New on the Scene for 20-19…

As the ball dropped celebrating another New Year Eve in the books, new and exciting changes have come to our local United Way. As we headed toward the holiday season, we listed a job description to fill our vacant Community Engagement Coordinator Position here in the office. We also worked hard to rank the incoming DeKalb County Nonprofit Partnership interns, one of which would become part of our team this spring semester. To our delight, we were able to hire Jennie Chalmers as Community Engagement Coordinator, a veteran of the work of United Way as a former staff member in the Rock River Valley region. She brings, energy, excitement and strong competencies to our work here, and we are thrilled to have her aboard. After rankings and a round of interviews, we were thrilled to be paired with Sierra Turner who is set to graduate in May and is sure to be an asset to a lucky nonprofit in the market for a dedicated and enthusiastic staff member.

As the clock ticked 12:01 on January 1st, 2019 came to be, our organization began a special year in our history as well – the anniversary marking the start of our 90th YEAR of service in DeKalb County! From our humble beginnings as the DeKalb Community Chest, through our years as DeKalb United Way, and after our merger in 2014 with the Sycamore United Fund when we became Kishwaukee United Way, each chapter has brought new and exciting challenges and changes. We could not be prouder of our legacy of service, the hundreds of thousands of dollars we have invested in local programs, and our commitment to caring for those in our community who need a hand up toward a richer and more stable future.

So, now that we all have survived the Polar Vortex of 2019 (and survived having a teenager home for 6 snow days in a row…) we are on to the many projects and programs that will keep us on out toes this first quarter. Programming for Money Smart Week 2019 ~ DeKalb, Lee & LaSalle is in full swing as we prepare for kids reading programs, engagement in the schools, activities at Kish College & NIU and numerous FREE program session to share tips and tricks around financial wellness. I will head off to Milwaukee in February for a week long professional development conference where I hope to gain best practice tips from my colleagues in the region as we all continue to strive to do what we do better, smarter and more creatively. (I might be sneaking away one evening that week to see Sir Elton John in concert… ♪ Can you feel the love tonight  #bucketlist) March will feature our Annual Meeting reporting on past progress and celebrating successes. Look for a change in format as we plan to highlight specifically our 2-1-1 efforts, and use our meeting as an opportunity to support and grow this valuable resource. Before we know it, annual agency allocation time will be upon us, and our Board members will embark on making critical decisions about funding our partner groups. Preparations will begin, too, for our summer Day of Caring Event in June, cementing relationships with local workplaces and businesses and offering a chance for fun, interactive volunteer service opportunities for all ages.

And so – as is customary as a new year dawns, January is often a time for resolutions. I have come up with a few for Kishwaukee United Way. I resolve to:

  • Engage our new staff and intern in meaningful work that will further our goals and objectives.
  • Work to improve our outreach and engagement around 2-1-1 to continue to get people the help they need.
  • Empower the staff and volunteers I work with to lift up our organization and our mission.
  • Continue to serve others, share information and grow our resources to help folks LIVE UNITED!
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Holiday Hooray!

As we head quickly toward turkey day, it seems the holiday season snuck in a bit early this year as we were graced with the white stuff a bit sooner than we are typically used to. My colleague and I were chatting the other day that we are both fighting the urge to put up our holiday décor. (OK…in all reality I just took down our Halloween decorations – don’t judge…) As the holiday season approaches, it evokes the once-a-season memories that come flooding in once the winds turn cold – family traditions, holiday travel planning and gathering near and far of friends and loved ones. Along for the ride this time of year are thoughts of gift giving amid the making and sharing of holiday wish lists, the proliferation of Black Friday promotions (ugh), and the strategies for selecting, buying and wrapping the treasures of the season. As we are paired with names in our family of who to buy for and what they want this year, I am reminded of the many ‘wish lists’ across our community for those unable to afford gifts of their own for their families. There is the Salvation Army Angel Tree tags you can select to provide items for local children, the Family Service Agency ornaments that provide necessities for local seniors, the Goodfellows gift program and VAC Purse Project giving moms in shelter a purse filled with goodies to brighten their day.

Among these are many other programs and requests from agencies that sustain and foster the holiday spirit for those who want to bring the joy of Christmas to their families this season, but need a bit of a hand up to do so. You know your mailbox will soon be full of letters from local charities, all with a return envelope and a plea to give to a program, service or entity. What do I wish for this season? Take a look at them. Read the messages. Think about what you value in your own life, and what you are able to spare to help someone who may not have the resources you are blessed with. Read about the needs of our community – and respond to one or more if able.

People are often excited to donate a new coat or a toy to give a family. The monetary gift you give may not be as flashy as a toy, coat or a shiny coin in a Christmas kettle. But, you know what? Those gifts will sustain a family that may have not gotten matched with a giving program because their household income is just above the threshold to receive help. Those gifts will help sustain a local agency or program past the rush of holiday generosity, in the months afterward, where donations are not flowing is as they do during the giving season. Most importantly, those gifts will make a lasting difference. They will change lives – quietly, consistently, and in a most meaningful way. I ask, too, that at this time of year to think about giving to Kishwaukee United Way. Will your gift to United Way help one specific family this season – no, not immediately. But I can promise you that it will help sustain the legacy of our work that is nearly 90 years in the making – supporting agency, program, resource and referral, advocacy and sharing resources to support financial stability for families. It will fund programs and services for children, youth and seniors well past the season – doing real good and making positive changes in our community. To make a gift, call 815.756.7522, or drop a contribution in the mail to Kishwaukee United Way, PO Box 311, DeKalb, IL 60115.  The happiest of the holiday season to you all!

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A TASTE of Hope & Help

As the winds get colder and the trees transition to their fall splendor, our thoughts often turn to fall celebrations.  Families are off to the pumpkin patch to pick out a winner for the Pumpkinfest display, we break out our fuzzy blankets and cuddle up for movie nights and reading time. Thoughts turn to Thanksgiving planning, as menus are set and families get ready to travel to see loved ones, and eat their annual slice of pumpkin pie. (I like my whipped cream with a side of pie, but that’s just me.) In my career in nonprofit services, the chilly weather brings to me an alternative perspective, as well. It is one of gratitude for the warm home I return to each night after work; for the car I can start up without thinking much about it each day that takes me to the grocery store, to my son’s school and to the doctor’s office for needed appointments; and for the security of having my basic needs met each and every day. Because of my connection to service delivery in DeKalb County, I know that not everyone in our community welcomes fall and winter in this way. Utility bills are higher for those on tight budgets. People who live in food deserts have longer and colder walks to put healthy food on their family’s table. A doctor’s appointment may be a luxury for those who do not have convenient access to care.

Fall at Kishwaukee United Way means that we are knee deep in preparations for our annual TASTE: Bottles & Brews event. We are hard at work securing sponsorship, reaching out to local businesses who donate silent auction items, and selling tickets to what is our biggest special event of the season. TASTE is a lot of work. Anyone visiting my office in the final weeks prior to the event knows about the piles of auction items in boxes and bags awaiting the transformation to beautiful themed gift baskets. They have seen the stacks of 50/50 raffle tickets, and the signs, bid sheets and bid cards that are prepared so that we might display our donations, and make them bid-worthy. You’ll often see extra bodies crammed into our one-room office, cutting, punching and tying numbers on packages, running in and out with last-minutes auction finds, and shuttling items back and forth to our venue.

So…how does our TASTE event connect back to those who struggle in our community? Why is it important for us to roll up our sleeves and put all of our energy into this event each year? Because every gift – no matter how it is raised on November 8thwill have an impact on our community. One raffle ticket sold will help as we invest in mentoring for a child at risk. One auction basket purchase will help to house a homeless family working toward independence. One event sponsorship will help us make the waiting list for Meals on Wheels shorter, feeding seniors who would otherwise go without a meal and the human touch that is delivered along with the food.

Is TASTE a fabulous event – you bet it is! Friends and colleagues catch up with each other. You get to sample a new wine or micro-brew and add it to your holiday shopping list. Our silent auction will likely have you walking away with some goodies for your holiday shopping list or a treat for yourself. But TASTE is more than the camaraderie – more than the samplings and songs – it is an event that sustains our organization and our work for another year. It helps us invest in the most vulnerable individuals and families in our area, bringing them a bit of warmth, help and hope for the season.

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Identifying Signs of Stress is a Key to Health


Stress is a fact of life. Overbooked schedules, demanding work hours, long commutes, an outburst by an angry boss, a stand-off with a defiant teenage child and the bad news that makes headlines every day are all contributors to the increased stress that many feel. Now more than ever it is important to recognize signs of stress in ourselves, our families and our communities and take the necessary steps to reduce stress and intervene if needed.

There are two kinds of stress: eustress and distress.

Eustress is the good kind of stress such as a challenging work assignment or a competitive sports game that pushes your limits. This kind of stress is characterized by an adrenaline rush and the associated excitement. Though this is a positive stress, too much of it is not healthy.
Distress is the bad kind of stress that can leave you debilitated by your flight, fight or freeze reaction. Distress is caused by a traumatic event or an overwhelming situation and can leave you feeling hopeless.

The effects of too much stress have severe impact on your health and your ability to have a happy, healthy and productive life. Two such impacts are: cognitive (thinking) and emotional (feeling).

Cognitive effects of distress:

  • Time distortion
  • Confusion
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Difficulty in decision making
  • Transient guilt
  • Preoccupations with a stressful event
  • Inability to realize consequences of behavior

Emotional impacts of stress:

  • Acute anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Acute anger
  • Mood swings
  • Acute depression
  • Fear, phobia, phobia avoidance
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Grief

The first step towards strong mental health is to be honest with yourselves and those around you and, as the saying goes, If you see something, say something. Learn to say “no” to more demands, take time to recharge (exercise, read a book, be with friends), reach out to a colleague that seems frazzled, a neighbor you have not seen for a while, a child who seems withdrawn. Small acts of kindness and compassion can reduce stress in both the giver and the receiver, and make both feel more connected and less stress. It is incumbent on all of us to recognize signs that something might not be quite right within our communities. Each of us has the power to make a difference – no matter how small – and put ourselves and others on a path to a healthier mental state.

United Way understands that a community is only as healthy as the people that call it home. But we are here to help. For more information or to contact your local United Way, please visit:

~Southerlyn Reisig, Director of Public Relations at United Way Worldwide.

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Prioritizing Professional Development

As I was gathering the needed classroom supplies, binders and folders that would house my son’s various school subjects for the year, I was reminded of the energy that comes with the beginning of a new school year. As pristine planners await a year full of deadlines and assignments, there is a chance to begin anew at engaging in subjects, learning new things and mastering skills which will take a student on a path toward future success. As I prepared supplies and signed syllabi, I was a bit sad that I was not a part of the back to school ‘action’. No – I wasn’t sometime who LOVED going to school all of time and I was not wowed by every subject (especially math and chemistry – you have KEEP those two….) but I do miss cracking open a new book, readying my color-coded highlighters and diving into a subject that is new to me, and has the potential to change my frame of reference and improve my work.

To that end, I was recently asked to serve on an NIU Advisory Council for the Nonprofit and Nongovernmental Studies Department (the NNGO Center). Part of our conversation about readying the next generation of students brought us to the topic of how we personally keep relevant in our field, and how we continue to learn in a world where deadlines loom, meetings run over, and piles of paperwork takes precedent much of the time. Needless to say, I was thrilled when the idea of a nonprofit book club was introduced. We all seemed to think it was a grand way to intentionally carve out time to read professional material, network with our peers and have meaningful conversation about how we can become better and more creative leaders. I was all in! (Incidentally, I though the group needed an engaging title. The front runner seems to be the NNGO Ninjas…I’ll keep you posted.)

As I dusted off my highlighter and readied myself to dive into the material, I realized just how important it is to me to energize myself through continuing education and development. Some of that rejuvenation in my day to day duties comes from administering a successful program; some comes from mentoring new interns each semester who are excited about the field; some comes from developing and implementing curriculum for my board volunteers. But some – things I do not often take the time for – are diving into heavier reading related to my field, and making time for self-reflection to see where I have come from, how I am performing in my work currently, and imagining what an improved future may look like, with a few tweaks.

I am luck to participate annually in a regional United Way conference which is comprised of hundreds of professionals – truly my ‘people’ — speaking in the same acronyms, battling the same issues and celebrating similar successes. Similar to my annual United Way engagement is the unique and wonderful benefit that the DeKalb County Nonprofit Partnership brings to my work and to our area. Both offer an important opportunity to not only learn more about what I can be doing better programmatically and operationally for my organization to succeed, but they also allow me to share some of my wisdom with the up and coming professionals in the field, learn about best practices across competency areas, and perhaps most importantly – it feeds my soul. I challenge you – whether you are a supervisors or front line staff – to look at professional development not as a necessary evil but as necessary to your evolution as a person, as a leader and as a student of the world. I promise you, if you take the time to engage in stretching your comfort zone personally and professional, you will reap many benefits in the end. Onward professionals! Learn, grow, engage and develop yourself into the nonprofit rock stars you know you can be!

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United Way Changes (and Continuity…)

As I prepared to write my thoughts this month I found myself reflecting on how the work of United Way has changed and evolved in my 20 year tenure with the organization. United Ways have gone from being strictly a funder of local agencies to thinking strategically about the impact we can have on three critical areas – the education, income & health of people in our communities. Does that mean investments in agencies have gone away? No – we are still assessing local groups, convening volunteer Board members, and making informed decisions annually about the best way funds can be put to use to support our local area. What we have done differently, however, is thinking about how we might be address those needs at a level that impacts a broader audience – from providing tools and mechanisms to talk about the importance of educating young children, to hosting sessions on how to improve financial stability across age groups, to more directly connecting people to services to meet their needs through our 211 resource and referral line. To capture the heart of this vision, I could try to restate what our United Way Worldwide CEO, Brian Gallagher, has said — but I think I’ll let his words speak to the transition:

“United Way has evolved from its roots as a fundraising organization to a critical community convener that mobilizes local partners, including businesses, community leaders, public officials and community residents, to expand opportunities for people to succeed. We focus on three key building blocks: a quality education that leads to a stable job, enough income to support a family through retirement, and good health. Now all of us (local United Way chapters and stakeholders) must do what it takes to meet the goals we’ve set to advance the common good.

Of course, United Ways can’t do it alone. We must work with our community partners. Together we must tap into people’s aspirations, focus on issues and underlying conditions for change, and bring people and organizations together to create collective impact. What United Ways do well is recruit people with passion, expertise and resources to make a difference. But that’s not enough. We should aspire to drive collaborative community change. That means we – and our partners – must facilitate a shared community vision and coordinated action across a diverse coalition, along with mutual accountability, sustained effort and measured results. It means working collaboratively on communitywide and community-based strategies that can drive real change.

And it means bringing people from all walks of life together to work in meaningful ways – not just giving, but also advocating and volunteering – to advance these community strategies. We should spark new ways of working, even if we aren’t always in the forefront. Community partnerships should (work together to) plan and chart a path forward to improve education, income and health. The real work starts now, in – and with – our communities.

~ Brian A. Gallagher, President & CEO United Way Worldwide”

To that end, United Way has changed in many ways. We have thought differently over the years about how we can best do our work, giving people opportunities up and out of poverty, hopelessness or lack of direction toward a path to their best selves. On the other hand, has United Way really changed? Not at the core. We remain a strong and vital presence in local communities. We start or participate in conversations on how to lift up people who are struggling. We help to solve systemic issues, and continue to be at the table with other partners invested in the very same goal.  We challenge ourselves and others each and every day to LIVE UNITED – to work toward and embody the positive changes we want to see in the world. Changes – yep, there have been a few. But, as I see it, each one has been a step toward a better version of ourselves AND our work.

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Keep Kids Learning this Summer!

Inspired by a recent article on reducing summer ‘brain drain’*, I thought I would offer tips and tricks to keeping young children and teens engaged in being creative and continuing to learn during the summer months when they have time away from a traditional school setting. To highlight the importance of staying engaged, I’ll throw out a few stats to bring the point home for you. It takes teachers an average of 3 weeks to re-teach lessons from the previous year when school starts up again in the fall. Students lose an average of 2 months of math skills over the summer session. And, for kids in grades 2-9, summer learning loss is 25%-30% of their overall content from the previous year. Luckily, there are MANY resources to combat this backsliding. Included in the tips below are places locally where you can get involved and connected to continuous learning opportunities.

Join a Summer Reading program

There are a wealth of resources at the DeKalb Public Library and the Sycamore Public Library, as well as at the smaller libraries in the County. Libraries offer great public spaces and creative resources to keep kids reading and getting involved in activities throughout the sunny days of summer, leading to improved test scores overall as school resumes. Click here for online summer reading lists and activities.

Cook or Bake together

Food is great at bringing people together, and reading recipes and calculating measurements helps with math skills and teaches valuable life skills. Northwestern Medicine has a ‘Kids Can Cook’ program teaching cooking classes. The DeKalb Farmers Market is a great place to visit to purchase fresh ingredients and cook a family meal.

Visit a Museum or Zoo

Our county has a wealth of attractions to engage young minds. The Midwest Museum of Natural History is an animal-lovers treasure right in our own backyard. The newly formed DeKalb County History Center at 1730 N. Main Street in Sycamore offers Garden Story Time weekly with programs like “Ladybugs on the Loose” and “Birds in our World” for ages 3-5 and their siblings.

Plant a Garden

Opportunities for hands-on science exist when kids are able to roll up their sleeves and plant a garden. From picking our seeds, to learning about the plant nutrition to harvesting the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor, gardening is good fun! DeKalb County Community Gardens have great tips for families, as well as opportunities to volunteer to help with planting & harvests.

Get Moving

Encouraging kids to keep active can have a positive effect on their health and their learning. With tools like pedometers or smart phone apps, kids can set fitness goals and track their progress. Many entities offer recreation programs – from the YMCA to the DeKalb and Sycamore Park Districts to KSRA for kids with special needs, among others.

I hope these resources help families get inspired to get out and about, and check out the valuable resources that are in our own backyard. Family time is so important for many reasons. Hop on a bike or in the car and visit these organizations and sign up to learn a new skill or two. Stay active, have fun, and keep learning & growing!

                   * ”Stop Summer Brain Drain” by Margaret Poe, Thrivent Magazine, June 2018

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Born Learning (and Serving!)

When my Dad got ready to retire several years back after a lifetime of hard work and dedication, I wondered what the heck he would do with himself with his newfound freedom and spare time. Dad is a hard worker– he always has been – from his days working in newspaper publishing to his adventure with Mom in starting a sign business from the ground up that they ran together for over 20 years. If you don’t know, small business ownership is hard. If you don’t wake up on time, the shop does not open. If you don’t finish a job, no one is there to pick up the slack and take over. So, after a lifetime of this solid work ethic, I wondered what would lie in store for him in his days as an official retiree. Well, I soon found out. He was born to continue learning, doing, and serving – just like he had throughout his professional life. He now serves his local hospital as a volunteer. He serves his local opera house as house manager and all around go-to guy. He serves his church in many roles. And he serves (sometime to his chagrin) alongside Mom at her varied Arts Council activities.

And, let me tell you, Mom is not far behind. She’s alongside him at the hospital. She’s in choir and in assistance in several roles at their church. And she is instrumental in a campus ministry organization that welcomes students sometimes on the fringe with warm soup and warm smiles. So why the title Born Learning & Serving? Because, oftentimes, I see bits of myself in my parents. Longtime PTA service. Service to DeKalb High School Music Programs. Friend of Children’s Learning Center, paying back in some small way the staff that helped me raise my son from infant to school aged superstar. Was I born with a desire to learn and grow? Are we innately called to be of service to others? I don’t know. What I do know is that I watched my parents serve others throughout their lives, and that has influenced both the person I am and the person I want to be.

Born Learning is also that name of United Way’s first national public engagement campaign which shares public service advertising, parent materials, online tips, tools and templates to help advance early childhood impact strategies. Today, United Way Born Learning manifests itself in products that foster parent education and help to teach early learners basic skills though playful design and bold colors. We are excited to announce that, thanks to our local Target Distribution Center, the DeKalb Park District and 4-C, we will be constructing a Born Learning Trail in DeKalb. The “Trail” is a series of 10 interactive signs that offer fun, active learning stations in a local parkway for young children and their families. It will help parents, caregivers and communities create quality engagement opportunities when out on a stroll or visiting a local playground.

So – are we born learning and born serving? I don’t know. What I know as a United Way professional and member of a robust nonprofit community, is that IF we have tools — materials, toys, teachers, safe spaces, and areas to grow, learn and play — we learn faster. IF we have role models that show us a path of service and altruism, we become outward-facing people and we serve others better. We hope that you join us soon as we embark on our annual Day of Caring on June 14th where we always learn a little, grow a little and serve a LOT. C’mon along – you were ‘born’ to join us! 🙂


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What the ‘Give Local’ Day means to United Way

Fast approaching is Give DeKalb County, an online giving day in DeKalb County hosted by the DeKalb County Nonprofit Partnership, of which Kishwaukee United Way is a proud standing steering committee member and contributor on multiple committees. J  Give DeKalb County is a unique event, which offers a chance for caring citizens and organizations to support nonprofit organizations in a meaningful way but making a donation on one specific day each year – this year being May 3rd, 2018. Why only on May 3rd? The answer, my friends is leverage! (BTW, Leverage is a great vintage show that is off the air but you can catch reruns on Ion television…but, alas, I am off topic…)

Why is Give DeKalb only on one day…Leverage! Dozens of organizations driving people to give online that one day AND caring corporations and philanthropists who have given dollars to a matching pool to leverage (there’s that word again) dollars toward gifts given that day. The result is a win-win for all of the organizations involved.  Exposure is increased for the groups participating, we all share information about the day in advance and on May 3, and the possibility that local nonprofit meet their target fundraising goals for the day are increased. Hooray! And, hopefully, we all get a few additional resources to do our jobs just a little bit better.

Kishwaukee United Way, as many know, has a traditional campaign structure where we collaborate with businesses, employees and individuals (primarily in the Fall), through workplaces or via direct mail or special events to raise funds to support local human service agencies and initiatives. So why give to United Way on Give DeKalb Day as well? Well – let me tell you…Kishwaukee United Way today is much MORE than funding local agencies, although the agencies (and our Board and Staff) would argue that this support is vital to core programming, leveraging matching funds and helping enable them to provide the best services they can for those who need them in our area. IN addition to this valuable support however, we have our own initiatives that continue to grow, thrive and need ongoing support.

Here is what YOUR gift can do, if you choose Kishwaukee United Way on Give DeKalb County Day:

  1. You can help support the 2-1-1 Information and Referral line we launched in June in conjunction with other local partners. You can assist in the distribution of valuable 2-1-1 data to providers.
  2. You can help sustain our support of programs like VITA Free Tax Preparation for seniors and org which enable low income tax filers to save money by filing online for free.
  3. You can enrich our Money Smart Week annual initiative in late April offering DOZENS of FREE financial wellness sessions to the community, from kids to seniors and everyone in-between!
  4. You can champion local volunteerism as we host our annual Day of Caring event again this June 14th, engaging people in service to others and helping to strengthen nonprofit partners via project support.
  5. And, YES, your gift supports 23 local partner agencies providing quality child care, summer food programs, meals on wheels, elder care services, youth mentoring, counseling and mental health supports, abuse prevention, and much more.

We invite you to log in on May 3 at:  and make a gift that truly matters – to us, and to so many more!

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Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

We have all heard this saying, and it is particularly fitting as we find ourselves in the midst of Easter festivities. Buying jellybeans, chocolate eggs and other basket goodies; baking or buying lamb or bunny cakes, and shopping for dinner fixings including calculating how many pounds of ham per person is needed for Easter dinner (true story – my brother asked me that yesterday… click here for your own ham calculations.) All of these things require planning and forethought. What baskets do I need to fill? What does my son like for treats these days? (Flamin’ Hot Cheetos tops the list, by the way.) Who is coming to dinner? What do I need to buy or bring?

For charities and nonprofits, planning ahead to find and maintain sources of funding can be the most difficult and time-consuming task of all. This constant search for money exhausts resources that could be better spent elsewhere. And, as the economy fluctuates, so do gifts to nonprofits.

The website Planned has this to say on the topic:

If your nonprofit is relying solely on annual giving and individual gifts, you are essentially putting all your eggs in one basket. And if that funding basket gets dropped, it will be hard — perhaps impossible — to recover from the mess. A comprehensive, planned giving strategy can guide your nonprofit through the rough waters. It can be a life preserver for times when sources of one-time charitable gifts are sinking. Planned giving can ensure a consistent, long-term source of funding, and maintaining focus on that revenue stream can help smooth the waves in the future.”

And so, as I juggle the writing of this blog, pulling together resources for a corporate grant due Friday, interviewing a candidate for a Fall internship, getting out an agenda for a Money Smart meeting tomorrow, and acclimating a one-time volunteer to a service project, I am mindful of the many things that fill up our days as nonprofit staff. Often times, it is difficult to think longer term – hard to see past the giant to-do list on your desk. I am grateful to partnerships like the one we have with the DeKalb County Community Foundation, where we are fortunate enough to have an endowment that helps us to sustain our core programming and backroom efforts so we can focus on program goals. I am mindful, too, of our responsibility to continue to grow that endowment, and educate our donors about the choice they have in philanthropic giving – not only in sustaining our annual campaign investments, event sponsorships or initiative investments, but thinking longer term to consider leaving a legacy that will impact our work long after I am involved in the organization.

We are thankful, too, for the upcoming Give DeKalb County online giving day, as it positions our organization in front of potential donors where we can talk about our annual needs and our ongoing strategies for building and sustaining a strong community. Do we have work to do around planned giving? Absolutely. I would venture a guess that most nonprofits do. We will keep our focus ahead on quality improvements, however, and make a commitment to build relationships with key donors and help to plant the seed with a few of them about remembering Kishwaukee United Way in their estate or long term giving legacy. We will push onward toward the goal of the diversification of our revenue “eggs” into multiple baskets. Happy Spring season, all!

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