Boulder County’s $68 million giving opportunity

Boulder County residents gave $292 million to charitable causes in 2015, according to the most recent data crunched by The Chronicle of Philanthropy. In sheer dollars, we gave more than 95% of counties across the country.

As a percentage of income, however, we gave less than 80% of counties. If we brought our giving rate up to the national average, an extra $68 million would go to charitable causes.

What could local nonprofits do with their share of that extra cash?

“Fewer people would go hungry if we had more food to give,” said Michelle Orge, Executive Director of Community Food Share.

The Louisville-based food pantry supplies 7 million meals annually to Boulder County’s 35,000 food-insecure residents, both directly and through a vast network of partner agencies.

The organization functions like a big gear, supplying food to other human service agencies that address housing, homelessness, health, childcare, education, families, neighborhoods and our community at large.

“When our gear turns, every other gear in the community turns,” Orge said.

The agency operates on a $3 million budget. Additional funding would allow it to supply more food, build more partnerships, make more connections, distribute more information and raise greater awareness.

So what’s holding us back?

“This community does seem to have a bit of a tougher time recognizing there is a need in their community; or at least recognizing the need in their community is something for which they can be part of the solution,” Orge said.

Most Boulder County residents recognize there’s a need, according to Community Foundation Boulder County’s 2019 survey. They say they give to organizations they trust, that they believe in and that provide them a clear understanding of the services and programs their money will support. They want to help their community, and they feel giving is morally the right thing to do.

Why don’t Boulder County residents give more? Most respondents say they can’t afford it. And they generally think administrative costs at charities are too high.

However, there’s evidence that greater awareness and accurate information could yield better results: a slight majority admit they just don’t know enough about charities, and they say they’re not sure charities are effective.

by Chris Barge