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My Turn: Supporting United Way supports your community

Posted: December 21, 2011 - 12:01am

Local non-profit organizations run programs that are needed in Southeast Alaska. How else would you feed the homeless, shelter the abused, provide hot meals to seniors, or develop new leaders through quality youth programs?

By utilizing both donations and volunteers, local non-profit organizations run these essential community programs at a much lower cost to society than if they were run by a for profit company or a government agency.

So why should you support local non-profit organizations through United Way of Southeast Alaska’s Workplace Giving Campaign or direct gift?

Organizing and hosting fundraising events, the typical way most local non-profit organizations raise necessary funds, is a LOT of work. Fundraising events require both agency employees and volunteers to spend countless hours selecting a theme, finding a place to host the event, securing donated items for an auction, selling tickets, and advertising the event.

While these events are fun and, most definitely, friend-boosting, these fundraising events are not necessarily great fundraisers in the end when you look at all the work that goes into them. Ultimately, these fundraising events take both staff members and volunteers away from actually carrying out the mission of the organization.

Having recently served as a CEO for a non-profit organization for several years, I can honestly tell you that the best dollars were those funds that came in from regular donations — the payroll deduction or credit card monthly debits. If you truly want to help an organization achieve its mission, consider volunteering and/or providing them with monetary support on which they can rely.

What are the benefits of donating to United Way of Southeast Alaska or volunteering with United Way or one of its 36 partner agencies?

• Learn or develop a new skill. Volunteering is the perfect vehicle to discover something you are really good at and develop a new skill. For example, planning and implementing a fundraising event can develop goal setting, planning and budgeting skills. Supervising and training other volunteers helps to develop supervisory and training skills.

• Improve your health. Generally speaking, people who volunteer in their communities are healthier both mentally and physically. According to national research, individuals who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer. Additionally, comparisons of the health benefits of volunteering for different age groups have also shown that older volunteers receive the greatest benefits from volunteering because volunteering provides them with physical and social activity and a sense of purpose at a time when their social roles are changing.

• Be a part of your community. Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place. Whether you are new to the community or a long-term resident of Southeast, volunteering is a great way to meet new people. Volunteering also strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network, exposing you to people with common interests, neighborhood resources, and fun and fulfilling activities

• Take advantage of the tax deduction. If you itemize your taxes, you can deduct your donation to United Way of Southeast Alaska and its partner agencies.

• Give yourself a voice. You can direct exactly where your donation goes.

What are the benefits of participating in the United Way Workplace campaign through payroll deduction?

Think about how you pay your mortgage payments. A little money each month goes toward taxes so you do not have a huge tax bill at the end of the year. Similarly, a portion of your federal taxes is taken out with each paycheck to ensure you do not have a huge bill on April 15. Likewise, participating in United Way of Southeast Alaska’s annual workplace campaign is the easiest way to budget your giving.

Start by looking at the list of partner agencies for United Way of Southeast Alaska and see which ones have helped you or a close friend or family member. Is there one that you would like to support?

If all employees contribute just a few dollars, $5 or $10, a month, we could make a difference right here in Southeast Alaska. When we reach out a hand to one, we influence the condition of all.

Ask yourself, “If not you; then who?” If you do not give, then who is supposed to fund these programs in Southeast Alaska?

• Hewitt is a Juneau resident. She served as president and CEO of the United Way of Southeast Alaska from 2007-2011.

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