Gratitude, potential and productivity | Opinions

By Pamela Jons and Sara Southerland
Courtesy to The Bellingham Business Journal

November is the time of year we collectively engage in the practice of giving thanks and expressing gratitude. Those of us working in the nonprofit sector are keenly aware that generosity is an element that plays a singularly powerful role in a thriving community.

Gifts of time, resources and expertise from individuals, families and businesses fuel our charitable sector. These gifts help families access food, connect children with the support they need to thrive, provide quality arts and cultural opportunities and enhance the natural beauty and wildlife that surrounds us.

All of this—and so much more—is made possible because people and businesses like you support the many nonprofit organizations that work so hard to make Whatcom County the amazing place that we all call home.

Generosity is a hopeful and positive action, which we have recently learned also has implications for our productivity.

According to Shawn Achor, a Harvard researcher and the author of “The Happiness Advantage,” our brains are 30 percent more productive when we are positive than when we are negative, neutral or stressed. Scientists have found that when positive brains are flooded with dopamine, it turns on all of your learning centers, creating a true happiness advantage whether you are working on a report, solving a problem or planning a project.

Put simply, happy brains are more productive. So what can we do to help our brains become, and stay, more positive?

Along with exercise, journaling, gratitude and meditation, Achor’s research has landed on one other important activity that enhances our happiness. He describes this activity as “conscious acts of kindness,” which can also be described as people helping each other.

Fortunately our community is filled with generous people and organizations who work hard to help their neighbors. Over the past three years, our “acts of kindness” have been pretty impressive.

Since 2010, thousands of donors like you have contributed more than $15 million to support the work of local nonprofit organizations. Over these same three years, the Whatcom Volunteer Center has connected 2,784 volunteers who have contributed 600,000 hours of their time with 149 nonprofit, government and health-care related agencies.

Virginia Lang, a nonprofit consultant who works in communities throughout the U.S.,  sums it up this way: “The relationship between nonprofit organizations and the business community in Whatcom County is as long standing and generously supported as any in the country. We are fortunate that many companies in our area have corporate cultures that encourage and often match annual employee contributions through their own uniquely managed programs.”

These numbers tell a meaningful story about our community: We care about this place, and we are willing to give what we can to make living here better. How wonderful to learn that this generous spirit is also helping our brains reach their productivity potential!

In honor of Thanksgiving, the Whatcom Council of Nonprofits would like to express our thanks to all of you, the businesses and people who give your time, financial assistance and talent. Your gifts make Whatcom County an even better place to live, work and play.

The Whatcom Council of Nonprofits, a program of the Whatcom Community Foundation, is delighted to be a networking hub, educational resource and advocate for the nonprofit sector here in Whatcom County, hosting monthly brown bag educational meetings, networking opportunities, providing an online calendar and newsletter for event and resource sharing and more.

To learn more, please visit

Pamela Jons is the director of advancement and programs at the Whatcom Community Foundation. Sara Southerland, the food and farming program coordinator for Sustainable Connections, is a member of the outreach committee for the Whatcom Council of Nonprofits. This is an installment of a recurring series of columns from the Whatcom Council of Nonprofits that will be featured in The Bellingham Business Journal.  


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