Hooray for community giving days

Tammy Day on how rallying a community's collective power pays long-term dividends.

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‘Tis the season of community giving days, and for that, I say, hooray!

If you have spent even a small amount of time on any form of media (social or otherwise) in the past few weeks, you have probably seen or heard about this critical community engagement and development strategy­­.

In my community and in many others across the country, giving days are typically locally driven, 24-hour events designed to educate community members about area nonprofits and encourage financial support for their work. Although that timeframe may be expanding – just this year, Omaha Gives! day became a whole week of giving called Do Good Week, with each day focusing on a unique area of need.

My hometown’s event, the Norfolk Area Big Give, captures the purpose of a giving day perfectly:

“The goal of this community-wide giving event is to match Norfolk area supporters’ passions and generosity with local nonprofit organizations already doing great work. Though community members are aware of the efforts of several nonprofits in the area, there is much work that goes unnoticed.”

At any given time, communities have numerous volunteer and service needs, but they often don’t have the capacity to communicate those effectively to community members. And it can also be overwhelming for members to learn about the many organizations and their various needs and then figure out how to connect to volunteer or service opportunities.

A community-wide giving day strategically informs, educates, and connects people to give-back opportunities by showcasing the various programs, needs, and opportunities of local nonprofits. Community-wide giving days create connections between people and community organizations and help them find meaningful ways to engage in change.

This is important. As Dr. Helene D. Gayle, president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, so eloquently reminds us:

“Real, sustainable community change requires the initiative and engagement of community members.” 

If we want our communities to continue to be places where people want to live, work, and raise their families, we must harness the initiative and engagement of everyday community members. Engaging a broader and more diverse group of people in community life and giving back creates greater participation, belonging, and ownership – all critical pieces of creating the real, sustainable change Gayle references and that we all want.

A brighter shared life on this planet will require everyone to share their gifts. And community giving days are an excellent way to do just that.

With all their fanfare, camaraderie, and momentum, giving days foster the spirit of generosity and attitude of engagement that this sustainable community change requires. These events create a festive and supportive atmosphere that allows community members to easily engage with local organizations and launch a habit of giving and service.

Giving days help people, some for the first time, find meaningful and accessible ways to get connected to their communities. This year the Norfolk Area Big Give raised more than $185,000, an impressive amount for my community. But even more amazing is that those dollars were raised from more than 1,200 separate donations or about $15 per donation.

To move the needle toward real, sustainable change, we must provide opportunities for community members to get involved easily and see that giving back and community engagement are essential components of a brighter future.

Cultivating engagement that creates real, sustainable change takes time. It develops through persistence, patience, and focused efforts, like community giving days, to connect more people to the places and issues they care about. And each person, community, and organization must determine what types of activities and events make sense based on their unique context and culture. But no matter the approach, community giving days are a powerful piece of the concerted effort to foster this giving spirit.

So, hooray for giving days!

Tammy Day is a business owner and an active community philanthropist. Her work focuses on innovative approaches to positive community change, such as Daycos4good, the Youth Philanthropy Contest, and the Philanthropy Council of Northeast Nebraska. 

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