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A New Way of Local Philanthropy

becky_grayIf you would have asked me 3 years ago what the biggest social issues were that our communities faced, I would have recited something I read about in the local paper, or seen on the news.  I had a general understanding of San Luis Obispo County, but not nearly the insight I have today.  You see, 3 years ago I was working in the wine industry, and had no idea that my career path was about to change.  And better yet, our communities were about to be significantly transformed.

I always knew our County was a special place.  The beauty that abounds this area is quite spectacular.  Just look around.  When I began working for must! charities in 2012, it was as if someone lifted the veil to the true inner beauty of our region.  A beauty that lies deep in the hearts of so many in our community.  A beauty that is deep rooted in history from those who paved the way long ago.  This beauty isn’t superficial; it is much more than that.
I’ve discovered that the most beautiful thing about our region is the generosity and kindness of the people who actively give back.  They are joyful souls.  Deep rooted in compassion, generous (of their time, talents & treasures), and selfless.  I always considered myself to be a generous person.  I would donate to charity and volunteered where I could.  But alone, I was only able to do so much and wasn’t sure if it had significant impact.

Enter the concept of Catalytic Philanthropy; a concept very different from conventional philanthropy. Mark Kramer stated it best in an article written for Stanford Social Innovation Review.  He stated, “The contributions of conventional donors and the good work of effective nonprofits may temporarily improve matters at a particular place and time, but they are unlikely to create the lasting reform that society so urgently requires.”

We found this to be the case, right here in our local community and we knew something needed to change.  We needed to do philanthropy better and this was the beginning of must! charities.  Driven by a collaboration of friends and business owners in North San Luis Obispo County, this group was dedicated to improving quality of life in their community by walking alongside existing local organizations to make a greater, more focused impact through collaboration, expertise, research and financial resources.

Guided by five key values of comprehensive change, accountability, collaboration, selflessness, and sustainability, must! charities exists to bring the community together to create sustainable change.
Instead of giving charitable “handouts,” must! charities supports local organizations with financial resources, expertise and the leverage of other partnerships to create long-term, sustainable transformation within the region. Based on current community needs, must! charities employs a rigorous application and screening process to determine what project will most benefit from and have the most success in solving root problems, not just addressing the symptoms. Throughout the life of a project, the regular, comprehensive reporting and statistics are used to gauge the success of the project and determine any necessary modifications to the project.

The underlying objective is to empower local organizations to make strategic, sustainable change that carries forward after the life of a must! charities’ project with the belief that “moving the needle” on one initiative, will impact others as well.

The best part about this new way of doing philanthropy… it’s working.  A local Boys and Girls Club, went from the brinks of closing its doors on a month to month bases, to just being ranked the #2 Club in the nation for small rural clubs, and now has over a year’s worth of operating expenses in the bank.  The County food bank has tripled the amount of services they provide to youth over the past two years through our collaboration with them.  These are just two small samples of what is taking place.  Another great thing is that 100% of what you donate to must! charities is strategically invested directly into our communities because must! charities’ executive board covers the general overhead expenses of the organization.

The joy I found, once I began participating in this ‘Catalytic Philanthropy’ is the purest joy I have found through giving to something greater than myself. This county has taken a big step towards a strategic, innovative way of conducting philanthropy, and we haven’t even seen a glimpse of the beauty to come, once more people get on board.  It’s life changing.

I recently came across a song written by Mathew West, titled “Do Something”.  And the words that resonated with me were; “If not you, then who?  If not now, then when?  Right now… We all need to do something”

These are words to live by… what are you waiting for?  Join us and many others in giving back and taking care of our own neighbors right here in our own backyard.

For more information visit their www.mustcharities.org.