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Originally published November 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 16, 2008 at 1:07 AM

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National Philanthropy Day: The resilience of philanthropy in tough times

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (Washington Chapter) celebrates "20 Years of Giving" Nov. 20. During that time, the nation has weathered numerous economic storms. And each time, philanthropy and philanthropic organizations have emerged stronger than ever.

Special to The Times

THE people of our community continue to amaze me. Despite economic challenges, thousands of individuals persist by giving of themselves. They are volunteering their time, donating to their favorite charities — and celebrating and honoring the causes they believe in.

This not only helps the charities they support, it gives them confidence even when they are bombarded by headlines about a tough economy. History proves this. Even in such times, we Americans are resilient — and our belief in philanthropy is too. Giving has grown nearly continuously every year for the past four decades through every economic climate.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (Washington Chapter) celebrates "20 Years of Giving" at its National Philanthropy Day luncheon on Nov. 20 in Seattle. Those 20 years have weathered numerous economic storms. And each time, philanthropy and philanthropic organizations have emerged stronger than ever — thanks to the support of local volunteers and donors.

According to philanthropy consultant Robert F. Sharpe Jr., even during the challenging economic crisis that struck in 1981 — when the country had entered its second recessionary period in as many years with the prime interest rate of 20 percent, inflation at 10 percent, mortgage rates at 15 percent, and the unemployment rate at nine percent — giving in America grew 13 percent over 1980.

Since that time, fundraising has weathered two more recessions — in 1990 and 2001. Yet, according to the 2008 edition of Giving USA, giving in America dipped only 1 percent on average (when adjusted for inflation) during recessionary periods going back at least as far as 1955.

People give of their time and money to help others, even if they can't give as much as they've been able to give in the past. They realize that no matter how badly off they are, there is always someone worse off than they. And they realize it is times like these when the nonprofit organizations that benefit our community will be called upon to do even more.

This year, seven local outstanding philanthropists will be honored for their dedicated commitment to giving at National Philanthropy Day, a gathering of more than 1,200 nonprofit leaders, donors and volunteers.

Here in Seattle, these Outstanding Philanthropists include:

• The Moyer Foundation — Outstanding Organization for creating a nationwide footprint of compassion by raising more than $15 million to assist more than 150 organizations that serve the needs of children.

• Shad Reinstein & Jody Laine — Outstanding Philanthropists for giving generously of their money, time and leadership. The Seattle couple has given more than $1 million, primarily to small, grass-roots social-change organizations.

• The Bridge Family — Outstanding Family for living exemplary philanthropic lives and passing on those values to their children and grandchildren. Three generations of the Bridge family continue to contribute to the Northwest community by setting a stellar example of philanthropic efforts that cross cultural, religious and racial lines.

Even in these tough economic times, National Philanthropy Day and all that it represents is a bright light, celebrating the kindness of our world. I urge you to consider how you too can ensure that the tradition of giving continues well into the future. Together, we can and will continue to improve our world.

Anne Farrell is president emeritus of the Seattle Foundation and honorary chairwoman of National Philanthropy Day. AFP-Washington works to advance philanthropy through advocacy, research, education and certification programs, fosters development and growth of fundraising professionals, and promotes high ethical standards in the fundraising profession. For more information, visit www.afpwashington.org

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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