Among holiday traditions growing up, each December my mom would gather all the solicitations she had received from the previous 11 months from various nonprofits, from the mega-national organizations like the Red Cross to the local nonprofits that were staffed by volunteers and run out of some board member's kitchen. She would pile all the mailings and solicitations from one organization into a single pile (this was before email, so it was a lot easier to really visualize how much "spam" had been sent each year). I don't remember the exact cut-off number, but if a single organization had sent more than, say, seven pieces of mail asking for a donation, my mom would eliminate that one, rationalizing they were spending too much money on administrative and marketing and not enough on staff and programming. It wasn't an exact science, but the lesson stuck with me: First, give! Every year, give! And second, figure out a system to determine who you should support.
I've developed my own system, but giving time and money to a nonprofit is as routine each year as turkey and cranberry at Thanksgiving—not surprising, because a recent study showed that 52 percent of adults whose parents supported nonprofits also do so themselves, compared to 24 percent of adults whose parents rarely or never gave.
This is encouraging—both for present giving rates in Oregon, and also for future generations. Nationwide, Oregonians give more generously and volunteer more than most in the country. Last year's "Giving in Oregon" report, published by the Oregon Community Foundation, looked at giving rates and trends, and also added an interesting dimension: Based on a 2013 Oregon Values and Belief report, they also were able to provide insights into what motivates Oregonians to give.
A few key findings were that the number individuals giving each year has increased in Oregon since 2010, during a time that giving nationally was decreasing. Moreover, this is not just giving by the wealthy or the financially comfortable, but all income levels in Oregon make donations at higher rates than most in other parts of the country. In particular, Oregon outranks its neighbors in terms of giving as a percentage of income—17th in the country, compared to California (25th) and Washington (38th).
Volunteer rates are even more impressive, with 36 percent of Oregonians—one out of three—giving time to a charitable organization, compared to a 27 percent—one out of four—the national average. These numbers have climbed steadily over the past decade, up by 13 percent since 2002 and, more impressive with 43 percent of 35-44 year olds volunteering time to at least one nonprofit.
Finally, underscoring this culture of giving in Oregon are the reasons people give: The most popular answers were also the most altruistic, "to help others less fortunate" and "to make the world a better place," and the least popular also the stingiest, with only 5 percent motivated by tax breaks and 2 percent saying they want to "be thought of as a generous person."
We sincerely hope that our annual Give Guide—bigger than ever—helps continue these positive trends, and either motivates you to give, or helps you choose where to give.
It is our ice bucket challenge to you! The entire middle section of this week's newspaper is filled with information about local nonprofits, and you can find more information and ways to give at our website. Thanks will be in the giving.