The holidays are traditionally a season of giving, where many with kind hearts buy for families in need, Angel Tree kids or Toys for Tots, feed the hungry or follow the sound of the summoning jingle of bells to drop a few bucks in the Salvation Army’s red kettles. And as the calendar year wanes, those in the mood for goodwill and tax deductions pull out their checkbooks to make end-of-year donations.
As we all embrace the giving spirit, it’s good to be mindful of all of the meaningful and vital work that is done by area nonprofits for our community.
There are deemed to be hundreds here in North Georgia. They work tirelessly for a broad spectrum of causes, usually focusing on those facing challenges in life or the youth of our community. That’s why there’s great value in keeping your donations local and truly understanding and appreciating the missions and impact of our local community-based nonprofit organizations.
If you want your money to stay local, be sure to send it to local groups directly, even if they are affiliated with a national or international group. For example, if you send money to Habitat for Humanity through its national network or website, that money will most likely be put to good use ... just not here in Hall County. But if you donate directly to Habitat for Humanity of Hall County and designate it for local builds, then Executive Director Ann Nixon says your money will have local results and help those right here in our community.
Jackie Wallace of United Way of Hall County and other executive directors and nonprofit board members would no doubt also echo and trumpet our "give local" message.
But there is another form of giving that has even more direct impact —
volunteering your time to local nonprofits and causes.
Today’s front-page story on volunteerism illustrates a concerning trend in the decrease in the amount of time people can or choose to give to help nonprofit missions through volunteering.
The volunteer rate is at its lowest point in more than a decade with just over a quarter of people dedicating their time, energy and talents to make a difference.
The adage "time is money" rings so true for nonprofits.
"For Habitat, volunteers are critical. Volunteer labor reduces the cost by 30 percent to 40 percent. Without this, our program doesn’t work," said Nixon.
Independent Sector — a leadership network for nonprofits, foundations and corporations committed to advancing the common good — values each hour of volunteer time in the United States at $22.55 an hour. In Georgia, the value is calculated at $22.25 an hour.
While Nixon and her Habitat group enjoy an enthusiastic volunteer corps that numbers around 400 for home builds and more than 250 at its ReStore, other groups struggle to provide all the services they aim to simply because there are not enough folks to do the work that needs to be done.
Not everyone can afford to make financial contributions, but we can all try to manage our time in a way that allows us to share of our time and talents. In doing so we can help those less fortunate, those who just need a leg up, a listening ear or some practical hands-on work, whether that’s helping with mailings, fundraising, leadership, outreach, mentoring or hammering nails.
We all have something we can contribute.
Says United Way’s Wallace, "Volunteering — lending your time and talent — is the most important investment we can make in our community. We might not be able to give equal amounts of money, but we are all equal when it comes to the number of hours we have each day. The only difference is how you spend them.
No nonprofit organization, civic club, church, chamber of commerce or school could exist without volunteers. Whether it’s providing governance by serving on a board, coaching a youth team, teaching a Sunday school class, organizing a fundraising event or helping with a one-time project, every hour of volunteer time is important. There is a place for everyone. You don’t have to look very far to find a way to help.
Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal, who hails from Gainesville, has heralded community service and volunteering as a foundation of her work during Gov. Nathan Deal’s first term and they’re continuing that focus into their coming second term.
She launched her "With a Servant’s Heart" initiative in 2011. What began as a statewide day of service has grown into regular participation in community service programs and volunteer events across Georgia.
"When we reach out to become involved in helping mold a new beginning for another person, we bring hope for that individual and we in turn receive joy," she says.
It’s clear just by looking around our corner of Georgia that Hall County is a caring community with a thriving network of nonprofits. They are an integral part of the fabric of our community that bolsters the quality of life for all who call this area home.
Generous volunteers and donors are the foundation of all of the good work that gets done in North Georgia. Let’s not take that for granted. So look into your wallets, your hearts and your schedules — not just at Christmastime but all year long — to see what kind of commitment you can make to deserving causes and missions.
Not only will our community be further enriched, but also our lives and spirits.