Thursday, November 10, 2011
It’s that time of year again.
When you hear this phrase, the first things that come to mind probably have more to do with holiday shopping and hitting the slopes than ways you can support your favorite nonprofit organization. But it’s undoubtedly that time of year when your mailbox will be stuffed fuller than a Thanksgiving turkey with letters asking for support from various organizations throughout town.
I urge you to take a moment to read the letters in your mailbox. The mere act of becoming more aware of what these groups have going on will be enriching in and of itself. Trust me — the folks who write these letters work very hard to tell their compelling annual success stories as fully and concisely as they can.
While you’ll probably get your own healthy sampling of letters, it’s important to know that Routt County is a nonprofit oasis, and with close to 200 nonprofits in the area, there’s certainly at least one that will appeal to your personal interests and passions. Are you a historic preservation buff? Explore Historic Routt County (hint). Is tennis your thing? Check out the Steamboat Tennis Association. Are you passionate about youths, animals, culture, arts or the environment? Yep, there are numerous nonprofits representing those interests, too. There’s surely something for everyone.
The nonprofits asking for your help mostly are very small organizations working to achieve full-time missions and visions with part-time staffs and budgets. Many of these nonprofits are membership-based organizations. Membership matters. It really does. Membership dues payments constitute a large portion of budgeted revenue for many of these organizations. While many of us belong to professional organizations that offer continuing education credits, discounts on books and so forth, most of the nonprofits in Routt County that offer memberships are asking you to join or donate because they need your support — pure and simple. You don’t get stuff in return, like with a professional organization, but what you do get is arguably more important. You get the experience and sense of belonging that comes from being part of an organization that represents what’s important to you. You get to build relationships with those who share the same interests. You get the chance to make a difference. As Lily Tomlin once said, “I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that. Then, I realized I was somebody.”
Given the economy (or lack thereof) these days, many people simply can’t afford to give money. That’s OK. Consider becoming a volunteer. I thought this was a great quote by George Bernard Shaw that conveys the importance of giving back: “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
Most of you reading this column already are a pretty engaged and generous bunch as it is. That’s part of what makes where we live so rich and dynamic. But in the spirit of the season, I encourage you to stretch yourself to give more. Discover one more nonprofit that might interest you. In terms of getting involved by joining, donating or volunteering, make whatever decision feels right. Go ahead — just open that letter and see what door might open for you.
Meg Tully is a certified association executive, executive director of Historic Routt County and owner of Nonprofit Know How, which provides services to nonprofits of all shapes and sizes.