Commentary: Shared giving helps create brighter future for all

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A volunteer helps distribute book bags to homeless children, one example of the many programs in the region supported by United Way.

By Pedro Ramos

and Jim Cawley

For many nonprofits, the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve is a make-or-break time for fund-raising. According to Charity Navigator, charities can bring in as much as 40 percent of their revenue during the holiday giving season, and fortunately, donors are often very generous.

There are many worthy nonprofits working to make our region healthy and strong, and you'll likely hear from those you have supported before with a year-end appeal. But as you consider making a gift or participating in a drive, please also take a moment to think about our community's most pressing needs - and how you can make an even greater impact:

When the holidays end, will our children have access to nourishing food and safe shelter, so they can focus on learning and moving toward graduation?

When the decorations come down, will our seniors have to choose between food and medication because they cannot afford both?

And in the New Year, will our families have the resources and opportunities they need to open doors to a brighter future?

These are the tough questions that we, as the collective nonprofit community, ask ourselves every day.

With a staggering 28 percent of Philadelphians living below the federal poverty line, including 39 percent of children, our hometown is among the poorest of the nation's 10 largest cities, as reported by Shared Prosperity Philadelphia. Yet while the need is great, and growing, we also have a tremendous capacity to give - and make a difference.

At the Philadelphia Foundation, we work closely with regional philanthropists to establish long-term strategies and funding to address our community's most persistent challenges. We support a host of partners who are tackling critical needs with creative ideas and collaborative approaches. In 2015, through the generosity of our donors, we provided $26.2 million to 1,285 community-based organizations.

Each year, our United Way leverages the giving power of more than 100,000 donors across our region to build up the foundations of a community that thrives: education, financial stability, and health - and we make sure residents get the help they need in times of crisis.

Last year alone, through investments in our Impact Fund and other United Way-led initiatives, we were able to help more than one million residents in our region, and through our 2-1-1 helpline, connect more than 50,000 individuals with local health and human service programs.

Together, we strengthen thousands of nonprofit partners who are hard at work every day serving those most in need - all 52 weeks of the year. The simple fact is that, together, we achieve more than we ever could alone, and we ask that you join us.

Give generously. Volunteer passionately. And advocate for a cause that you care deeply about.

It could be the most important gift you share all year long. Thank you for your support.

Pedro Ramos is president and CEO of the Philadelphia Foundation. president@philafound.org

Jim Cawley is president and CEO of United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. jcawley@uwgpsnj.org

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