Less childcare for low-income families. Less preservation of local history. Less food for people in need. Less affordable entertainment. Less to offer tourists. Less help for people with barriers to employment. Less available housing for our neighbors living with homelessness. Less downtown activity. Less beautification. Less mentorship. Less art. Less literacy. Less feeding.
When I visualize an Abilene without a thriving nonprofit sector, the single word that comes to mind is less. Less of the good that makes our community great.
The list above provides a glimpse of the vast impact that nonprofit organizations have on our community, and there are also some immediate benefits to us as young professionals when we support these charitable causes.
While I could easily provide a litany of reasons we should all be engaged with local nonprofits, for the sake of brevity I’ll provide just five.
1. Be directly involved in community enhancement
Time is currency, and you and I have only so much of it. Outside of our jobs and personal lives, we could never have enough time or energy to enhance every facet of our community on our own.
This is what makes our nonprofits so vital. They’re working full-time to improve quality of life in Abilene.
Still, we all know the old adage that it takes two to boot-scoot (Or, is it tango?). The nonprofits can’t fulfill their missions without support from donors and volunteers.
And it doesn’t have to take much of our time or money to be part of the impact.
Whether it’s serving on a nonprofit board, spending a few hours a month volunteering, or contributing $20 a month to the causes we care about, we can make an immediate difference just by getting involved.
2. Enable improvements without the use of taxpayer dollars
Much of the work our nonprofits do is privately funded.
Local foundations and individual donors provide a big chunk of the capital required to enable charities to serve their constituents and make our community a better place to live.
The more you and I invest in local causes, the less need there is for bureaucratic intervention to fill the gaps, allowing our local government to use tax dollars on other priorities.
3. Diversify your resume
Didn’t get a degree in marketing or finance but want to learn some of those skills?
Serving on a nonprofit board or committee is an excellent way to both gain new experience and utilize your existing expertise to serve a charitable cause.
Nonprofits often rely on their board of directors to serve on committees that help with areas like fundraising, marketing, budget oversight and event organizing.
PERSONAL OPINION ALERT:
While resume building is a perk of serving on a nonprofit board, it should not be your sole reason. Whether a nonprofit leader voices it or not, board members are typically expected to give financially according to their means and/or help with fundraising. If you’re not sure what board member expectations are, have a candid conversation with the organization’s executive director or the board chair.
4. Support tourism and entertainment
Wait, the for-profit business sector should be responsible for providing fun activities and tourist attractions, right? Not solely.
In fact, we have a healthy swath of nonprofits to thank for leading the charge in providing entertainment and attracting tourists each year.
Allow me to list some of the nonprofits that double as key tourist attractions for our community:
The Abilene Zoo
The Grace Museum
National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature
Center for Contemporary Arts
Makes you want to do a little humble bragging about what Abilene’s nonprofit sector has to offer, am I right?
5. Enjoy networking and social events
When you think about networking opportunities and fun social gatherings, getting involved with a nonprofit might not be top of mind. If not, here are some reasons to reconsider.
Networking – The people who are actively engaged in supporting nonprofits are typically doers and are often well connected. Because of that, some of my best business relationships have been formed via people I met while serving on nonprofit boards or by attending nonprofit events.
Social events – Nonprofits know how to party! Don’t believe me? I won’t mention any by name, but I can easily think of a few nonprofit events that are some of the most sought-after (and quite entertaining) evening affairs of the year.
Because charitable organizations are in a world dependent upon donor support, most nonprofits offer social gatherings as fundraisers and exclusive events to thank their supporters.
Our nonprofit organizations make our community a better place to live, and they’re only as strong as the support they receive from people like us. It’s time to get involved.
We started with a list of what Abilene would have less of without a thriving nonprofit sector. Now, let’s turn the less into more of what Abilene can offer when we partner with these organizations to help them carry out their mission.
More childcare for low-income families. More preservation of local history.
More food for people in need. More affordable entertainment. More to offer tourists. More help for people with barriers to employment. More available housing for our neighbors living with homelessness. More downtown activity. More beautification. More mentorship. More art. More literacy. More feeding.
Now, that’s a list I can get used to.