None of us got here alone and what inspires me is when we recognize that and share our opportunities and abundance with others.
For its first one hundred years in existence, workplace giving was principally focused on funding large, brand name nonprofits. Our founding members wanted to increase the types of organizations and causes included in workplace giving and add new issues such as social justice, the arts, the environment, animal welfare, and equal rights. That scrappy band lobbied to be included in the State of Colorado’s employee giving campaign and received just over $5,000 in funding in their first year. Community Shares has grown to work with 150 businesses across the state and now manages nearly $3MM in donor gifts annually reaching hundreds of Colorado nonprofits. We have become a leading force for community-based philanthropy in Colorado.
For those new to Community Shares, we work with companies that invite us to give their employees the opportunity to donate money to nonprofits directly out of their paychecks. Paycheck contribution gifts are highly efficient and allow small gifts to add up. For example, a gift of $5 from each weekly paycheck adds up to an annual gift of $260. Multiply that by tens-of-thousands-of-donors around the country and it culminates in employees and corporations donating $4 billion dollars via workplace giving annually. Community Shares has raised more than $26 million for Colorado nonprofits since our inception.
Jonas Salk said, “The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.” Work well done paid off for Community Shares of Colorado in 2013. Thanks to years of proven and proficient leadership in managing workplace giving campaigns, we were rewarded with exciting new opportunities. We have expanded our campaign management services to include campaign fiscal management for Community Shares of Cincinnati, partnering with Kaiser Permanente to manage their regional giving campaign, and serving as the Campaign Manager for the State of Colorado’s employee giving campaign. This will result in doubling the size and scope of our work in 2014 and we’re up for the challenge. If you will recall, Community Shares was founded under the aspiration of participating in the State’s giving campaign and we’ve grown into the #1 recipient of donations and now the designated Campaign Manager. It has been an aspirational and inspirational year for Community Shares.
Oddly enough, the theme “Inspired Colorado” was one of the more challenging topics I’ve been presented with for my remarks. “Inspired Colorado” was difficult because there is so much inspiration in our work. How to narrow it down? We are surrounded by inspiration every day. We stand in awe of our amazing nonprofits who work at the intersection of imagination and integrity. We rely on our workplace partners who make space for philanthropy each year and inspire millions of dollars in giving. And we stand on the shoulders of unheralded giants, our donors, everyday philanthropists changing the world $1 at a time.
Instead of looking out to all that inspires me, I decided to look within to share what inspires me. I also stand on the shoulders of unexpected giants. Not only in my work with Community Shares but on the path that brought me here. In April I was fortunate to spend some time at my family’s cabin on the Washington coast with my parents, cousin, aunt, and my 91-year old grandmother. Mind you, she isn’t one of those cute, cuddly grandmothers. Because she doesn’t like the taste of water, she’s hydrated solely by coffee and Milwaukee’s Best Light. She’s sarcastic, sharp as a tack, and only recently stopped chopping her own wood. When I offered to help her to the car this Christmas she pushed me over the back of the couch and said, “Maybe you should help yourself.” That’s my Granny. One day during our time at the cabin I told her in passing that I liked her coat. She told me, “You know, I have 27 coats. I counted. I just love coats. I never had one when I was a little girl so now I love having them. It’s the same with shoes. We didn’t have shoes. Now I have a lot of shoes. I know I have too many coats and shoes but it’s hard to let them go when you grew up without having them.”
My grandparents on both sides of my family grew up in poor farming communities in the rural Pacific Northwest. My parents are both first generation high school attendees. Not graduates, attendees. My grandparents were all needed on their farms and when the farms went away they worked in a series of jobs to make ends meet and keep shoes on the feet of their kids. My parents both went on to put themselves through college and moved to Seattle where my sisters and I were raised. Last year I was the last of the three daughters to finish her Master’s degree. That’s a lot of changes in two generations. My grandmother is smarter than me and works harder than me but we were dealt a very different set of opportunities. I don’t forget that.
Most of us in this room have received a generous supply of opportunities. Friendships. Family. Education. Employment. Some opportunities are ladders to reach new heights. Most of us also have the opportunity of a safety net in case we stumble. And you are here tonight because you choose to share those opportunities with others. I know I didn’t get here because I pulled myself up by my bootstraps. I’m here because I have a grandmother who aspired to one day have shoes. Lots of them.
None of us got here alone and what inspires me is when we recognize that and share our opportunities and abundance with others. That is what we are celebrating tonight. On behalf of Community Shares, thank you for your inspirations and investing in the aspirations of others.