SHERIDAN — The unmistakable twinges of the beginning of fall are here, bringing with it visions of the holidays that lie ahead. For some, gifting is something that’s isolated to special calendar events, but for nonprofit organizations in Sheridan County, receiving gifts and turning around to do good with them is a year-round endeavor.

“We have some phenomenal philanthropy in this community,” Center for a Vital Community Executive Director Amy Albrecht said. “It’s coming from everywhere. We have big foundations or family trusts and a lot of individual people.”

Sheridan is a unique community in that it has a relatively large number of small, grassroots nonprofit organizations that bolster local human services, health care, educational opportunities and general quality of life. This is made possible by the partnership of wealthy and not-so-wealthy members of the community who answer the call to support worthy missions.

The other big part of fundraising including involving as much of the community as possible at whatever level is individually possible. Sometimes, the biggest impact can be comfortably made through estate planning.

“We are on a big push right now to tell anyone they can continue their impact after they’re gone,” Albrecht said. “You don’t have to be a family foundation or trust to make that happen. Every dollar makes a difference.”

Envoy-In-Charge of the Sheridan Salvation Army Gary Dobney said big and small donations make a positive impact.

“It’s nice to have the mega donations from those that can write big checks, and we are also thankful for the nickels and dimes that come in our Christmas kettles,” Dobney said. “The vast majority of our donors are not megadonors. Most of our budget line is from people that give $10, $25, $30 or $50.”

Dobney said that he, like many local nonprofits, counts on microdonations to stay afloat. The Salvation Army is known for taking loose change outside of stores during the holiday season, and those coins add up to a significant chunk of the annual operating budget.

“Our goal is to have 50% of our income generated through volunteer bell ringers,” Dobney said, indicating that amount is increased from previous years, when hopes were for only 25%.

The key, Albrecht said, is that although our community does have some well-known foundations capable of chipping in big contributions, everyone else still does what they can.

Director of Donor Relations and the Sheridan Memorial Hospital Foundation Ada Kirven said small, regular contributions are a cornerstone that enables her organization to do its work. They received approximately 5,000 donations last year, largely from their employee partner program, which allows all hospital employees to have an automatic donation deducted from their paychecks.

Kirven estimated the hospital’s employee giving program is about 500 strong and enables the foundation to provide comfort care for those going through cancer treatment, upgraded equipment, help with transportation and lodging for patients and a plethora of unique needs people face in the medical world.

“Those gifts go from $1 to $50 every other week,” Kirven said. “It doesn’t matter what the donation amount is. We are proud of all our employee partners and that we have that culture in our hospital.”

However, for those who are retired or on very restricted income, charitable giving might need to be something worked into end-of-life plans.

“We are all going to be going eventually,” Albrecht said. “We want people to think about where they want that money to go, or what they can do when they’re gone.”

Albrecht said it’s certainly true large family foundations are the bellwethers for the community, and the nonprofit sector in this community would not be nearly as robust without them. However, regular giving of any amount it what creates true vitality and operability.

“I can’t tell you how many people write a check for $10 a month, or leave them in their will,” Albrecht said. “Sheridan has done well making this idea more accessible to people.

“They realize they don’t have to be super wealthy to be a donor and make an impact.”


By Tracee Davis