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Encouraging a Culture of Humboldt County Philanthropy

The following letter was published in the “My Word” section of the Times-Standard on November 17, 2013

There is a long tradition in Humboldt County of supporting locally owned businesses and artisans. We have strong connections to our local food movement, and support our local farmers. “Humboldt First,” “Shop Local,” “Locally Delicious,” and “Buy Fresh Buy Local” are examples of the catchy taglines that remind Humboldt County residents about the vitalizing effects of investing locally. We subscribe to this practice because we know it is good for our economy, our environment, and our community. By adhering to these beliefs we are tangibly improving Humboldt County’s resiliency and sustainability into the future.

Building upon our already strong tradition of localized self-reliance, I ask Humboldt County residents to help create a more robust non-profit sector by encouraging a culture of “Giving Local.” Generous community support for local nonprofit organizations is critical to ensuring that the many social, environmental and economic services provided to our community are maintained in the face of challenging economic times.

On the North Coast there are hundreds of local nonprofit organizations that provide key services to the community. They exist to solve social problems and advance important causes. They have an interest in making our community a better place to live. These organizations provide access to the arts, health care, and educational opportunities. They are the hospitals, drug and alcohol treatment programs, and human services that provide for the hungry, homeless, children, seniors and victims of crime. They are the organizations that protect the environment, defend human and civil rights, and assure access to information in the form of free public radio and television.

Our local nonprofits were built to respond to local needs, and are invested in the welfare of the local community. They cannot be supplanted by larger out-of-the-area nonprofits.

Unlike the big national organizations, many of our local nonprofits are not very good at self-promotion. Often, the public does not realize the breadth of services they benefit from which are made possible by the work of nonprofit organizations.

Many assume that government or private foundation grants are meeting the financial needs of these institutions, but they are not. The economic recession has meant that private foundations are not contributing what they once did, and the competition among grantees has increased. There are many local nonprofits that relied entirely on state and federal government grants to provide social services, but due to budget cuts, they are now turning to the community to get help reaching their budget goals.

It is not just the services that are provided that make our local nonprofit organizations important. Supporting these local organizations makes sense from an economic standpoint. We know that on a regional level, a financial investment in local non-profits has many of the same positive benefits as supporting locally owned businesses. They keep dollars in the local economy and use an array of supporting business services, are invested in the well being of the community, they maintain community and the character of the region.

It is estimated that 75 percent of Americans give to charitable causes. We give time and money, we donate our life-giving blood, give up our seats on the bus, we provide jackets and blankets to the homeless during the winter, but we need to do more. I want to encourage the Humboldt County community to build upon our already strong culture of self-reliance to create a more robust and strong non-profit sector. We need to cultivate our generosity out of appreciation for the services provided by nonprofits and out of reverence for the future of our community.

Robert L. Payton said, “Philanthropy permeates American life, touches each one of us countless times in countless ways; philanthropy provides the resources for some of the most important activities that give shape and substance to our efforts to be a free and open and democratic society.”

We all have a choice in how we spend our hard-earned money; during this season of thanks and generosity I encourage you to give to our local public interest organizations because you value and benefit from their mission, and because you believe in humanity’s ability to positively impact the world.

Celebrating and encouraging charitable activities that support non-profit organizations is becoming a national movement that kicks off the holiday giving season with “Giving Tuesday.” Giving Tuesday follows Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. This year “Give Local” on Tuesday, Dec. 3, and make “Giving Tuesday” a part of your effort to build a resilient and sustainable Humboldt.

Natalynne DeLapp is the Development Director for the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC). EPIC works to protect and restore the redwood forest ecosystem and native wildlife of Northwest California.


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