Community Matters: It’s the little things that count |

Community Matters: It’s the little things that count

The Truckee State Preschool asked for $1,513.52 to purchase tricycles for its newly opened school. Two of Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation’s donors – a second homeowner and a Truckee resident – pitched in and paid for the tricycles.

What about that from a grant-making perspective? We didn’t achieve world peace. We didn’t improve the environment for future generations. We didn’t even feed someone who was hungry.

I suppose we can justify it in some grander terms – the need to build gross motor skills or enhance cooperative play. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Sometimes buying tricycles is simply that: a little something that makes it fun to be a kid. Doesn’t the image of a child peddling away on an “Easy Rider chopper tricycle” make you smile? Isn’t that why we give?

As an organization, Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation helps donors connect with issues they care about. We work day in and day out in the region learning about nonprofit organizations, hearing about emerging issue, and making connections between people with money to give and people working to improve our community.

Some of our donors are risk takers and want to donate to organizations trying something new, which may or may not succeed. Others want to support basic operations, knowing how difficult it is for organizations to receive donations for light bills and rent. Still others want to invest in program replication: providing grants for a local organization to try something that’s been successful elsewhere. And some donors buy tricycles.

When we at Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation talk with staff and volunteers of nonprofit organizations we find out about their programs. We learn where they are successful, areas where they want to take risks, projects they would implement if they had the funds, where they dream of taking their programs and how their work benefits our community.

Often we hear how organizations have few discretionary dollars: money to buy “extras” like tricycles. They may have a government grant that pays for staffing or a private grant that funds a specific program. Gifts from individuals provide the most flexibility.

When I worked in Dallas, I had this wonderful donor who would appear at my office door two or three times a year with a check for $5,000. Each time he would say, “Ya’ll know best how to spend it.” That $10,000 to $15,000 annually filled many gaps and unexpected expenses.

The next time you’re ready to make a charitable gift to an organization, consider what’s important to you. Are you comfortable enough with the organization to make an unrestricted gift? Do you want your gift used to purchase something specific? Do you want to encourage an organization to try something new or expand a program?

Most nonprofit organizations in our community welcome calls from potential donors. Or if you need help figuring where to give and how best to do it, call me. I can help.

Lisa Dobey is president of Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation. She can be reached at 587-1776 or TTCF’s goal is to grow philanthropy to meet community needs and opportunities.

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