By Stephanie Bowers, WWU Western Washington University’s vice president for advancement and member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals – Washington
As our national time of thanks draws near, we’re calling on the community to step up to help the non-profit sector. With the challenges of this economic climate, it is more important now than ever to support the arts, education, health, the environment, and those less fortunate than others.
The current situation is daunting. For the past year, our region – along with the rest of the nation – has been struggling with the realities of the economic downturn. Many in the public and private sectors have lost jobs. We’ve seen the value of our investments and our homes decline. State, county and municipal governments and school programs from pre-kindergarten through higher education have slashed budgets. Businesses are under pressure with lower profits.
Something that is often overlooked, but is so critical, is how this economic downturn has affected the third pillar that makes up the community – the non-profit sector. In Whatcom County, we rely on more than 1,250 non-profit community organizations to provide critical social services and enhance our quality of life. These organizations – our schools, libraries, arts organizations, churches, hospitals, and social service groups such as emergency shelters and food banks – have been hit especially hard as the government grants, business sponsorships, and individual donations they rely on have grown scarce.
“Who will step in to help when no one else can? These local non-profits pick up the slack. If they can’t support people in these difficult times, who will?” — Stephanie Bowers
According to a study by the Giving USA Foundation, charitable giving across the country fell in 2008 by the largest percentage in five decades. About two-thirds of public charities saw donations decrease in 2008. The outlook for next year remains uncertain.
On Nov. 13, non-profits throughout the state of Washington will celebrate National Philanthropy Day, a time to honor organizations and individuals for the time, energy and money they donate to non-profits in our state. Locally, St. Luke’s Foundation will be honored as Washington’s Outstanding Philanthropic Foundation for contributing significantly to the health of the Whatcom County community for the past 27 years. Wells Fargo Bank, a long and generous supporter of the local non-profit community, will be honored as Outstanding Philanthropic Corporation. Others in Whatcom County who have been honored for their philanthropic efforts over the past few years include the Morse family, the Haggen family, Village Books, and local Sehome High School graduates Anders Crabo and Colin Flynn.
In honor of National Philanthropy Day and the efforts of all of those who contribute, we are calling on individuals in the community to reach a little deeper and help where you can. If you thought philanthropy was important in boom times, it’s even more important in times when we’re struggling. Now is the time for individuals to engage mentally, physically and financially. Who will step in to help when no one else can? These local non-profits pick up the slack. If they can’t support people in these difficult times, who will?
American history shows us that when times are tough people come together and help each other. I encourage you to think about a time in your own life when someone helped you or when you were inspired by another. Consider “paying it forward” and helping an individual or an organization in the same way. Celebrate what’s right in the world and please, use these troubling times as an inspiration to make life better for others in our community.
Stephanie Bowers is Western Washington University’s vice president for advancement and is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) – Washington. AFP – Washington works to advance philanthropy through advocacy, research, education and certification programs, fosters development and growth of fundraising professionals, and promotes high ethical standards in the fundraising profession. For more information, visit www.afpwashington.org.