A recent commentary in Capital Business (“Corporations needs to step up ...” Sept. 29) called on local businesses to step up and take up the slack as two literal giants in local corporate philanthropy, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reorganize. In the wake of the truly unprecedented and likely permanent loss of tens of millions of dollars in annual support of hundreds of nonprofits in our own backyard, there are big shoes and significant deficits to fill.
We couldn’t agree more, and we’re going to raise the stakes.
By now, all of us are all too familiar with the effects of the recession on area nonprofits — unrelenting increases in demand for services unfortunately paired with drastic decreases in revenue from all sources, including corporations. In fact, fully 35 percent of corporations are giving less and some have stopped giving altogether, according to the Center for Nonprofit Advancement’s most recent Snapshot of the Economy’s Impact on Nonprofits in Greater Washington.
We get that businesses are strapped, too. So our “ask” — and the solution — has to be about more than money.
In addition to keeping their charitable contributions at the highest levels possible and to first consider supporting local causes, businesses can commit to support area nonprofits with their other vital assets — like mobilization and innovation.
A prime example is Give to the Max Day: Greater Washington, a massive online-fundraiser-meets-social-media event led by District-based Razoo.com that will be held on Nov. 9. This creative and yes, fun and exciting, initiative is aimed at harnessing the cost efficiencies of online giving and the power of social media to simplify giving, building ongoing connections to causes and organizations, inspiring waves of new donors to get involved and offering participants direct results about the impact of their gifts.
For 24 hours, members of the Greater Washington community, businesses and individuals alike, are being asked to give — contribute to the max — for their favorite cause and spread the word via social media. Online contests with cash awards will foster new levels of connection between donors, bloggers, foundations, nonprofits and companies.
Two similar days, also led by Razoo, recently netted $24 million in donations for 4,000 Minnesota nonprofits.
We challenge local businesses to kick off their brainstorming session on additional and new ways they can come to the aid of the region’s nonprofit community and all those they serve by participating in Give to the Max Day.
And here are a few questions to get the ball rolling. How can you mobilize the assets and expertise of your vendors, suppliers, and business partners in support of local causes? What impact could you have by making a multi-year commitment to a particular local charity? What win-wins could be created by sending employees on donation vacations where they could spend quality time sharing their expertise and skills with a local nonprofit without affecting their leave banks? What might your business do on its own or in partnership with other businesses to put new technologies in the hands of sparsely staffed charities with small budgets and outdated equipment and processes?
The region’s culture of giving and helping others is strong. Businesses can play a key role in creating new holders for that abundance. Who will be the next pioneers of giving?
Terri Lee Freeman is president of The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region and Bill Hanbury is president and chief executive of United Way of the National Capital Area. Both are part of 8 Neighbors, a coalition with the Center for Nonprofit Advancement, Greater Washington Board of Trade, Leadership Greater Washington, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington and the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers.