This holiday season I’d like to propose a corollary to Durango’s well-loved buy local movement: give local.
December is a month awash in fundraising requests, and let’s face it: being on the receiving end can get tiresome. But let’s face two other realities: First, if nonprofits don’t ask for money, they rarely receive it. Second, your contribution enables these organizations to continue providing truly critical services.
With nonprofits, as with businesses, there is a plethora of organizations competing for your support. One distinction I’d ask you to consider when making charitable contributions this year is locality.
Just as spending money at a local business creates more direct local benefit, so does local charitable giving. Not only do local nonprofits create local jobs, these organizations often help fill real needs that fall between the spheres of government and for-profit enterprise.
While this line of argument can get a little tricky and risk sounding callous, why focus on feeding the poor of Africa when our neighbors go hungry? Why bring electricity or clean water to rural communities in Guatemala when swaths of the Navajo Nation lack the same?
At the end of the day, people should and do give to causes that speak to their hearts. There’s no right or wrong to what touches you. But if your heart is looking for a good cause, my only suggestion is this: it doesn’t need to look far. We live in a community awash in both wealth and need.
There’s another reason, perhaps selfish, I suggest people consider giving locally. It’s empowering. Here’s an example from the world of environmental advocacy.
Have you ever felt powerless to combat climate change? Why? In our backyard, I can point to more than 30,000 oil and gas wells, the methane hot spot of the country and some of the most polluting coal-fired power plants in the country.
Your charitable contribution this year could go to an international nonprofit focused on shutting down coal-fired power plants in China. Alternatively, your contribution could support a regional nonprofit like San Juan Citizens Alliance that is working to clean up our community’s significant contributions to the problem of global greenhouse gas emissions.
By giving locally, not only are you taking care of your own backyard, but you also reap the associated benefits of less pollutants in the air you breathe and less toxicity in the land and water you depend on for nourishment, economic vitality and recreation.
This holiday season, my family decided to forgo exchanging gifts in lieu of making donations to nonprofits. When we really thought about it, Dad didn’t need (or really want) another holiday sweater. Mom has 47 cooking books. Sis can afford a wall hanging of her own choosing, which she’ll like better than something I pick out anyway.
What those dollars will do instead this year is go toward organizations we believe are doing good, needed work in the community – organizations that are often struggling to make ends meet themselves.
As an executive director of a local nonprofit, I think I speak for all nonprofits in thanking those of you who give to support the organizations that help strengthen the social, economic and environmental fabric on which our community depends.
And as a member of this community, thank you, Manna Soup Kitchen, for feeding hungry families. Thank you, Sexual Assault Services Organization, for providing a safe space for victims of assault. Thank you, Boys and Girls Club, for nurturing our children.
I could go on, but I won’t. I’ll donate, and I’ll keep those donations local.
Dan Olson is executive director of the San Juan Citizens Alliance. Reach him at email@example.com.