Support local nonprofits that work for you
August 15, 2013
Choosing a nonprofit is like dating with the hopes of a long-term relationship and possibly a marriage — ask many questions, do some homework and gauge your passion.
And, much like love, you can't depend simply on chemistry and some clicks on a few websites. Quite often it requires some diligence, hard work and sometimes face-to-face conversations.
The benefits are extraordinary and can last a lifetime.
Finding just the right nonprofit charity — like the perfect partner — requires some soul searching. Potential donors must determine and follow their passion.
For some folks, helping to feed and house low-income residents ranks high on the list; for others it's about the performing arts or education and training programs.
Seriously consider what is important to you. Then start doing some homework and look for nonprofits that are a good match.
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The vast majority of local nonprofits are more than deserving of donations and help make life better for our community. And there are certainly some organizations that are better at fulfilling their missions than others.
We're admittedly a bit biased, but Nevada County has many well run and effective nonprofits.
Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Nevada County, Friends of Hospice and Music in the Mountains are all worthy nonprofits in this region, to name a few.
The Center for Nonprofit Leadership has more than 50 members, each a first rate, high quality non- profit.
Of course, there are many other nonprofits in the region, including international and national groups, such as the American Red Cross or United Way (its local affiliate is United Way of Nevada County).
Many donors prefer giving to local nonprofits because they can monitor the effectiveness of their donations at work. They can watch the dollars in action at one of the animal shelters, The Friendship Club, the food bank, a Habitat for Humanity Nevada County project or at live performances at many venues, both indoors and out.
Sometimes donors cannot experience firsthand how their money has helped, such as a family with a patient in hospice care or in the hospital. Be assured, the dollars help a friend, neighbor, veteran or another Nevada County resident.
Another benefit of focusing on local charities is that donors may know a board member, the executive director or a staff member, an almost always reassuring connection.
Or donors may double as volunteers, an excellent hands-on way to learn about a nonprofit.
Donating to a local nonprofit offers another advantage — you can meet with the executive director or a staff member and learn more about the organization.
Ask questions, such as how the donations are used or about the nonprofit's effectiveness and its mission. These types of questions are always expected and encouraged.
And one of the most-asked questions of board members and executive directors focuses on the overhead, especially payroll and staffing. Some donors believe that almost every dollar given should be earmarked for services.
But choosing an arbitrary figure — let's say 10 percent or 20 percent for administrative costs — can actually be detrimental and misleading for a nonprofit. Instead, donors should consider the effectiveness of those dollars, the management and the nonprofit itself — more than just the percentage of money used to run the organization.
A charity focused on the bottom line can boast about cost controls, but if it fails to connect with the community and meet its mission, then it's actually less effective than a nonprofit with a higher overhead that produces much better results.
Donors have much to consider when looking for a successful and well-run nonprofit. They should always look for a nonprofit that meets their philanthropic passion. Donating dollars should do some good and make you feel good.
Of course, donors can always give to multiple charities. and many do. Each and every dollar is gladly accepted and helps improve life for Nevada County and its residents.
All we ask is that you consider donating and choose a charity (or charities) that work for you.
Bill Neff is chairman of the board of the Center for Nonprofit Leadership of Nevada County and the Sierra.
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