Columns Opinion — 13 January 2014
When too much is not enough

By John Porter (File Photo)

Like most Alexandrians in recent weeks, you likely didn’t have to wish for more donation requests from nonprofit organizations, having received more than enough. ACT for Alexandria certainly accounted for its fair share of these mailings.

The frustration associated with the deluge of requests by nonprofits at the end of the year is understandable, but the fact is that too many needy families in our community have suffered more than enough, too.

Most charities rely heavily on donations from caring individuals like you at a time when you’re more likely thinking about the importance of helping others in need. Jessica Levinsohn of the New York Post reports that 30 percent of annual charitable donations to nonprofit organizations are made in December, thus emphasizing the importance of year-end fundraising campaigns for the nonprofit community.

Just a few weeks’ worth of donations allows Alexandria nonprofits to provide crucial community-based services throughout the year. From providing needed health services for the uninsured through Alexandria Neighborhood Health Services to offering training and business development skills through Empowered Women International, Alexandria nonprofits wouldn’t exist without the year-end contributions of caring members of the community.

Of course, hunger, homelessness and health needs exist year-round. So, how to spread that spirit of giving throughout the year? It’s an increasingly tough issue as nonprofits continue to be asked to do more as government funding sources evaporate and the need for support from local residents continues ticking upward.

Many communities have the benefit of large corporations with charitable interests. Alexandria doesn’t.

So our nonprofits must rely more heavily on generous donors — at all levels — to survive, thrive and support those in need.

In many ways, Alexandrians are up to the challenge. We are fortunate to live in a community with a strong tradition of giving. In fact, Alexandria has ranked as one of the top two communities nationwide the past three years in online giving — quite a feat, considering we are compared to some much larger cities.

It’s that commitment to aiding the most vulnerable among us that spurred one Alexandria family to help launch ACT for Alexandria, our community foundation, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. From laying the foundation for the Center for Alexandria’s Children to annually providing capacity grants to help nonprofits do their important work, ACT has been an important link in our community.

As the new year begins, we reflect on changes or improvements we want to make in our lives. We make resolutions to be and do better. Many of us also commit to making a sustained difference in the lives of others. To be frank, we also know that most resolutions are not kept.

Let us resolve to make this year different — personally and for others. The organizations you chose to support last year are in a stronger position to help our neighbors in need. You may never fully understand the difference you made, but be assured it is meaningful. So, the next time you think multiple appeals from local nonprofits are too much, stop and ask yourself: Am I doing enough?

The writer is the executive director of ACT for Alexandria.

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