While shopping downtown this holiday season, you may have noticed the “Make It Count” giving campaign organized by our Durango Business Improvement District. This campaign encourages people to give to local nonprofit human-service providers instead of giving to panhandlers. I greatly appreciate the BID’s efforts to help people stop and think because the most effective charitable giving involves both your heart and your head.
When we hear stories or see people in need in our community, we may wonder what can be done to help. We have a very generous and caring community, as evidenced by the many nonprofits that provide effective services to those facing a crisis or tough situation. There may be a particular service that speaks to your heart, such as child care, health care or emergency financial assistance. Maybe your family was helped in the past by a similar service and now you want to give back. Your heart is engaged – now let’s think about how to give smartly.
To give effectively, first you want to do some research about the nonprofits that serve the causes about which you care. There are some resources to help you with this. First, you can check out charities on our state of Colorado Secretary of State website. You can see if they have registered, are in good standing, and view some basic financial information. Second, you can look at one of the charity watchdog sites, such as Guidestar. Guidestar rates charities based on their accountability and effectiveness. We are proud to let you know that our United Way of Southwest Colorado has earned the Platinum rating on Guidestar – the highest possible rating and one that few nonprofits achieve.
The basic research can help you avoid fraudulent solicitations and know that an organization has taken care of the basics. How can you better understand the issues in our own community, know who is working collaboratively to solve those issues, and be aware of which organization may need the funds more than another? For this, I encourage you to get involved with specific nonprofits or volunteer for a United Way committee. For many of you, there probably is simply not enough time in your day/week/month to do that. That is part of why United Way exists. We do all of that work for you, and find those sweet spots where an investment in community can make a big difference. We also support and encourage progress on solving community issues through collaboration instead of endless competition for scarce dollars.
The end of the calendar year is a whirlwind of holidays, trips, visitors, traditions, and charitable giving. The combination of a focus on caring for people at this time of year, combined with a major tax deadline on December 31, creates a large bump in charitable giving at the end of each year. If you are considering a gift at this time, you are in good company. We encourage you to give with both your heart and your head. We are in this together, and we are looking forward to a great 2018! Thank you for Living United in Southwest Colorado.
Lynn Urban is president/CEO of United Way of Southwest Colorado.