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The Spirit of Giving

Do you have the spirit? Yeah! Yeah! Do you have the spirit? Yeah! Yeah! Well let me see it in your walk...

One of my favorite cheers in high school was, Do You Have The Spirit. The cheerleaders really knew how to get the crowd excited and engaged in our school's sporting events, and it seemed like the crowd ignited a new fire in the players to strive harder to win if they were trailing behind.

It appears that the Spirit of Giving is more prevalent during the Holiday Season (i.e., Thanksgiving and Christmas) and many nonprofits do a great job raising money during this special time of year. What are their secrets or strategies? Who are their cheerleaders? And, what cheers do they chant to engage donors to give to support their cause(s)?

According to the Making Connections: The Nonprofit Sector in Prince George's County report conducted by the Maryland Association of Nonprofits, "80% of the nonprofit sectors with revenue below $25,000 are in Prince George's County, Maryland, compared to the state-wide average of 63%." How can this be since Prince George's County is known as one of the most affluent counties for African Americans in the Nation? In addition, the report states that the nonprofit sector of Prince George's County is small and under-resourced compared to its neighboring counties (e.g., Anne Arundel, Montgomery, or Howard) and the growth among this sector is not promising.

As an emerging nonprofit organization based in Prince George's County, Maryland, Virtuous Enterprises, Inc. (VEINC) can attest to some of the challenges that can plague the county’s nonprofit sector:

  • Capacity Building - Although well trained, many nonprofits do not have the ‘proper resources’ to implement creative and effective capacity building strategies. Some of the tools and techniques provided during training demonstrates 'what to do', but not 'how to do'.
  • Human/Social Capital - As the old cliché states, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Building a business from scratch without the leverage of ‘human capital' can be a slow process and very few nonprofits have this competitive advantage.
  • Lack of Operational Funds - Many social investors are advised to invest in programs, not operations and many grant makers provide more funding to support programs instead of operations. The nonprofit sector has to be quite creative in raising funds to prevent their programs from losing its home or operating in the dark.
  • Social Cause is Too Small - Programs and services for women with HIV/AIDS or domestic violence, seems to outweigh services and programs for low-income, women-headed families.
VEINC transitioned to a nonprofit organization in 1999 and the organization’s focus changed, when our new cheerleader - The Washington Area Women's Foundation ignited our fire by presenting us with a 2004 Leadership Award for our innovative services and programs for underserved women and girls in the Washington region. VEINC was trailing behind since we thought our services and programs weren't needed, until we evaluated the results of our pilot programs and we are here to stay!

Social Investing is risky and our returns can vary. During this Spirit of Giving season consider investing in social causes that can strengthen the vitality of low-income, women-headed families. When we invest in families, we strengthen our society, because society is a collection of communities, and communities are a collection of families.

The return on your investment will be long-term, however, the results will be quite rewarding.