By Maddy Metzger-Utt
Thanksgiving and the coming holiday season have always been a time for me to reflect about the importance of my family, friends, my job and my community. At the Greater Everett Community Foundation, I am fortunate to work with caring and philanthropic individuals, families and organizations, who are dedicated to supporting others.
Our goal as a Community Foundation is to partner with donors and organizations to strengthen communities throughout Snohomish County through our grant making to non-profit organizations.
We are all touched by the work of our nonprofits, who provide programs and services that benefit schools, seniors, mental health programs, child care, legal services, hospitals, to name a few. As government programs continue to be cut, nonprofits often fill the gaps.
There are currently more than 500 nonprofit organizations in Snohomish County, with the majority of them staffed by all volunteers or part-time employees. More than half of all nonprofits in our county have an annual budget of less than $100,000, and only 18 percent have an annual budget of $500,000 or more.
Nonprofits not only provide much needed services, they also provide jobs. About nine percent of all wages and salaries in the United States are from nonprofits. My guess is that everyone knows someone employed by a local nonprofit or a volunteer who provides invaluable support. It is these individuals, who give their time, talents and resources, who make me so thankful and proud to live in this community.
Last week one of our staff was visiting a local Family Support Center, Familias Unidas. A group of young women had just finished a class at the center, but two had stayed after to sweep, vacuum and tidy up the facility. They are participants in the program but chose to give what they can, and right then they could give a few hours of their time to help others at the center.
This fall, one of our foundation’s grant committees chose to give Interfaith family shelter a “surprise” grant to buy warm coats for kids at their facility. No grant application was required. No interviews, processing or questions, just a desire to help. At least once a month, we hear about these kinds of gifts from other donors. Sometimes they come anonymously, but they come at the perfect time.
I am always moved by our community’s generosity and willingness to make things happen. Our community overflows with these types of stories.
Since Greater Everett Community Foundation began in 2001, families, individuals, business and nonprofit organizations have started more than 100 charitable funds with us. Together, we have awarded more than $6 million in grants to nonprofits throughout Snohomish County.
When you add that to the amazing generosity of all the people who give through the United Way Campaign, local private foundations like EverTrust, Nysether Family Foundation and Hazel Miller Foundation, and, of course, our generous corporate givers, Snohomish County has much to be thankful for.
Community Foundation funds support all sectors of the community, including arts and culture, education, environment, health and wellness, and human services. Grants are awarded to every imaginable area, from homeless shelters and local arts organizations to tree-planting projects and writing programs in schools.
The Community Foundation is unique because the funds are invested as endowments. Each year, the earnings are used for grantmaking. Because all of our funds are pooled together and then invested, donors get a better rate of return than they could individually. Over time, the funds grow larger even while giving out grants. This formula ensures that funds will remain in our community forever.
Because we live where we give, we are able to help donors invest in issues that are most critical to our residents. When we make a grant, it helps people you know, not individuals you are just hearing or reading about for the first time.
Perhaps most important of all, the Greater Everett Community Foundation is the link between donors and nonprofits. We understand the charitable dreams of our donors, and we work closely with the nonprofit sector to learn what Snohomish County needs most to thrive.
The nonprofit community needs your support now more than ever. Government funding for needed services is being reduced or cut all together yet the number of people who need these services continues to increase. We all have different things that are important to us, so I just encourage you to do whatever you can to support those causes and organizations that you believe in most.
If you want to help but don’t know how, you can refer to the annual Ways to Give section online that the Herald published on Nov. 8 , www.heraldnet.com/waystogive2012, or you can go to the United Way of Snohomish County website www.uwsc.org, or you can call us at 425-212-4056.
So much of what we hear and read about these days is negative and divisive, yet our nonprofit community has the great fortune to work with thousands of kind, generous, caring people on a daily basis. These are the people who give me hope and optimism for our future. And I, for one, just want to say “thank you” to all of you who help make our community a better place to live and work.
Maddy Metzger-Utt is president of the Greater Everett Community Foundation.