in public confidence.
A reason we lack confidence in charities is the stories we see in the news “sensational” reports about charities that spend most of their money on fundraising, and executive salaries make us wary.
The common denominator in these reports is that they are about national charities with headquarters far away from our community. These are the charities that send us slick materials asking for donations, the ones that call us at dinnertime asking for donations, and the ones where we don’t volunteer. When you get discouraged with national charity appeals, look closer to home.
The charities in northern Nevada are effective and efficient. You can call them up, and a human will talk with you. You can visit them in person. You can talk with your friends and neighbors about them. You can trust them.
On the Community Foundation of Western Nevada Web site, nevadafund.org, we offer “Nonprofit Connections” a search tool for local charities. Whether it is Arts and Culture, Children, Conservation, Education, or other important areas, you will find organizations to support. All the charitable organizations listed in “Nonprofit Connections” are local. Go to: http://nevadafund.org/about-us/projects-programs/nonprofit-connections/.
We read about the tens of thousands of new jobs coming and thousands of new housing units that must be built. Roads are under construction, and exciting “tech” industry is growing. This growth brings an opportunity to improve our lives by creating new venues and opportunities for artists, new parks, and trails. It is time to revitalize our live theaters and performance spaces, enhance educational and recreational opportunities for youth, and accessibility for everyone.
You can help to influence the change growth challenges and opportunities will bring to our community. What would you like to see improved, fixed, increased, or beautified? What are your aspirations for your life, for your family, and for northern Nevada? What will motivate you to volunteer and give?
The Community Foundation is investing in Nevada by helping hundreds of generous donors make grants through their donor advised funds and bequest arrangements. The growth we anticipate in our region will not happen overnight. The opportunities to ensure that our quality of life is improved and enhanced, will not happen overnight either. Non-profit boards and staff throughout northern Nevada are working to not only meet current needs but to anticipate the needs of the future. As a resident, you have a voice and a role to play. Charitable organizations provide a way for you to get directly involved, not just by giving money. Give them your time and expertise. If each of us does just a small part, together the impact is tremendous.
People give because they are asked to give. People give to get something they want in return. That return on their investment could be better art exhibits, more summer concerts, a bicycle friendly community, or the joy that comes from helping people less fortunate than themselves. Whatever your passion, and whatever you think you can do now in coordination with the economic growth now underway, I urge you to make those contributions locally in northern Nevada.
Your friends and neighbors manage the charities in our region by serving on the boards and working as staff. Most of them also personally contribute. Your love for Nevada is reflected in the faces around you. It is part of the proud tradition of making local investments, for personal monetary reasons, and for our quality of life. Please join me in making a charitable investment in our region, today.
Chris Askin is the president & CEO of the Community Foundation of Western Nevada, a public charitable foundation that strengthens our region through philanthropy and leadership by connecting people who care with causes that matter.