Countless before me have remarked on the proliferation of nonprofits in La Plata County. We quote statistics of anywhere from 250 to 350 to 400 to the ultra-specific “gazillion.” The accurate number is 1,564. (I have no evidence to substantiate that claim.)
Regardless of the figure, the bottom line is the same. La Plata County supports many nonprofit and charitable organizations because La Plata County cares. The area nonprofits know how fortunate we are to live and do our work in such a generous community.
Having so many opportunities for giving means you have a lot of options for where you put your time, talents and money. As you consider those options, there are a few tips many nonprofit leaders would love for you to know:
1. Do Your Homework. Unsolicited telephone charity requests are automatically suspect. But even smaller, local nonprofits should be able to show that they are fiscally responsible, have sound organizational practices, are filling an unmet need and have a track record of meeting their stated outcomes. The websites guidestar.org and charitynavigator.org use nonprofit 990 tax return forms to give an overview of the organization and rate it. Locally, United Way puts its nonprofit partners through a robust screening and application process to ensure that your money or volunteering through United Way goes to a reputable organization.2. Be Specific but Flexible. Sometimes, your particular gifts and talents may not align perfectly with the needs of a particular nonprofit, and it might not be a good fit. Yet, also remember that nonprofits have a lot of needs for both volunteering and financial contributions that aren’t particularly glamorous. Answering the phone so an organization can have all their staff at a training can be priceless. Fixing the drainage outside a facility can improve the safety for clients and employees. Giving an unrestricted gift that helps keep the lights on may be more helpful in the long run than giving a donation to a project that the organization later deems ineffective. Ask what a nonprofit truly needs, and consider being flexible.3. Put fundraisers in perspective. When most people think of nonprofit fundraising, they envision events. Event fundraising has its place and can be a lot of fun and good exposure for the nonprofit. However, events can also be a drain of an organization’s resources away from its main mission, and most events do not raise a significant percent of an organization’s revenue. Go to nonprofit fundraisers; we love to have you. Just remember, there are 364 other days in the year we are doing work that probably has nothing to do with entertainment.Note that I have absolutely no authority to speak on behalf of nonprofits in La Plata County, and I am treading all over Lynn Urban’s territory. However, I suspect that nonprofits throughout the region would join me in thanking you once again for creating such a generous community for us. All 1,564 of us would not be here without you.
Tara Kiene is the president/CEO of Community Connections Inc.