Why charitable giving makes a difference

It transforms lives and strengthens our communities

A letter came to my office recently from a young scholarship recipient.

“I am forever grateful for this scholarship,” she wrote. “Coming from a low-income household means that I am forced to fund my college education all on my own, and this scholarship has taken a lot of the pressure to afford it off … It means the world to me knowing that someone felt that I had earned such a generous award.”

This young woman, whom I will call Allison, is on the road to great things. Her scholarship cut her debt load in half – and transformed her opportunities. Her gratitude comes through loud and clear in blue ink, hand-written.

Giving transforms lives and strengthens our communities. It fills bellies and rescues kids from spiraling into substance use and builds theaters and sends promising students like Allison to college. And we can all do our part.

At the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, we see the transformational impact of charitable giving. Through a collection of 1,600 funds established by generous and visionary citizens, the Foundation is able to annually award 5,000 grants to nonprofits and scholarships to students totaling $30 million each year.

And we hear about the impact of giving every day.

We hear about John, a Vietnam veteran on the Seacoast, who got life-saving treatment for heart disease and diabetes from a community health center, because people cared enough to give.

We hear about Rebecca, a young mom in Manchester, who, through a top-notch transitional housing program, got her first apartment – and got a job and a college degree, because people cared enough to give.

We hear about Luke, a farmer in Canterbury, who got the business training and tools he needed to help his farm thrive, because people cared enough to give.

We hear about Denise, a mom from the Lakes Region, whose son got early intervention services for autism, because people cared enough to give.

We hear about Dennis in the Upper Valley, whose wife received top-quality hospice care at the end of her life, because people cared enough to give.

We hear about Maria in Keene, whose local food pantry helped her put food on the table; all because people cared enough to give.

New Hampshire’s nonprofit organizations – which rely on charitable dollars – make such transformations possible. Nonprofits do amazing work, heroic work, in every town and city in this state. Their work touches everyone: young and old, rich and poor.

Allison’s thank-you letter came to my office. But I don’t deserve the thanks – a generous couple from Allison’s hometown of Nashua do. They created the fund that made her scholarship possible.

“I’ve written this letter in my head numerous times,” Allison wrote, “because I can’t seem to choose the right words to truly express how grateful I am … I have also been inspired to set up my own scholarship fund when I am older, in order to help out someone else in my situation, and bring them the joy that you have brought to me. I promise to give back to the community during this upcoming year as well as years to come, because I am aware that this scholarship was made possible through the generosity of members of the community.”

New Hampshire does not do as well as we should in charitable giving, given our relative affluence and reliance on nonprofits. But we can think about how one couple created a scholarship, and how their gift transformed Allison’s life.

And we can each commit to our own version of that, and give what we can. Give a meal, give a book, give a scholarship. As Allison has committed to do, pay it forward. Your gift truly has the power to transform lives.

Richard Ober is president and CEO of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

Categories: Opinion