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A gift of giving

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, “As millions of dollars in charitable gifts flow to organizations providing relief after the September 11 terrorist attacks, nonprofit groups around the country are bracing for what could be a disastrous end-of-year giving season. The worsening economy, coupled with the nation’s preoccupation with the tragic loss of lives in the attacks and the possibility of war, is certain to present fund-raising challenges for tens of thousands of nonprofit organizations nationwide.”

The outpouring of charitable donations that occurred immediately after the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and continues today has been incredible. The Red Cross alone has collected $211 million in the past two weeks. In Steamboat Springs alone, all sorts of fund-raisers have cropped up, from relief accounts at local banks to a portion of proceeds from the sale of CDs and truck windshields. Such efforts and the tremendous response to them is heartwarming.

But there is concern that our efforts to do whatever we can in the short term could have a negative effect in the long term. In the current economic climate, nonprofit organizations will not only have to struggle for private donations but federal and local government dollars as well in the months ahead.

“There is a concern that federal funds won’t trickle down” because dollars are being used on relief efforts, said Millie Beall, executive director of Routt County United Way, which donates to more than 20 local nonprofit agencies.

No one can say contributions to the Sept. 11 relief effort aren’t sincere and heartfelt; however, in our haste to respond, it is difficult to scrutinize the organizations to know how the dollars we are contributing will be used. Certainly, most of the organizers or relief efforts are well meaning, but unfortunately, there are also opportunists out there who prey on our willingness to give. And with so much money pouring into organizations connected to the Sept. 11 relief effort, questions loom over the fate of those organizations who don’t provide services that assist with the relief effort.

Don’t misunderstand there’s nothing wrong with financially supporting the relief efforts. Part of the strength of our country and we’ve shown it the last couple of weeks is our ability to respond in such a way. At the same time, there are other worthwhile causes dependent upon our gifts, and choosing to give time or money to such organizations is just as patriotic and important as contributing to the relief effort.

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