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How Local Nonprofits Can Engage a Global Community of Donors

June 03, 2016

News_globe_human_chain_PhilanTopic"Think globally, act locally." It's more than just a catchy slogan; it's a phrase that captures a way of being that a lot of folks take to heart. For many people, acting locally entails giving back to organizations that support the communities in which they live, largely in the form of monetary donations. And it's a practice that appears to be growing in popularity: the Giving USA Foundation recently reported a slight dip in giving for international development and suggested that it might have something to do with the fact that donors are focusing more on causes closer to home.

What's more, giving locally is particularly common among those who donate significant sums of money. According to a recent study by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy of gifts of at least $1 million, only 33 percent of the total dollar value of those gifts was captured by organizations outside the donor's home region.

While it's wonderful to see so many people giving generously within their own communities, it is even more remarkable to see donors from around the globe deciding to contribute large gifts to organizations with a specifically local focus. One example is the Naples Children & Education Foundation (NCEF), which focuses its charitable efforts on the community of Collier County, Florida, yet garners substantial support from donors around the country and the globe. This is largely due to its connection with the Naples Winter Wine Festival, the organization's main fundraising event, as it attracts international donors by offering unique travel and dining experiences in addition to raising funds for NCEF. This past year alone, more than 40 percent of the total amount raised for NCEF came from donors outside Collier County.

In addition to hosting the event, NCEF does a masterful job of communicating its impact to potential donors who attend the Naples Winter Wine Festival. Donors learn how NCEF's grants address critical needs among low-income children in the county and help to improve the quality of services that support their physical, mental, and social well-being, as well as their year-round education.

An important way the foundation does this is by bringing nonprofits together with public agencies and private organizations to eliminate duplication in the delivery of those much-needed services. NCEF's work with the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, for example, helps our local sports camps function as supplemental programming for other organizations that receive NCEF grants. As a result, thousands of local children enjoy recreational activities that are made richer by the collaborative effort behind them.

At the same time, NCEF's impact goes beyond the grants it awards and the partnerships it facilitates: we're also seeing that its influence has contributed to an improvement in services beyond those organizations that receive funding from it. While the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation receives direct funding for our sports programming for children from low-income families, we're noticing that these same kids also benefit from NCEF's efforts to boost awareness about gaps in basic social services for children in need. Ten years ago, there were no pediatric dental providers in Collier County that would accept Medicaid, but today, because of the attention NCEF has focused on the issue of children in need of dental care, many more providers in the county are accepting Medicaid — and our kids are healthier for it. This ripple effect is driven by, among other things, NCEF's diligent efforts to identify service gaps in the county. It then directs its support to groups able to address those needs and, in so doing, provides them with a solid foundation on which to thrive.

Steve_salem_for_PhilanTopicWhile many organizations are able to thrive with the support of their local communities, NCEF maximizes its impact by attracting large donations from generous individuals all over the world. Admittedly, it may be an anomaly among local organizations, given its ability to entice global interest in large part via the Naples Winter Wine Festival; still, it represents an interesting divergence from the current trend of giving locally and the advantages of being able to demonstrate multifaceted effectiveness. This setup is a win-win for both the donors and the beneficiaries of their donations.

Steve Salem is the president of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation.

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