Janice Fulkerson: Everyone must do their part to help nonprofits

GUEST OPINION: IDAHO GIVES

April 29, 2014 

If there's one thing that unites the many diverse areas of Idaho, it is a strong sense of community and a pervasive spirit of generosity. Our notable quality of life is attributable, in no small part, to the fact that we in Idaho tend to look out for one another. Last May, Idahoans made history, and a big difference, in donating nearly $600,000 to more than 500 nonprofit causes in a 24-hour period for the inaugural Idaho Gives. In presenting the first statewide charitable giving day, the Idaho Nonprofit Center knew that people in every corner of Idaho would step up, and indeed they did. We're counting on that same spirit of generosity once again this year, when we celebrate Idaho Gives on Thursday, May 1.

One of most exciting elements of Idaho Gives is the diversity of causes that benefit from the day; in fact, this year, you'll have the opportunity to give to more than 650 causes. There's a nonprofit cause for every passion. Donors will find organizations working in arts and culture, youth development and everything in between. Hundreds of nonprofits are eager to introduce themselves to you and share the good news about how they're making a difference in your community. In fact, many of the 6,000-plus donors from last year gave to multiple organizations, including groups that they hadn't given to before but had discovered and chosen to support thanks to Idaho Gives.

As we celebrate nonprofits Thursday, it's important to point out some distinctive trends in the nonprofit sector. One of the marks of a great state is its rate of volunteerism, and ours is (not surprisingly) quite high. According to Volunteering in America, more than 425,000 Idahoans volunteered in 2012, giving over 58 million hours of service, or the work equivalent of almost 28,000 jobs. If a dollar value were to be placed on these donated hours, it would be the equivalent of $1.2 billion added to the gross state product. This should be a source of pride for all who volunteer to make our communities stronger.

With such high rates of volunteerism, you might wonder if our nonprofits truly need more financial support. The answer is an unequivocal yes. Volunteers fill a vital role for many of our state's nonprofits; they help to extend the reach and impact of that organization's programs. That said, without donations from supporters, the very operations of the nonprofit would be in jeopardy. Staff members are needed to develop and coordinate programs to address a specific set of community needs and then recruit and manage volunteers to help carry out the work. In order for people to depend on the many programs offered by nonprofits, full-time staff is usually required, as are other operational investments like facilities.

The bottom line is nonprofits are an essential partner in maintaining our famous quality of life, but we all must do our part to support the causes that are most personal and dear to us. It's a great way to express our Idaho pride and invest in the organizations that make us stronger. And did I mention it's fun? Throughout the day, there'll be a host of contests and prizes that would allow for your contribution to go even further, with donations randomly supplemented by $250, $500 and $1,000 bonus awards. Even a small contribution could turn into a $1,000 gift to the organization you're passionate about.

On May 1, Idaho Gives. Will you?

Fulkerson is Executive Director of the Idaho Nonprofit Center. Idaho Gives can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and at idahogives.org, where you can donate to your favorite nonprofit(s). Idaho Gives is underwritten by Pacific Source, Idaho Central Credit Union and Idaho National Laboratory.

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