Last year at about this time, I was thrilled that our United Way decided to take on the leadership role for Sacramento’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) coalition at the request of Community Link, which ran it for its first decade.
VITA is an amazing program that saves thousands of local low-income families lots of money by offering free filing by IRS-certified volunteers, and also helps them claim (collectively) millions of dollars through the state and federal Earned Income Tax Credits. Households who file through VITA get average refunds of more than $2,000, and some get as much as $6,000. My job is to help people build financial stability, and that money goes a long way toward that end.
Sounds great, right? And it is. But while I was thrilled, I was also a bit daunted to say the least. VITA is a very complex endeavor and I knew we needed to bring in the right expertise. While I was immediately thinking about the fundraising I’d need to do, I got an invitation to last year’s tax season wrap-up and debrief at our local IRS office. It was there that Diana Clay introduced herself to me.
During this season of Thanksgiving, we have a lot to be thankful for! Children at risk of falling behind in school are reading at grade-level. Low income families are becoming more financial stable. Hungry children in afterschool programs in low income communities are being fed. We could not do this work without the support of donors and volunteers like you.
We are especially thankful for those we are honoring this year for outstanding service and support of our United Way.
For 25 years I have worked in the nonprofit community. During that time, I have seen many changes in how people give to support their favorite causes. When United Way was started in the late 1800s, it was a way for people to contribute to a community chest to help their neighbors. Through direct mail, online giving and now crowdfunding, people have more choices than ever when it comes to how they give to the charities they want to support. So, I am not surprised that people are wondering why give to United Way when I can give directly to my favorite charitable organization?
There a many reasons why giving to United Way is THE best way to help those in need.
When you give to United Way, you are helping to improve literacy rates for children at risk of dropping out of school, providing a safety net for foster youth who have no other resources, and you are helping to provide healthy, nutritious meals to children who often do not have enough to eat.
United Way connects donors to nonprofit organizations that would have a tough time doing it on their own. Most charitable organizations have under $100,000 in assets which means that they don’t have marketing budgets or even fundraising budgets. United Way provides them with a way to get in front of people to tell their story.
United Way makes it easy for donors to support local nonprofits. We ensure that those organizations are fiscally sound so that donors don’t have to and we enable donors to give small amounts over time that make a BIG impact in the community.
We help companies that want to give back to the community by matching them with nonprofits. Our annual Day of Caring is one example of how we help business leaders and their employees support their local communities. This year, more than 116 companies and groups participated in the day contributing more than 4,206 volunteer hours!
Unless you’ve been reading this blog with your eyes closed lately, you likely already know about the outstanding work the Young Leader’s Society (YLS) has done to raise more than $25,000 to support United Way’s Hydration Station Initiative in the Robla School District. What you may not know is that in order to support the use of the hydration stations, United Way has teamed up with the Health Education Council to ask Robla students and their families to Rethink Your Drink.
Hard-working volunteers rarely see themselves as heroes or anything more than someone trying to make a small difference in their community. It came as no surprise that when I sat down with United Way’s Retiree Giving Club volunteer, Roger Stoughton, and used the word “hero,” he balked at the idea. However, as our conversation unfolded and I learned about all that Roger and his wife Carol have contributed over the last 30 years, both in time and financially, it’s clear that the Stoughtons are true examples of community heroes.
Roger worked for the State of California for more than 30 years. He was always active in the state’s giving campaign, designating some of his donations to his church, St. Mark’s Methodist Church in Sacramento and United Way. When I asked him why United Way, he explained that United Way covers a lot of organizations that make an impact in the community. As a long-time resident of Carmichael, it’s important to Roger and Carol that money stays local and supports the region where they live and have raised a family.
I had the pleasure of attending the HEAL Collaborative Promising Practices Exchange 2015. More than 100 agencies came together at the beautiful Falls Event Center in Elk Grove to discuss promising practices and celebrate the work surrounding health policies, programs, and services within low-income and high-need communities.
My mother did a great job raising me in the vast majority of ways, but one area in which her parental advising turned out to be not so helpful was regarding finances.
One week into my first post-college job, my old Toyota Corolla gave up the ghost while I was driving home from work. With 500 miles between me and my parents, and with most of my close friends having moved away for other opportunities, I had to brave the car dealership on my own.
“Just tell them you’re not going to pay more than $150 per month!” was my mom’s sole piece of advice.
I have to admit, on my way to my volunteer activity for Young Leaders Society I was tired and almost cancelled at the last minute. My email inbox was full and I was behind on some projects. It would have been so easy to cancel. But then I reminded myself that would the easy way out and that I’ve never gone to a volunteer event that I’ve regretted. I always walk away with a sense of fulfillment and pride; a feeling that I helped make my community a better place. So I got out of the car and went to the Grant High Geo Garden with a (forced) smile on my face.
I can remember the thrill of swinging high in the air on the swing set at my local park when I was a kid. My friends and I would try to see who could swing the highest, then jump off the swing mid-air to see who could jump the furthest. It was freeing, it was exhilarating and let’s face it, it was FUN.
I can remember the fear, the good kind of fear, which would present itself the first time I did a flip on the uneven bars on the playground and how fun it was once I finally overcame my fears.