March 20 Questions: A Rich Life of Giving

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY BUSINESS DPAO founder recalls service to community and lasting impacts

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People’s Will Propels Nonprofits

Rande Richardson

Nonprofit organizations across the north country provide services and enhancements to our quality of life that government can’t, won’t or shouldn’t provide or for-profit entities can’t offer without losing money. There are additional various constraints on nonprofits that create challenges to what we desire to have them reliably do to build strong communities for us all.

     That is why nonprofit organizations must raise funds, plain and simple. When communities believe an organization’s work and mission is important and valuable, they respond positively. Most of our area nonprofits successfully exist because the will of the people had demanded it and inspired a type of sacrifice that ensures that their ability to continue to make a difference is maintained.             

     For nearly half of my life I have been fortunate to help raise funds for causes I believe in. The region is blessed with many who have done the same for various projects, initiatives, programs and organizations. Anyone who has asked someone for money knows that the emotions range from elation and joy to terror, rejection and defeat. I often look for shining examples of citizen philanthropy to motivate and sustain me. There is one I keep going back to that deeply touches me each time I see it.

     A few years ago, CBS News told the story of young Myles Eckert. Nine-year-old Myles found a $20 bill in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Maumee, Ohio. While his first thought was to buy a video game with his surprise find, he quickly changed his mind.

     Myles’ father, Army Sgt. Andy Eckert, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq just five weeks after Myles was born. So, when he spotted a uniformed Lt. Col Frank Daily in that restaurant that day, he was reminded of the father he never knew. Something within him compelled Myles to forgo the video game to give a gift that was greater than himself and so much more than $20.

                Myles wrapped the $20 with a note that read: “Dear Soldier, my Dad was a soldier. He’s in heaven now. I found this $20 in the parking lot when we got here. We like to pay it forward in my family. It’s your lucky day! Thank you for your service,” signed, Myles Eckert, a Gold Star Kid. Not only did that gift forever affect Lt. Col. Daily, as the story became known, others were motivated to do the same. Individuals, organizations and businesses came forward, wanting to be part of the example Myles set. As requested by the Eckert family, gifts were directed toward Snowball Express, a nonprofit initiative providing support to children who have lost a parent during military service.

                On the way home from Cracker Barrel that day, Myles asked his Mom if he could visit his Dad. The image of Myles, and his footprints in the snowy cemetery, hugging his father’s gravestone with an American flag in the foreground, is one that is permanently etched in my mind. I am continually grateful that he showed us how a gift of kindness can not only help others but can inspire many more to do the same. In so doing, we are also reminded to keep our hearts and minds open to supporting each other and the organizations that help ensure the same spirit is perpetuated. Myles gave a gift much larger than $20. He showed us how it’s done.

                The Community Foundation feels strongly that part of its mission is to introduce concepts of civic responsibility, not as a mandate, but as part of the joy of a fulfilling life. In addition to its Youth Philanthropy program, which targets high school students, there are plans underway to explore engaging elementary and middle school students in similar ways. It will help nurture the kind of thinking that has helped make our region great. It will help sustain the nonprofit organizations as reliable providers of useful community programs and services. It will determine what type of community we have, and what values and traditions we uphold. As we all look inward and consider, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” Myles very clearly helped answer that question.

RANDE RICHARDSON is executive director of the Northern New York Community Foundation. He is a lifelong Northern New York resident and former funeral director. Contact him at rande@nnycf.org. 

Thank you, volunteers, for all you do

HOLLY BONAME n NNY BUSINESS In Jefferson County this year's recipients of the Macsherry Family Community Spirit Awards are Tops Family Markets and Heather White, left, With Richard Macsherry.

HOLLY BONAME n NNY BUSINESS
In Jefferson County this year’s recipients of the Macsherry Family Community Spirit Awards are Tops Family Markets and Heather White, left, With Richard Macsherry.

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Consider a proactive grant strategy

Leonard_Diane_HWYou may be asking, “What is proactive grant seeking?” Isn’t the act of submitting an application for grant funding proactive rather than merely sitting back and waiting for foundations to find you and make grants? True.

That is an initial way to look at being proactive in your grant-seeking efforts.

For the sake of this column, proactive grant-seeking is the act of writing a proposal — or at least a proposal outline — before you identify a funding source or even a request for proposal or application. I can hear the questions now: “Why write a proposal if you aren’t sure there will even be a funding source to submit the proposal to?” [Read more…]

Now is best time to plan for future

What if someone said to you, “Here’s $20,000 of someone else’s money. Give it away and do it well.” Sounds like fun, right? Certainly giving away money can be fun, but such a privilege can also be a burdensome responsibility balancing unlimited needs with limited resources. [Read more…]

Hyde-Stone Mechanical Contractors establishes charitable foundation

Hyde-Stone Mechanical Contractors owner Jay F. Stone, left, his wife, Dawn, and their two sons, Christopher and Thom, who all are leaders in the company. Photo courtesy of the Northern New York Community Foundation.

With a $100,000 gift, Hyde-Stone Mechanical Contractors has established the first corporate charitable foundation within the Northern New York Community Foundation.

Hyde-Stone, which has offices in Watertown, Potsdam and Plattsburgh, has shifted from awarding grants through the company to using a more formalized, nonprofit structure that will help fund projects and programs in Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence and Clinton counties. [Read more…]

Sieze the chance for a full glass

Enacted in 1917, the charitable deduction was one of the first tax deductions allowed under law, advanced largely to counter higher taxes imposed during World War I and to encourage private support of charitable efforts at home. When talk of establishing a standard deduction arose during World War II, there was concern among nonprofits, including churches, that it would adversely affect donations. A similar scenario occurred during tax reform legislation in the 1980s. During the months and weeks leading up to the recent “fiscal cliff” discussions, there was much conversation and hand-wringing among nonprofit advocacy groups regarding a potential end to the charitable deduction. [Read more…]

Collective ownership a positive force

Marvel’s “The Avengers” has launched the summer movie season with a superhero bang. Yes, it is fantasy, however, embedded in the plot is a real message that anyone can cheer for. Behind the visual effects, are forces for good working together to overcome challenges they could never handle alone. Although their individual approaches and tools are different, the team’s ultimate objective is a shared one. It isn’t until the “a-ha” teamwork moment occurs that the movie really gets good.

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Charting a course for the future of nonprofits

New York State leads the nation in nonprofit activity. In 2011, New York nonprofits generated more than $200 billion in revenue and in the previous year employed roughly 18 percent, or 1.2 million paid workers, of New York’s non-governmental work force.

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Partnerships will drive future success

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, the “newspaper of the nonprofit world” recently published its Outlook 2012 edition. Collaboration remains a consistent theme. Strategic partnerships of all types will be critical moving forward.

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