Gratitude in Action: How Can You Give Back?

November 27, 2013

Editor’s Note: For many, this time of year serves as a reminder to be thankful for all that we currently have in our lives. One of the best ways to put that gratitude into action is to give back — either with monetary or time contributions. This series offers a look at different people who give to their communities and how they do it. 

Chris Sautter is Executive Director of Community Health Charities, a member of the Partnership for Colorado federation. Partnership for Colorado has been uniting community-minded businesses and generous employees with more than 200 local nonprofit organizations since 1992.

We recently sat down with Chris to get his thoughts on giving and the charitable sector in Colorado.

How does Partnership for Colorado find its nonprofit partners?

Participating nonprofits apply for membership with one of the three partnering giving federations of Partnership for Colorado – Caring Connection, Community Health Charities of Colorado and Community Shares of Colorado.   Each federation’s membership requirements vary slightly but general requirements include alignment with the federation’s community mission, fiscal transparency, and demonstration of impact on the lives of Coloradans.

  • Caring Connection partners with charities serving emergency and ongoing needs of local communities.
  • Community Health Charities of Colorado partners with Colorado’s most trusted health and disability charities.
  • Community Shares of Colorado partners with a diverse group of grassroots causes dedicated to social justice, environmental stewardship, arts and media, animal welfare and other cause areas.

In what ways do charities benefit from Partnership for Colorado?

Member charities benefit in several ways.  Most importantly, Partnership for Colorado connects employees throughout our state to the charities most important to them through payroll contribution giving.  Partnership for Colorado encourages donors to direct their payroll contribution gifts to the specific local charities they most want to support.

What are the benefits of workplace giving over direct giving, for the employee and for the charity?

Benefits for employees:  Giving through payroll contribution is one of the easiest ways to make a difference for the specific causes personally important to each employee.  Simply make your pledge each fall, and in January of the following year that employee’s contributions begin to make a difference in our community every payday.  Whether it be $1 or $100 a paycheck, everyone can be a philanthropist.  100% of all gifts are also tax deductible.

Benefits for charities:   Giving through payroll contribution is one of the most cost-effective methods of fundraising for charities.  Payroll contribution gifts are on average 4 times greater than one-time gifts.  Donors can simply offer larger gifts over time for charities they care about through payroll contribution.

Do you think that average, middle class employees, like us, have an obligation to give?

Yes, I believe everyone has an obligation to “give” regardless of income level.  Thriving communities require givers many shapes and sizes.  Some people give time as volunteers, some financially as donors - and most give in both ways.  Partnership for Colorado promotes one way to give – we believe payroll contribution is a powerful method of giving – but we also acknowledge that this is not the only way to give.  Partnership for Colorado is grateful to those who give and make positive impacts in our community in a variety of ways.

What do you think makes a great charity?

I love this question.  Partnership for Colorado believes that every payroll contribution donor should have the right to direct their gifts to the “great charities” on their list.  That said, I personally believe that great charities have clear missions, engaged volunteer leaders (boards), is accountable and transparent to both their constituents and their donors, and has a drive for constant improvement.   But for me personally, I also believe a “great charity” is engaged in a great mission that matters to me.

In your words, what is the role of the charitable sector in society?

I believe our charitable sector has a responsibility to educate and mobilize people to produce positive impacts on lives, communities and our world.  The charity sector is there when identified needs would otherwise not be met.

Do charities generally use donations appropriately?

Great charities are great stewards of donor gifts.  The 220 charities collaborating with Partnership for Colorado must demonstrate every year that they are accountable to their mission, fiscally transparent and have engaged and active volunteer boards and leadership structures.  Ultimately, the 220 member charities of Partnership for Colorado are capable of standing up to the rigorous standards of their federation.  Organizations able to meet these stringent standards are much more likely to be strong stewards of donor dollars.

Is there a standout moment from your involvement with Partnership for Colorado?

Three years ago, I was invited to present to a group of employees.  I had a great time and great conversations with employees following the presentation.  About two weeks later, I collected pledge forms from that workplace.  One of the pledge forms had a note attached that read,

“I never understood that I could send my gift to a specific charity.  Please accept my gift in honor of my son who died as an infant.  I wish I could give more.”

The donor had directed $1 a paycheck to Angel Eyes (formerly Colorado SIDS Foundation) who’s mission is to provide parents and families with counseling and support following a sudden-infant death.  I’ll remember that moment forever and am proud to connect employees to charities that matter most to them believing that everyone can be a philanthropist.

What are some of the causes closest to you now?

Over the last year a very dear friend of mine, Robyn, lost her battle with leukemia at age 37.  Robyn lit up the world with her smile and her infectious laugh, and I’m lucky to have had such a remarkable friendship.  I’m proud to support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Rocky Mountain Chapter through payroll contribution because I believe their research will result in a cure one day.  I want to be a part of that.  I also know that in the meantime, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is the first place people like Robyn turn to when they receive their diagnosis.  People need people – and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society provides those diagnosed (and their loved ones) with expertise, guidance and support during a time of tremendous vulnerability.

What do people get in return for giving?

Givers are scientifically proven to be happier people and I feel that’s because givers feel more connected to our community and our world.  Ever heard the quote, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give?”  In my 14 years of involvement in the charitable sector, this is one truth I’ve learned.

Did this post inspire you to give back? Make sure you leave a comment or share it!

This post was written by Sam Troge, an Equity Analyst at Colorado PERA.

(Would you like to write a guest post for The Dime? Email us at dimecontact@copera.org.)