As I reflect on the pandemic and the effect it has had on our communities, I can’t help but think about the incredible need our nonprofits have faced this past year and the importance of giving back. Giving back can take many faces and it’s important to understand that it doesn’t have to be monetary nor done alone. There is power when many people join in a common goal. I’ve seen this through the many nonprofit organizations I’ve worked with especially those formed with the goal of members pooling their assets to make one (or a number of) transformational gifts. Although it is not just organizations that are putting a focus on impact. Wealthy individuals, and more specifically women, are showing the power of their wealth through impactful donations.
A wonderful example of this is the numerous Impact 100 organizations around the country and globally. Impact100 was founded by Wendy Steele in 2001 with the goal of creating a new and expanded outlet for women’s giving. Wendy launched the organization with the goal of empowering women to see themselves as activists through utilizing large grants to make an impact within their communitiesi. Over time, many other Impact100 organizations were founded with the same goal of making transformational gifts within local communities. The other benefit albeit non-financial was the community the organizations created. Bringing people together within a community who may not have crossed paths previously with the effort of working together for a common goal and betterment of their local communities. Within NJ, there are four Impact organizations with focus throughout the state and Impact organizations in at least 25 states. The Impact organizations focus on the power of one multiplied by many. The global pandemic highlighted needs in some many areas of the country and globe. It brought out the power of the uber wealthy as well to help organizations and populations that are regularly underserved.
Another strong example of impact giving was from MacKenzie Scott (Jeff Bezos’, Founder of Amazon, ex-wife). She committed to give away $4.2 billion of her wealth focusing much of her gifting on higher education institutions, including several tribal colleges and historically Black colleges and universities, food banks and local affiliates of the Goodwill Industries International. Ms. Scott’s team did much of the due diligence to determine where they wanted to gift. They also didn’t want to give the gifts with strings attached. The magnitude of the grants received to many of the educational institutions far outpaced anything they had received before or even had in their respective endowments. Ms. Scott also focused on donations to local organizations focused on assisting communities. For us locally in NJ, the NJ Pandemic Relief Fund through the Community Foundation of NJ was a beneficiary of Ms. Scott’s generosity.
Of course, not everyone has $4.2 billion of assets to give away. But the point behind impact giving is to be able to collaborate with others to make a difference. Some of the key benefits to giving are:
- Impact – through collective giving the power of one is multiplied by many in which smaller gifts can pooled together to make larger more impactful and transformational gifts. Collective giving can make a difference, especially to smaller more community driven organizations.
- Sense of Community – working and giving together for a common goal whether in person or virtual coordination and teamwork. The value of partnerships and friendships created when working together for a common benefit is immeasurable.
- Altruism – it feels good to give and it is contagious. A study by James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that when one person behaves generously, it inspires observers to behave generously later, toward different people.
Impact giving doesn’t have to take the form of monetary donations. Simply working together to accomplish a community project or volunteering together can create a similar impact. One of the biggest challenges for nonprofits during the pandemic was finding volunteers. Having to socially distance and limiting exposure to others was difficult for many nonprofits. As social distancing protocols loosen, there’s more opportunity for people to come together to volunteer at local organizations or at community gardens and the like.
Great progress can be made in small increments. It is the cumulative effort that counts.
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