In a world ruled by instant gratification, it gets increasingly frustrating to see challenges in our community that are not easily solved. When we care about people, families and our economy, game-changing results can never occur fast enough.
Homelessness, intergenerational poverty, drug addiction and overcrowded animal shelters are enormously complex issues. Lasting change takes time, the coordinated efforts of many and a willingness to stay the course. It also requires that the communities and people impacted most by challenges are part of creating solutions.
Nonprofit organizations in Manatee County tackle complicated problems every day, and they do it in partnership with government, business partners and citizens who care. Together, there is progress being made. There is a role for everyone.
Consider the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading in Manatee County. From a groundswell of awareness about the number of children who are not reading on grade level by the end of third grade — a key indicator in life success — we have seen financial contributions and volunteerism from countless and diverse sources all aligned around a common goal. We are starting to see movement toward quantifiable results.
In the face of so many opportunities disguised as challenges, there are important ways each of us can help charitable organizations define a bright future for Manatee County.
Invest in what counts
The most important question you can ask before making a charitable contribution is what impact your investment will have on the people being served. The outdated fixation on administrative costs has very little bearing on whether an organization is achieving results. Consider whether you would support a low-performing nonprofit where 100 percent of each gift goes directly to programs, or a high-performing nonprofit where a percentage of each gift is invested back into professional management.
Exceptional staff can implement innovative programs resulting in greater gains for people being served. They can raise more money resulting in additional people being served, and develop more effective messaging, changing behavior and leading to fewer clients who need to be served in the first place. We can help organizations make a bigger difference if we understand that investing in these ways is also important.
Many all-volunteer organizations are effective at achieving results as well, but there is an increasing realization across the board that focused administrative costs can help achieve stability and effectiveness.
Take a leadership role
There is enormous human capital in our county. From retired professionals with lifetimes of experience to millennial leaders with fresh approaches, all are needed and welcome at the table. At Manatee Community Foundation, we frequently hear from nonprofits looking for new board members and committee members. They are seeking various professions, perspectives, ages, experiences and ethnicities that represent our community. We are seeking the same for our board of directors.
Find a mission you are passionate about and connect. Nonprofits are trying to find you. Your leadership will help our community move forward faster.
Focus on the good
The human services that provide important safety nets for vulnerable members of our community require great investments of thought, time and capital. There are no quick or easy answers. Along the way, encouraging the positive steps made by nonprofits and their case workers, program directors and leadership helps to inspire those who work closest to the issues on a daily basis.
A little gratitude goes a long way, and there is a lot of good to share. The encouraging act of recognizing forward movement stimulates greater energy toward common goals. Send an email or a hand-written thank you note to a local nonprofit doing work you feel grateful for. If you see a good story, share it on social media. Be an active motivator. We need them.
There may be no quick fixes, but we can do a little more, a little faster working together.
Susie Bowie is executive director of Manatee Community Foundation, a $36 million organization that works with donors in our community connecting them with charitable needs. To learn more, email SBowie@ManateeCF.org.