Local nonprofits are the heart and soul of our community | AspenTimes.com

Local nonprofits are the heart and soul of our community

On Colorado Gives Day, directing dollars to local organizations helps your money go further

By Lauren Glendenning
Brought to you by Mountain West Gives

With the holiday season upon us and Colorado Gives Day approaching, it's the time of year when giving back is front and center, but how can you determine where your dollars will be put to best use?
In the Roaring Fork Valley, a regional effort called Mountain West Gives is working to drive Colorado Gives Day donations to local nonprofits. The group is reminding residents why giving locally has the biggest impact on our community.
"$100 here will do so much more than at the national or state level," said Julie Olson, executive director of the Advocate Safehouse Project, and one of the coordinators for Mountain West Gives.
There are 47 nonprofits participating in Mountain West Gives, all of which have been fully vetted after having completed a very rigorous application process. If you're thinking about making a donation on Colorado Gives Day, which is Dec. 4, it can be hard to sift through all of the organizations to find the right cause for your dollars.
At http://www.coloradogives.org/MountainWestGives (you must capitalize the M, W and G in MountainWestGives in order to be directed to the site), you can read descriptions about each nonprofit and make your online donation quickly and easily. All of the money donated will go directly to these organizations thanks to a FirstBank contribution toward Colorado Gives Day that covers all administrative costs.
"We have so many organizations that do a lot of good work — for people and animals," Olson said. "It gives soul to our community. I feel like we're so much better when we work together and collaborate."

Helping our neighbors
Nonprofits play a critical role in the Roaring Fork Valley, providing important services to meet local needs that wouldn't otherwise be met. Blythe Chapman, executive director of River Bridge Regional Center and one of the coordinators of Mountain West Gives, said giving to these groups ensure funds stay in the community to help our neighbors.
"Nonprofit organizations are a bridge between the private and public sectors that help solve more problems to improve the world in which we live," Chapman said. "In the past, a lot of people in our community were giving to these bigger statewide or nation-wide organizations and the money wasn't staying here locally. … We've got to start with our community here if we're going to expect any significant support and change for our entire larger community like the state or the nation."
Since 2014, when the Mountain West Gives effort began, the donations to Garfield County organizations alone has nearly doubled from $110,000 to $210,000 in 2017.
Olson said the Mountain West Gives website makes it so easy to donate, which is especially helpful for the smaller organizations that wouldn't typically be equipped to accept online donations.
If you go to the Colorado Gives Day website and search by county, that brings up a false list of organizations because it includes nonprofits that aren't truly local. For example, national and statewide organizations that might conduct business in the county will appear on the list, but Olson said those funds aren't necessarily guaranteed to remain in the community.
"They're not here — they're not the heart and soul of Garfield, Pitkin and Western Eagle Counties," Olson said.
On the Mountain West Gives landing page, you can type in the services for which you're interested in, such as animal-related services or health and human services. It'll then display the local organizations participating in Mountain West Gives, including descriptions about the causes they support. This helps donors focus their dollars since it can be a little overwhelming if you don't know where to give.
"Around here, neighbors are really important. Living in rural Colorado, people recognize that we're supported by each other," Chapman said. "Local giving is so important — give where you live."

About Mountain West Gives
A group of nonprofit directors from the Roaring Fork Valley got together about 5 years ago to work on a regional campaign after seeing a need to direct Colorado Gives Day donations to local organizations. From Aspen to Parachute, there are 47 nonprofits participating in Mountain West Gives this year. Contributing to these groups will help your money stay right here in the community, providing much-needed services for the people who live and work here in our valley.
To give to one of these organizations on Colorado Gives Day, visit http://www.coloradogives.org/MountainWestGives (you must capitalize the M, W and G in MountainWestGives in order to be directed to the site). You can also set up donations in advance of Colorado Gives Day, or even set up recurring donations.

Mountain West Gives rally
On Nov. 28, Mountain West Gives is hosting a rally at the Third Street Center in Carbondale, at 10 a.m., in order to gain some momentum for Colorado Gives Day (Dec. 4).

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