By Martha Landrum
As Valentine’s Day approaches, you’re probably thinking about finding the right gift for that special someone. But if you’re willing to look outside the red roses and box of chocolates, then consider a gift that’s perfect in any size—a donation to your loved one’s favorite cause or charity.
And, while you’re drawing Cupid’s bow, please give the nonprofit what it wants most: an unrestricted gift, also known as a gift for core operating support. Core is derived from the French word, coeur, which means “heart,” and if there were ever a gift that speaks to the heart of a nonprofit, it’s a gift with no strings attached.
The beauty of an unrestricted gift is that it allows the organization to decide what it needs, when it needs it, and where the greatest impact will be. A great example of giving from the heart is The Ford Foundation, which—over the next five years – will double the number of unrestricted grants by investing $1 billion dollars in nonprofit organizations whose missions advance Ford Foundation’s vision.
Unrestricted giving is also at the core of the Greater New Orleans Foundation’s GiveNOLA Day. All 34,000 gifts made on GiveNOLA Day last year, totaling an astonishing four million dollars, were unrestricted. The nonprofit staff and board had the good fortune to determine just where those dollars were spent. Those precious dollars often went toward the unglamorous, yet essential, heart of running a nonprofit organization: paying the monthly light bill, salaries, rent, insurance, and other administrative costs.
How can the Youth Empowerment Project, an organization that serves over 1,000 young adults a year, do its work without multiple locations throughout the city? How can Covenant House, an organization that houses 139 youth and children every night, continue its work without a 24-hour staff? And, how can the New Orleans Women and Children’s Shelter continue to provide for homeless women and their children without a home in perfect condition?
Like all good relationships, trust is at the core. When you give an unrestricted gift, you’re trusting the organization to fulfill its mission, whether providing shelter for the homeless, food for the hungry, or services for the mentally ill. And verification is usually not difficult: you can check its website, read its annual report, or sift through its Form 990. You can confirm if it’s financially healthy and creating an impact.
Organizations get the strongest ‘tailwinds’ when donors trust them with unrestricted gifts, maximizing their freedom for innovation, creativity, and boldness.
So, this Valentine’s Day, love with abandon, and give a gift to a nonprofit from your heart to theirs.
Martha Landrum is vice president for communications and marketing at the Greater New Orleans Foundation.