Opinion

Season of giving -- a drive update

Building a foundation, part 2:

Back in October on this page, we called attention to a less-than-encouraging trend in giving – a somewhat surprising one, in a community whose members are known for helping each other along. Our comments were occasioned by the arrival in mailboxes of those distinctive big red envelopes that herald the Bainbridge Foundation’s annual One Call For All fund drive.

We had been aware for several years that (matching a trend observed in other philanthropic spheres) the size of individual donations to the drive had been going up, while the number of donors was stagnant at best. Charting the last 10 years of the One Call campaign, we were surprised to learn that just one islander in seven contributed to the drive in 2001 – a ratio unchanged from a decade earlier, despite good publicity and the island’s increase in relative affluence.

We received this week an update from Ron Williamson, treasurer of this year’s Bainbridge Foundation campaign.

Year-end figures are considered a good barometer of the drive’s success, because while the campaign will run through next summer, most donations are usually received by the turn of the calendar. Few dollars and fewer donors turn up thereafter.

The best news: Through Dec. 31, the number of individual donors to the 2003-03 One Call For All campaign had topped 1,500 – a definite high-water mark, and the first time in five years for this point in the drive. Ron called it “reversing the trend,” noting that this time last year, about 1,400 islanders had chipped in, with previous years marked by stagnation or dips in participation. Not bad for a down economy.

Individual donations have covered the usual range: a lot of hundred-dollar affairs, a fair number in the $10,000-$15,000 range, and those that are smaller but just as dear. “You get the (checks) written in shaky handwriting for $25 saying, ‘This is all I’ve got,’” Ron told us. “Man, that’s priceless right there.”

How it all translates into dollars – which support local social service agencies, the public library, the ambulance association, the historical society, Team Winslow and several score more groups that buttress our island community – is another matter. Last year’s coffers were larded with several very large, one-time donations not likely to be repeated this year; pledges for 2002-03 so far total about $547,000. This, toward the foundation’s goal of $600,000 from 1,800 donors.

“So far this year’s drive may be considered a success, but we have a ways to go,” Williamson reports, “especially if our island community is going to meet the challenge that you so eloquently voiced in your editorial.”

For the kind words, we thank you, Ron. And we’ll remind readers that It’s never too late to give; contact the Bainbridge Foundation at 842-0659, or see www.bainbridgefoundation.org.

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