Philanthropy: Big or small, all make a difference

Individuals make up 70 percent of all giving in the U.S., followed by corporate gifts and foundation gifts

The kindness of people in our community is inspiring and astounding. We hear the names Firstenburg, Kuni, Lematta, Kearney and so many more. Imagine what our community would look like without the generosity of so many people? What would be missing? Who would not have been helped?

Looking at statistics, they tell a rosy story: Giving is up. For the first time in American history, total giving was more than $400 billion. Individuals make up 70 percent of all giving in the U.S., followed by corporate gifts and then foundation gifts. Every category of nonprofits saw an increase in giving; this is just the sixth time in the past 40 years that this has been the case (“See the Numbers.” Giving USA 2018. June 14, 2018,

And let’s not forget volunteering. People spend an average of 52 hours each year volunteering with an organization. With the national value of volunteer time at $24.14, Americans contribute $193 billion of their time to our communities (“The Ultimate List of Online Giving Statistic.” Nonprofit Digital Marketing Agency,

But why?

Meet little Frank. At 1 year old, Frank was a cheerful toddler with feathery blond hair and wide blue eyes who had fun keeping up with his older sisters. Until he couldn’t. He became lethargic and his face became a sickly yellow.

Frank was diagnosed with hemolytic anemia, a rare blood disorder that makes his oxygen-carrying red blood cells self-destruct before their normal lifespan is over. His heart has to work much harder to spread oxygen through his body, leading to exhaustion, loss of appetite and that tell-tale jaundice facial coloring. To his family’s relief, they learned Frank’s condition was manageable thanks to one key ingredient – blood.

Each month, his mom takes him to Legacy Salmon Creek for an oxygen level check-up. When his oxygen invariably registers too low, nurses give him a child-sized bag of red blood cells into his tiny arm. The effect is almost immediate. He eats a ton. His color comes back. He plays. Blood transfusions help bring out his joyful, humorous side.

Volunteers donate the blood and financial supporters ensure that blood is available every day, for everyone. For Frank. For your own family, friends and neighbors.

Blood for Clark and Cowlitz counties is collected and provided by Bloodworks Northwest, Washington’s local blood provider. As a nonprofit community organization they rely on volunteer support and financial donations to save lives right here.

This is just one story, just one why. Our community is touched by many more.

Honoring our local heroes

On Nov. 7, the Association of Fundraising Professionals will come together to celebrate National Philanthropy Day. We honor and thank leaders in our community who are making a difference every day. This year we honor the following individuals, companies or groups:

Connie & Lee Kearney will receive the Lifetime Philanthropic Achievement Award for their outstanding philanthropic leadership in Washington and Oregon. They support Oregon State University, PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver and PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center in Longview, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southwest Washington and the YWCA of Clark County. The Kearneys have given millions of dollars to these organizations and show exemplary personal leadership.

CARES Northwest Volunteers are honored with the Outstanding Volunteer Group Award for providing child and family support during medical evaluations through Cares Northwest, a community-based medical program for the assessment, treatment and prevention of child abuse. Since 2000, volunteers have helped nearly 18,000 children.

#Every28Days is honored with the Outstanding Innovative Project for collecting much-needed feminine hygiene products for women and girls experiencing homelessness and poverty in Clark County. In 2018, 16 pallets of feminine hygiene products were collected during the group’s annual drive and distributed to Share homeless shelters and other nonprofit agencies.

These inspiring individuals and groups make our community a better place to live.

How can you make a difference?

On Sept. 20, the Community Foundation of Southwest Washington hosts GiveMore24!, a 24-hour, online day of giving. More than 150 nonprofits will share the stories of “why.” It’s a day when everyone can take action by giving what they can, wherever they are, at the same time. And more people equal more impact – every gift makes this collective effort even more amazing.

You can be a part of this monumental day by finding a cause that speaks to you, making a gift of $5 or more and letting others know what you are supporting. Together, the goal is to raise more than $1.2 million for local organizations and show that there is power in numbers. Big or small, philanthropy helps our communities thrive. Visit

And if you want to help little Frank make sure that blood is always available, join him here:

Elizabeth Brooke-Willbanks is co-chair of the AFP Philanthropy Awards Committee; volunteer; blood donor; philanthropic contributor; and investment and partnership director for Bloodworks Northwest. She can be contacted at

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