Colorado Gives Day is coming up soon: December 6, 2016. This is an annual statewide movement to celebrate and increase philanthropy in Colorado through online giving at ColoradoGives.org. This site features more than 1800 nonprofits in the state and provides the means to find and select them by county, cause, name, keyword or zip code. I created an account on the site in 2011, the first year Community First Foundation and FirstBank partnered to accept and distribute donations, and I have used it every December since as a convenient way to make those last minute tax deductible contributions before year end. It takes just a few minutes to visit the site, find the nonprofits I want to support this year, and enter my credit card number. ColoradoGives.org does the rest of the work for me and maintains a record from year to year which I can use to facilitate my decision making.
This year my first choice recipient will be Colorado Young Leaders, coloradoyoungleaders.org. This is a relatively new group formed less than three years ago with a mission to train high school students as leaders and volunteers in community service. I met the founder of the organization, several staff members, and some of the kids who have gotten involved, and I was so impressed with them that I agreed to join their Board of Directors to help to promote and grow the organization. I think any investment in our younger generation is a good investment in our future, and this looks like a particularly promising group.
A group that has been on my list for the past five years is the Rocky Mountain Microfinance Institute, rmmfi.org. This is an organization that trains typically low income people in the fundamentals of planning and launching an entrepreneurial enterprise. Again I have known the four young cofounders for many years, and have seen nothing that matches their dedication, enthusiasm, and determination. Their success rate both in launching new businesses and in collecting on the loans they issue to facilitate these startups is phenomenal. If only our tax dollars could be deployed this effectively…
Another nonprofit I have supported since 2011 is Bayaud Enterprises, bayaudenterprises.org. Bayaud has for many years worked with people experiencing barriers to employment, such as mental illness or homelessness, trained them and placed them into jobs with other businesses in the community. I remember that I first became aware of them at the end of the newscast of one of the local TV stations. They would finish by saying if you wanted a video or transcript of some portion of the newscast, contact Bayaud Enterprises. I just assumed Bayaud was a subsidiary of the TV station; in reality, they just supplied the resource to the TV station to carry out this function. Later I met the person who founded this nonprofit many years ago and I found him to be one of the most knowledgeable and personable, yet humble nonprofit executives I know, and I learned about all the other things Bayaud does. They are a real jewel of the Denver community.
KidsTek, kidstek.org, is another group I have supported over the years. They grew out of a foundation formed in the late 90’s by some techie entrepreneurs who were doing well as the Internet bubble expanded and wanted to give back. They are now focused on training kids in highest-needs schools on computer and network technologies which kids in many families just take for granted. I have worked with the staff of this organization and again I am impressed with their knowledge and dedication.
And to give you at least one more option, of the nine other entities I have supported in the past 5 years through coloradogives.org, I recommend the International Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology, ICAST, icastusa.org. It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides social, economic and environmental benefits to communities in a manner that builds local capacity. The young man who started this enterprise, I think, has shown how to run a nonprofit like an effective business. It is one of those places where you come away feeling like your contribution has been magnified by their effectiveness.
If there is a theme here, it is that I have met the principals of the groups I contribute to and I have great respect for their efforts and the sacrifices they have been willing to make to create opportunities for the less fortunate in our community. I sometimes am envious of the kind of results they produce. Since I am not able to match their results, second best is to support their efforts financially. And that helps to make a better community for all of us. You can find many more nonprofits to consider on coloradogives.org, but you probably cannot find an easier way to identify and support deserving donees. And the best part of all is that besides the warm feeling that one gets in helping others, one also gets tax deductions! Come join us for Colorado Gives Day on December 6.