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People Give to Make a Difference

Recently James M. Berberet, executive director of the Highland Community College Foundation, wrote an article in the Journal Standard regarding why people give.

I wrote last year that “giving is part of living.” So let’s continue our discussion about giving.

Why do people give?

An online edition of the Chronicle of Philanthropy recently did a short roundup of headlines about big donations:

— Gates Awards $279 million to U. of Washington to Track Global Health.

— Brewing giant Stella Artois Gives Nearly $5 million over four years to Water.org for programs to improve access to clean water for families in Africa.

— M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust gives $9.7 million to more than 50 organizations, including the Cook Inlet Tribal Council in Alaska, the Idaho State Historical Society, and Blackfoot Challenge in Montana.

While large family and corporate foundations typically receive the biggest headlines, as noted above, it has been my experience with the Highland Community College Foundation and other local and area not-for-profits that the real backbone of support comes from many, many small and medium sized gifts.

Philanthropy echoed this concept when they reported that “Many charities raised at least a third of their gifts from individuals, from people who give loyally and generously — but don’t command the attention of big-gift fundraisers.”

“Small and medium” are relative concepts, however. The HCC Foundation receives many donations of $25, $50 and $100, but also a good number between $500 and $5,000. And some $50,000 and $100,000 donations.

What about those multimillion dollar donations mentioned above? Well, to most people those are excessively large; to others, they’re small. It depends on your perspective and your net worth. It depends also on the cause, the relationship with the charity, your history of giving.

What motivates people to give? Most donors give to an organization they believe in and understand that organization’s mission, and what it has accomplished. Or what it can accomplish with a significant donation.

People give to make a difference. Their donation can provide a “shot in the arm” to a program, a financial spark that ignites a project, inspires the team, or creates necessary change.

On the Highland Community College campus, there are many “signs” of bequests, endowed funds and legacy giving. Just walk around and witness the Leonard and Mildred Ferguson Fine Arts Center, the Larry F. Kahlgymnasium in the YMCA, the Matt Marvin and Marvin Burt Instructional Materials Center, the H.C. Mitchell Library, the Dorothy and R. C. Clock Technology Center, and more recently the Ray and Betty Stamm Health Science Nursing Wing.

 These individuals — these philanthropists — and their families believed in education for residents of northwest Illinois. But while their gifts may be some of the largest, many more individuals and businesses have and will continue to support Highland Community College with smaller gifts, bequests and pledges.

For example, there’s the Donor Wall in the Stamm Nursing Wing which displays more than 217 names of donors — community members, businesses, organizations from all over northwest Illinois and from HCC faculty, administrators and staff. The wall recognizes contributions to the Major Gift Campaign which was initiated in 2008 to build the Nursing Wing and the Wind Turbine Technology Center. Donors have contributed more than $4.4 million to date.

There’s also the anonymous Jo Daviess donor who provided a match of up to $50,000 each year for five years. The Double Play challenge is now in its final year, and has achieved or surpassed its goal each year. Double Play in 2016 had 155 donors.

Donors to the Foundation’s Annual Fund, scholarships of all kinds, Leadership institutes and program-specific causes (Ag, hospitality, fine arts, mass communications, sciences and engineering, and more) totaled more than 425 in 2016. And over 400 folks supported our major fundraising event, Shindig VI (Luau at King’s Island) last year.

Highland Community College, its students and the Foundation sincerely thank them all.

We like to quote our friend Larry Kahland about giving, (though we’re not sure it is an original quote) “Forget about giving until it hurts, give until it feels good.”

To quote a few other folks about giving: St. Francis of Assisi said, “For it is in giving, that we receive.” And Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”

Think about why you give. Do St. Francis and Churchill appeal to you, inspire you, make you want to grab your checkbook?

But maybe former First Lady Barbara Bush appeals to you: “Some people give time, some money, some their skills and connections, some literally give their life’s blood. BUT …; everyone has something to give.”

So to adapt a popular commercial to our theme, “What’s in your giving wallet?”