United Way makes it easier for large donors to ‘step up’

During my 27-year Navy career, I lived in many communities across the country. Nowhere have I encountered a more consistent philanthropic passion than right here in Snohomish County.

Not only are our wealthiest residents exceedingly generous, the giving spirit seems to be alive and well across the entire income spectrum. Whether donating to a church, a nonprofit, a foundation or to community-wide impact by donating to the local United Way, people throughout our county often stretch themselves to give as much as they can. Very few ask for any recognition or acknowledgement of their giving (except for tax-reporting purposes).

Though recognition is not why people give, it is certainly deserved. Tocqueville Society membership is how the United Way recognizes those who believe in and support the work of the organization and the agencies and initiatives it funds by donating $10,000 or more through United Way’s annual community giving campaign.

Formed in 1984 by United Way of America to honor high-level givers, the Tocqueville Society is named for Alexis de Tocqueville, who toured the United States in the early 19th Century studying American politics and society. He observed that Americans helped each other in times of need. In his two-volume study, “Democracy in America,” he applauded and immortalized the voluntary spirit that lives in America’s heart: “I have seen Americans make great and real sacrifices to public welfare; and have noticed a hundred instances in which they hardly ever failed to lend faithful support to one another.”

Each local United Way has its own Tocqueville Society chapter. One of the best practical benefits available to most local Tocqueville Society members is the Philanthropy Fund — a personal giving fund that centralizes the administration of all one’s charitable giving through one convenient account that the member controls. One fully funds the account and gets the tax deduction up front and can take up to 15 months to make charitable donations using the account’s funds.

I’m writing this because I believe there are many generous people in our county who are already eligible for Tocqueville Society membership and may not realize it. And there are others (like me) who aren’t yet making $10,000 in annual charitable donations, but still want to increase their level of giving and be challenged to do more in the future.

To further encourage and recognize philanthropy, United Way of Snohomish County recently approved the Tocqueville Society “Step-Up” program that grants membership now to those making $6,000 in charitable donations this year who plan to step up to $8,000 next year and $10,000 the year after.

After so many years of being a “wandering sailor,” I’m thrilled to finally call Everett and Snohomish County my home and to apply what talents and resources I have to improving people’s lives in my community. I am also proud to be the newest member of the United Way of Snohomish County’s Tocqueville Society and encourage others to join me.

Capt. Kim Buike, U.S. Navy (Ret.), is the former commander of Naval Station Everett.

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