Where Can We Effect the Most Change?

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Posted July 20, 2020 | By Allison B. Campbell, Director of Strategic Communications, Community Foundation for Ocala/Marion County

Sir Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” The vivid image of living through giving resonates throughout our community, one known for its philanthropy. For generations, families have handed down legacies of giving, and that spirit is alive and well, even today.

The economic challenges experienced around the world this spring hit our community hard. But giving may not change right away as much as some might expect. While local businesses and donors, surveyed by the Community Foundation for Ocala/Marion County, said they had been impacted by the downturn, more than 65 percent said they did not expect a decrease in their giving to meet local needs.

“I always ask myself, where do I want to effect the most change,” offers LuAnne Warren, partner with Brick City Digital Marketing and vice president at USA4Sale Networks. “We, like many others, are reevaluating everything right now.”

More than 85 percent of individuals said they choose the causes they support because of personal passions or specific needs they encounter.

“Our office is on the way to Interfaith (Emergency Services),” Warren explains, “so we see homeless people all the time knocking on our door. We obviously have a desire to help them.”

Thousands of dollars and millions of volunteer hours from individuals and corporate businesses filter to local nonprofits each year.

“Writing company checks is one thing, but we want our team more involved in giving back to our community,” affirms Rusty Branson, CenterState Bank’s community president in Marion County. “It’s the right thing to do.”

While needs and desires to give haven’t changed, what may change is how gifts are given. Roughly 20 percent of individuals surveyed said they probably won’t buy fundraising event tickets, at least for the next few months.

“The future of event-based fundraising is unknown right now,” offers Jaye Baillie, executive director of the Marion Cultural Alliance. “We had to cancel four events this spring that help fund our activities all year long. We are learning new ways to make up those dollars.”

The autumn months in Marion County historically are packed with events and activities, especially on the University of Florida football’s “bye weekend” in October. Now, with nonprofits rescheduling their spring events and the already planned fall calendar, it is possible people are going to make budgeting and scheduling choices they’ve never had to consider before. And events that are scheduled may have attendance limitations due to social distancing requirements.

As nonprofits plan fundraisers, individual ticket purchasers aren’t the only ones to think about. Businesses that sponsor events may be shifting their giving budgets. Branson says they don’t expect to decrease the amount they give this year, but they do plan to reallocate dollars to nonprofits specifically addressing COVID-19 related needs.

Like Branson, most business leaders agreed nonprofit giving in 2020 will hold steady, but nearly 35 percent of businesses surveyed said they expect to decrease their gifts, totaling more than $100,000 not going to nonprofits this year. Even for those who aren’t decreasing their giving this year, next year could be a very different picture. As companies enter their 2021 budget planning and look to where they can give, they just aren’t on the same pace financially as when they budgeted last year. We could be in for some very challenging years in 2021-2022, but the Community Foundation and the nonprofits it supports are holding out hope that won’t be the case.

From specific connections with causes near and dear to one’s heart to relationships with friends and family sharing passions for needs, one thing resonated clearly throughout the surveys—relationships.

“While our college-aged kids have been home at this time, we have seen them giving back,” Warren asserts. “We always encouraged them to be generous, and we can see the fruits of those conversations.” Those links in relationships are the most valuable considerations.

As we get through to the other side of this challenging time, some needs may look different, and some services may be delivered in a new way. It’s important to stay connected to those impacted the most and optimistic that this community and our nonprofits can rebound. We will get through this as a stronger community.

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