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WCF / Community Resilience  / February 2024 THRIVE | The ❤️ of Whatcom – Local Nonprofits!

February 2024 THRIVE | The ❤️ of Whatcom – Local Nonprofits!

Hi Friends,

If I were a betting woman, I’d bet that every single person in Whatcom County has benefited from the work of at least one of our nonprofit organizations — they’re so integral to our lives we risk taking them for granted. That’s a problem. Because with the erosion of this committed and hardworking “third sector,” comes the loss of countless social, economic and environmental benefits that are crucial to building an equitable and thriving community.

One of the primary roles of community foundations is to invest in and champion the efforts of local nonprofits, because if they cannot prosper, neither can we. It is important work, and we can’t do it without you.

Mauri Ingram,
President & CEO


A Stressed Nonprofit Sector

The nonprofit sector comprises a vast and diverse group of organizations, from federal institutions to homegrown stalwarts, startups and faith communities. Some are big and well-funded; most are not. Together, these associations — as 19th century French politician, philosopher and author of American Democracy Alexis de Tocqueville, first described American’s prolific tendency to form nonprofit, non-governmental organizations that serve the common good — are not only our de facto social safety net, they are vehicles for civic engagement and a powerful source of community enrichment.

From Tocqueville’s perspective, the nonprofit sector is essential to American democracy.

Where have you experienced the value of their work? A workout at the Y? A hike on the Stimson trail? Have you admired the fancy chickens at the fair, taken in a show at the Pickford, or bought a gift at the Allied Arts Holiday Festival? Thanks nonprofits!

Then there are those on the front lines, feeding, housing and sheltering vulnerable neighbors, or providing people with legal services, learning opportunities, childcare, or business advice, along with wheelchairs, diapers, dental care…the list is long; some 1,500 nonprofits in our county employ more than 7,000 people who take care of us and this beautiful place in a multitude of ways.

Whatcom County’s nonprofit sector is committed and collaborative, strong and resilient. Thank goodness for that: that these organizations have stayed afloat during unprecedented challenges is heroic.

But heroic is unsustainable. Even strength and flexibility have limits. And right now, the sector is stretched to its increasingly tattered edges, which were frayed even before the pandemic, floods and now, the opioid crisis. All against the backdrop of an economy that leaves too many people without opportunities to thrive.

Burnout is real. Turnover is high. Staff are scarce and less experienced. Funds are fleeting, and often restricted or onerous to deploy. 

Donations — especially to unrestricted funds — are crucial. But money alone won’t solve these problems, some of which are rooted in structural constraints and societal perceptions that need to change. We’re working on that, and so can you.



Understanding needs and taking action based on what we learned.

Collaborated with the City of Bellingham to survey
local affordable housing providers to understand barriers and areas for improvement. (Link to report below.)

Established a Health and Wellness grant round
focused on “caring for the caregivers” and supported 55 organizations’ needs/opportunities with grants ranging from $1,000-$10,000
totaling $345,500. (See link below for details.)

Providing bridge loans
that allow nonprofits to accept government grants — which are all reimbursement-based and therefore, ironically, sometimes cost-prohibitive to receive.

Advocating for streamlined nonprofit contracting requirements
at the local, state, and federal level.

Exploring how we can work with other funders
to offer learning opportunities for nonprofits, e.g. board, organizational and/or professional development or technical training.

Focusing on more unrestricted funding
and trust-based philanthropy.

Screening Uncharitable this spring in Whatcom County — a documentary film detailing “the need for radical change in charitable practices.” (Look for details soon.)

Expanding impact by supporting nonprofit collaborations that use collective expertise and resources to address complex challenges and opportunities, e.g. All Hands Whatcom or the Whatcom Coalition for Environmental Education.



Support our local nonprofit partners: volunteer, give, send notes of appreciation, attend events, join a board of directors.

Give unrestricted gifts when giving to your favorite causes.

Support the Nonprofit Vitality Fund at the Community Foundation.

Learn about trust-based philanthropy (see link below).

Grab a friend and go see Uncharitable and the post-film panel this spring. Details about a local screening coming soon!



Secondary trauma stress

Dan Pallotta TED Talk: The Way We Think of Charity is Dead Wrong

Trust based philanthropy

Local housing provider insights

2024 Health & Wellness grants

Alexis de Tocqueville, American Democracy and philanthropy

View the THRIVE Newsletter as e-mailed on 02/28/2024 HERE>



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