I can’t say I identify with the story or plight of every one of the dozens of humanitarians we highlight in this issue of 425 Business, but I can say I empathize with a majority of them.
Based on a strong desire to help a specific demographic — in my case it was a down-on-its-luck community and its youth — I started a nonprofit organization 10 years ago. My group held a public forum to help refine our direction, formed a 501(c)(3), hired contract workers to assist us, and grew into a viable organization that gained international recognition.
Our charge was powered by volunteers, which eventually is what doomed us. Volunteers are oftentimes tough to come by; good volunteers are even rarer. During the exciting, high-profile times, we had more than we needed. Most times — the countless nights we spent planning those high-profile events and just taking care of boring business — we didn’t have enough. Earlier this year, our board of directors voted to close shop for various reasons. It wasn’t an easy decision, and I’ve yet to fill the personal philanthropic void it left.
Our decision was difficult, tear-inducing, and one I hope the groups we highlight in the following pages never have to face. It would be a shame if Renton’s Birthday Dreams had to stop throwing free parties for our area’s homeless children, or if Hopelink, Vision House, Way Back Inn, Heroes for the Homeless, or Bellevue LifeSpring had to quit serving the same general demographic. Life without the Boys & Girls Clubs would mean 11,000 Eastside kids would no longer have that inspirational place to simply be. That life doesn’t sound like a good one.
And even though the economy has improved in recent years, charitable giving hasn’t necessarily followed suit. “Charitable dollars are tough to come by,” says Debra Holland, a nonprofit specialist for Pacific Continental Bank. She is right: The average American gives about 3 percent of his or her income to charity. On the Eastside in 2012, the average was 2.27 percent. We dive further into those numbers, beginning on page 50.
We’re hoping the stories we share in this, our Giving Back issue, inspire you to contribute in some way — either financially or by volunteering your skills — and help keep the doors open for those we profile and other charities. On page 52, there’s a list of 20 of our favorites to help get you started.
In the spirit of humanity and the holidays, I encourage you to take a peek inside this issue, and inside yourselves, to see if there isn’t something that inspires you to give. I’m not talking about necessarily starting a charity like I did, but perhaps just helping a bit so one that already exists can carry on.