I have to admit, volunteerism wasn’t part of my upbringing. My mother was a single, working mom raising three girls, so there was no time or money left at the end of the day. However, she was an artist and teacher, and she was self-less in sharing those talents. I learned about community by watching her have students over to our house to coach them on their college portfolios and other projects. In that way, the idea of giving back was ingrained.
Years later, having never worked for a for-profit company, the need for volunteers and charitable giving is a critical part of my career. Our challenge is that on the surface we don’t look to be a “normal” charity. We aren’t working with children, we aren’t furthering the cure of a disease, we aren’t even trying to endow an art center, but we need help from the community just as any of those entities do.
Our organization is designed so that there are two tracks. On one track, we do work that keeps our neighborhood Clean & Safe. We provide unarmed security that patrol our downtown district 365 days per year along with a clean team that removes litter, does landscaping, and washes sidewalks. That track is funded by the property owners within the district. But the other track is our nonprofit arm. That branch of our organization produces free community events and initiates and installs public art projects. That track is paid for partly by the money made at the events (when you buy a beer at the art festival) and mostly by donations.
Think about the Fantasy of Lights Parade for a minute. Tens of thousands of people and families come to downtown Tempe and enjoy an evening of holiday joy – and pay nothing to attend. We are only able to do that because of donations.
Consider all the costs that go into the Tempe Festival of the Arts. That event has now been supporting working artists and exposing our community to artisan made goods for over 50 years. How do we pay for all the permits, security, infrastructure, and marketing to bring that event to fruition? Sponsors and volunteers! Corporate sponsorships account for over $200,000 in our event budgets and we couldn’t be more grateful.
But time is equally valuable. In the US, volunteers contribute an average of $200 billion to their communities annually. We have a few hundred people who volunteer at our events each season. Our greatest need for volunteers is at the Tempe Festival of the Arts. At just one festival, we average 500 hours of volunteer time, valued at $15,000. With all of our events combined, volunteers save our organization around $50,000 per year. Those are dollars that we can put back into programming and other events. Wondering what you would be doing? Simple things like delivering snacks to working artists, or watching their booth while they run grab supplies, or assisting children in our Kids Block with art projects.
If you have ever wondered if it really matters if you give to a nonprofit, the answer is 100 times YES! If you have the means to make donations, then think of all the ways that you can impact your community. If you don’t have money to give, you can always give time, which ultimately saves money. Like me, if you weren’t raised to give back, give it a try. It is incredible what you can do for your community in just a few hours.
The next Tempe Festival of the Arts is only SEVEN weeks away, why not start now!