International Day of Charity – philanthropy, and individuals create our change


Welcome to September! I don’t know about you, but it has already been a busy week…. I hope you had a chance to attend Olympia Harbor Days (another local nonprofit) this past weekend. I’ll be including information on several of the nonprofits that were there in upcoming columns. Of course, yesterday was Labor Day but did you know it was also International Day of Charity?

International Day of Charity

The International Day of Charity was declared by the United National General Assembly in 2012 with the objective of sensitizing and mobilizing people, NGOs (the international name for nonprofits – Non-Government Organizations), and stakeholders all around the world to help others through volunteer and philanthropic activities. The date of September 5 was chosen to commemorate the anniversary of the passing away of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 "for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress, which also constitute a threat to peace."

Do not refer to us as a charity

While the rest of the world still uses the word ‘charity,’ nonprofits in the United States are less enamored with that word as it often evokes thoughts of Tiny Tim from the musical Oliver holding out his hand and saying, “please, sir, may I have some more?” The word can also imply a sense of helplessness or weakness; consider the pejorative and outdated term “charity case,” for example. Nonprofits are certainly not helpless or weak, and they are not looking for a handout either. The term ‘charity’ also gives the impression that one should give of one’s excess or extra.

There was a time when the US government was solely responsible for many of the services now provided by our nonprofit sector. Today, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) ( more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations are registered in the U.S. While many of these nonprofits rely on grants and sponsorships to keep their doors open, it may surprise you to learn that the majority of nonprofit funding comes from individuals.

According to the National Philanthropic Trust, in 2021, the largest source of charitable giving came from individuals who gave $326.87 billion, representing 67% of total giving. The breakdown of this funding by nonprofit category was religious organizations (27%) – this is always the largest, education (14%), human services (13%), grantmaking foundations (13%), and public-society benefits (11%).

Therefore, as a society, we now rely on nonprofits to provide our community with essential services, and as such, nonprofits can no longer rely on our giving from our excess. As a society, we must reframe our philanthropy to be more sustainable. For instance, you may choose to change from an annual gift to monthly giving, which provides a source of reliable financial support for the nonprofit and limits much of its administrative costs. Enough preaching…. For now.

Got a song in your heart?

The Olympia Musical Theatre Singers (OMT) are looking for a few good singers. Interested? There is a registration fee of $125 for the fall rehearsal period, but according to Sue Rudisill, a member of their Board of Directors, “we want anyone who wants to sing to be able to sing, so scholarships are available.” The OMT is a nonprofit, multigenerational performance group founded in 2014 by Artistic and Musical Director Troy Arnold Fisher. Its mission is to educate and inspire community youth and adults in music, theatre, and life, from the perspectives of master teachers and from the heart. All productions are accessible to everyone, free of charge; however, they also rely heavily on donations to support the cost of their shows. OMT will host their second fundraiser, 1000 Beautiful Things – a Cabaret Fundraiser on Sunday, September 18. For more details, go to


Upcoming nonprofit events

Join the heroes in our community for a fun and inspiring event to support the work of Homes First at their Heroes for Housing on September 14, 2022, starting at 8:00 am at the TwinStar Community Foundation Event Center in Lacey. This is the one, and only fundraising event for Homes First and helps provide their un-housed and housing-insecure, very low-income community members with permanent, supported, and sustainable rental homes in Thurston and Mason Counties. For more details, click here.

History is coming back! The Olympia Tumwater Foundation has announced that the popular history talks are coming back – and in person! The first talk is this Thursday, September 8p.m.  at Tumwater Valley Golf Club with Tumwater Parks and Recreation Director Chuck Denney. For more details click here.

Volunteers Needed

Stream Team needs volunteers for the 2022 Nisqually Watershed Festival on Saturday, September 24. Help Stream Team staff a table for a two-hour shift as they conduct kid-friendly, hands-on educational arts and crafts activities about salmon and clean water. For more details and to get involved click here.

Soliciting your ideas

If you know of a nonprofit that is doing something great, celebrating a success, needs some outstanding volunteers, or hosting an event, let me know! This column (aside from a little education) celebrates nonprofits!

Mary Beth Harrington, CVA (Certified Volunteer Administrator) lives in Tumwater. She travels the country speaking at conferences and to individual organizations articulating issues facing nonprofits. Send your ideas to her at


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