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GivingTuesday effort could help community

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As Black Friday bashed its way into Thanksgiving and with Cyber Monday — dedicated to holiday purchases made online – looming just hours away, this weekend finds us trapped in Gift Gorging Overload. We are being inundated with offers to “get more and save more,” but to save you have to spend, which sets up as a pretty good economic tug-of-war.


But earlier this week I learned of an effort launched last year aimed at redirecting some of people’s end-of-year expenditures to benefit nonprofit agencies that are working to improve the lives of those who the holiday season seems to trod upon.


#GivingTuesday “is a movement to create a national day of giving … on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” according to the program’s website (givingtuesday.org). “It celebrates and encourages charitable activities that support nonprofit organizations.”


Lisa Church, executive director of the Bothwell Regional Health Center Foundation, learned about #GivingTuesday last year through a newsletter for nonprofits.


“I thought, ‘Wow, wouldn’t that be something good to talk about in this community?’” she said. “I’m probably prejudiced, but I feel this is an incredibly giving community. When there have been needs, I feel like people have been really good about stepping forward and helping.”


I agree with Church completely, so I set out to see what Sedalia nonprofit leaders thought about trying to launch a #GivingTuesday effort here in 2014, since logistics prohibit a full-force effort this year.


Lori Haney said that “especially at this time of year, I think it is an awesome program.” The executive director of Citizens Against Spouse Abuse added, “The obsession with profit is ruining the spirit of the holiday,” so as a counter to that assault, “#GivingTuesday is hitting a good mark.”


Haney said the initiative’s focus on nonprofits benefits those who are served by CASA, Open Door and other outreach agencies which provide Thanksgiving meals and Christmas gifts for those who would not have them otherwise.


Dave Limbaugh, president of the board of directors for Sedalia Area Habitat for Humanity, said that like many nonprofits, Habitat has “a never-ending need for money,” so an effort such as #GivingTuesday would be of great benefit — so long as local residents supported it.


“It’s the right thing to do, it’s the right way to think,” he said.


#GivingTuesday started out as a project of New York’s 92nd Street Y; the United Nations Foundation was brought on board as a partner to lend some clout. In 2012, the effort had more than 2,500 recognized partners, covering all 50 states. Participants saw marked increases in holiday season donations.


Anastasia Dellaccio, director of special initiatives and outreach for the U.N. Foundation, helped cities such as Philadelphia launch their efforts last year. With that experience, I asked her how best to launch a #GivingTuesday in a city such as Sedalia.


“I feel like it would be that much easier to galvanize your community,” she told me. She suggested starting with six to eight people — representatives from nonprofits, small businesses and local governments, as well as someone with good social media skills — and hold monthly meetings starting as soon as possible to brainstorm ways to get the local community engaged.


“What really is making this successful is the coalition-building — everyone is in it for the same reason, for a good cause,” Dellaccio said, calling #GivingTuesday “a platform for good, to amplify what is already being done.”


I mentioned the great number of nonprofits in our area that face challenges each year getting enough donations to meet the holiday needs of their participants. Dellaccio said while #GivingTuesday doesn’t directly address the needs of individuals, “I feel what we can offer is an asset … use #GivingTuesday as a platform to provide more awareness to what (nonprofits) are doing for those in need. … It can make what they’re doing that much bigger and smarter and build more awareness and make it more efficient.”


But to do that here, it will take some effort. As Limbaugh said: “It’s going to have to be one of the things we start thinking about instead of listening to the news and listening to politics. If we would all start thinking about positive, effective stuff like that, we would all be better off.”


As I said, I agree with Church that Sedalia is a very giving community, and as a Sedalia-Pettis County United Way board member, I have a clear understanding of the level of need here — especially during the holiday season. That’s why I’m prepared to help launch a #GivingTuesday initiative in Sedalia for 2014, so long as local nonprofit, government and business leaders are willing to join the effort.


“If you want something good to happen in your community, it is up to every individual in that community to see to that happens,” Church said. “It’s giving thanks for what you have, and helping other people when they need your help.”

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