Drive could gain strength through numbers

It’s not often we can say this about the Bainbridge Island community, so it may sound a bit foreign.

Brace yourself, here it comes:

We can do better.

Yes, it’s true. As proof, allow us to share some figures from the Bainbridge Foundation’s annual One Call For All pledge drive, charting its changes and growth over the past 10 years. We found ourselves surprised, pleasantly and otherwise, and thought readers might also find them worth considering.

In 1992, when the One Call drive was generating funds for about 25 local non-profit agencies, total contributions for the year were $310,115. In the ensuing decade (with the number of on-island recipient agencies reaching the mid-50s), dollar contributions doubled, hitting $655,902 last year.

Taken by itself, that looks impressive – 10 years, 100 percent growth. But it only tells part of the story.

During that same 10-year period – a decade marked by a significant influx of new residents – Bainbridge Island went from an official population of 16,850, to 20,740 last year. Yet the number of individual donors to the One Call drive barely held its own over that period, inching from 1,282 donors in 1992 to 1,523 last year.

The figures suggest an increasingly affluent community in which those who do choose to give, give more, while interest in the drive itself has stagnated. Now as then, only about one islander in 13 opens his or her checkbook.

That’s a shame, given the ever-present need and the growing array of non-profit agencies providing services to the island community – organizations that strengthen our social fabric, enrich our minds and our cultural life, and provide a safety net for those at risk of being left behind.

Over the years, some of the participating agencies have disbanded or merged, while others have come and gone, reflecting the changing needs and interests of the community. But the 2002 roster includes plenty of stalwarts, familiar names like Helpline House. The public library. The ambulance association. Bainbridge Island Broadcasting. The historical society. Team Winslow. Bainbridge Performing Arts.

With 56 local agencies to choose from, every family on the island should be able to identify a few from whose service they directly benefit.

“Everybody has got to have one favorite, I don’t care what it is,” Bainbridge Foundation treasurer Ron Williamson told us this week. “The fire department, for crying out loud. If you like parks, the Parks Foundation. Something.”

It’s unlikely in a down economy, with the markets at five-year lows, that the foundation can count on some of the big-dollar donations that shored it up in the latter part of the 1990s. But think of this: If even 100 first-time donors each give $100 this year, that would be another $10,000 for island agencies. Hardly an unattainable goal, given all the new faces out there. And it might start a new tradition for families that haven’t made One Call part of their yearly giving.

If you don’t have the big red envelope of the One Call For All drive, or you just need more information, call 842-0659 or see www.bainbridgefoundation.org. Then ask yourself how much you can give back to your community.

We’ve done well. We’re confident we can do better.

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