Great news this Thanksgiving Day: money can buy happiness. The key, according to multiple research efforts, is how you spend it. In multiple studies on the results of individual giving, participants who spent money on others were happier than those who spent it on themselves. It doesn't even matter how much money you spend on someone else. The mere fact that you do is all it takes. Elizabeth Dunn, a researcher at the University of British Columbia, likens the benefits of giving to those derived from exercise: giving yields immediate as well as long-term effects. (Admittedly, a cruel analogy as sleep-inducing meals are being prepared in every nook and cranny of the county.)
Every day people here in Whatcom County make charitable gifts with one end in mind: to make this already wonderful place even better. Their investments make a difference. Donors shape the physical, cultural, economic and social landscape of our community through education, agriculture and land preservation, arts and culture, youth and family support, community development, and health and human services.
While these cumulative acts of generosity have truly great impact on our community, each one is a personal story. For some, giving is second nature. It is a family routine more than tradition. For others, giving is a gratifying, even addictive newfound passion. It yields meaningful results and remarkable gratification. People whose families have lived here for generations have a rare perspective on the community and the way history has shaped it; they feel a particular type of ownership in its future. New residents enjoy all that Whatcom County has to offer and want to invest to strengthen its fabric.
Whether you call it generosity, charitable giving or philanthropy, it is all rooted in a devotion to the people, place and possibilities that make Whatcom County a rich community of communities.
Our donors have vision and stamina. They know that solutions to long-standing challenges like disease, poverty, disaster recovery and others are not easy. Despite the tangled, knotted balls of string that these challenges represent, our donors believe they are worth the effort to solve. They know that opportunities too can be complex and require action as well. Whatcom County donors understand that they cannot accomplish their hopes and dreams for our community independently. Community philanthropy is a team sport. We share this place; that pure and simple fact binds us. Regardless of our individual circumstances, we are neighbors. Our lives affect one another directly and indirectly. Happily, there is great news: giving is good for you. Equally as exciting, giving here matters.
We often focus on the dollars. They are, of course, important. What is equally and often more important is the sense of dedication to community that is required to put them into action. To realize their potential that far outstrips their monetary value. More than once in our community people have come together to achieve complex and daunting projects and initiatives: to protect and educate our children, to restore historic buildings that would be more cost effective to tear down and build new, to do everything in our power at the local level to ensure that everyone in our community has healthcare that works for them. The list could on for pages. Wherever you live in Whatcom County, one of these stories is your story whether you are giver or receiver (and most of us are both).
We have ample challenges and opportunities before us today. It is not an overstatement to say that this would be a very different place, in appearance and experience, without philanthropy. I look forward to the remainder of the year (you can still turn your good feelings into tax deductions before Dec. 31!) and the year ahead as our community, person by person, family by family, business by business decides what matters to them and what they want to do about it.
On behalf of the community, thank you (the rest of us benefit) and you're welcome (so do you!). The very happiest of Thanksgivings to you and yours.
Mauri Ingram is president and CEO of the Whatcom Community Foundation.