Make it Count | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Make it Count

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Nonprofit organizations rely on donations from individuals and businesses to fund programs and services for those in need, and on volunteers. Without volunteers, entire operations would shut down because of employee shortages.

"If all our volunteers just decided not to show up one day, it would pretty much cripple us," says Stacey Howard, director of business administration at Stewpot Community Center in Jackson. "It's a very volunteer-run organization."

Stewpot is different from other community organizations because it not only serves the community but encourages hands-on giving. "Aside from just providing services to people who need it, we also provide a place for people to help provide services for people. We encourage people to get involved in whatever area it is that touches them," Howard says.

Mi Isha Lowe, director of youth programs and volunteer services at United Way, suggests donors know who exactly is getting their contributions before giving. "I think one way donors can grasp where their money is going is to visit the funded organizations so that they can actually get a visual of where their money is going and how their money is helping the community," she says.

Lowe also suggests that donors join a committee that oversees how funds are allocated. The United Way has a specific program that allows people in the community to determine how much funding certain organizations need.

"Our Donor Investment Committee, which is a group of adults 25 and older, reviews grants submitted by non-profits to help with funding for their programs," Lowe says.

By investing our time and money, we are investing in our community. Giving doesn't have to mean just emptying our wallets. Make sure that every donation, be it time or money, counts.

10 Ways To Maximize Your Giving

• Put your money where your heart is. Speak to the organization to which you are donating about the various services it offers and determine which ones interest you most. Most organizations will let you decide how your donation is to be used.
• Give until it helps, not hurts. Request a financial statement from the organization. Make a donation based on their needs and your financial ability.
• Keep track of your donations. Follow the organization's growth. Ask for a business progress report occasionally.
• Get to know the organization. Know its mission statement, goals and action plan so that you can help further the cause.
• Sponsor a workplace campaign. Set aside time for an organization to visit your office and speak about their cause. After the presentation, your coworkers and employers can decide if they would like for the company to invest in the organization.
• Spare more than a dime. Donate clothing, food or toiletries to people in need.
• Use your voice. Be an advocate for a charity. Encourage community awareness of a cause by speaking about it in a public forum, starting a petition or writing to local authorities.
• Join a committee. Committee members, often volunteers, oversee specific issues and policies of an organization. Joining a committee allows you to play a more active role in giving to the community.
• Know your lingo. "Tax deductible" does not mean "tax exempt." Tax deductible means donors can subtract their donations from their federal income taxes. Tax exempt means a group pays no, reduced or otherwise modified tax rates.
• Give your minutes if not your money. Whether it be or restoring a park or mentoring a child, giving your time is just as helpful as giving your cash.

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