The election is over. What’s next?
The energy leading up to the election carried with it an undercurrent of urgency by voters. Now that the ballots are cast, many of us are asking, what’s next? Where should we direct our energy? One answer that transcends politics, that each of us can participate in, is philanthropy.
National Philanthropy Day is Nov. 16, and it couldn’t come at a better time. Whether it’s volunteering, donating, advocating or attending, philanthropy is simply giving of yourself in whatever ways you can. There are more than 21,000 nonprofit organizations across Arizona, serving an array of needs, including education, health and human services, the environment, conservation, animal welfare, the arts and community development. Those of us working in the nonprofit sector know firsthand the community impact of our services and programs. We also know we can’t do it alone. If we want change, we all have to work for it.
The best prescription I know of for post-election hangover is volunteering. Find a nonprofit that is addressing the cause you are most concerned about and get involved. All of us have something to offer. Volunteering is color blind and is immune to social status. Whether you are giving back or paying it forward, everyone benefits in a community of vibrant volunteers. Give some time helping a local charity. If you are able, make a financial contribution. If you are not in a position to donate money or time, become an advocate — use your voice to encourage others to get informed on issues that affect them and involved in activities they will enjoy or benefit from.
Often we hear, what can one person do? Will it really make any difference? As a philanthropist, you become part of a much larger group of people and your collective efforts have a significant impact on your community. The 2016 “Arizona Nonprofits: Economic Power, Positive Impact” report shows that nonprofit organizations are a significant contributor to the state economy.
The nonprofit sector is responsible for 8 percent of our gross state product, the state’s fifth largest employer and a major stimulator of economic activity. Arizona nonprofit organizations are directly responsible for $7.7 billion in wages and $10.4 billion in economic activity, and indirectly responsible for an additional $6.3 billion in wages and $12 billion in economic activity through the businesses they patronize and associated job creation. This holds true nationally as well. According to Giving USA Foundation, nonprofits saw record increases in giving across nearly every charitable subsector nationally, suggesting “charities are connecting effectively with their donors and demonstrating their impact and case for support.”
If you don’t know where to begin, start local. Ask yourself what issue concerns you the most personally, and then find the organization in your community that is working to improve outcomes on that issue.
The vast majority of organizations are reputable, but it is always wise to do your homework. There are many resources that can help give background on nonprofits in your community. A good place to start is your local library or community foundation, or online sites like Charity Navigator or Guide Star. As a former elementary school teacher, I see philanthropy as a soothing bowl of stone soup — the more each of us contributes, the better the flavor and the heartier the meal, for everyone.