EDITORIAL: Local nonprofits take on big job, play key role in giving season

In a sense, this is playoff season for many local charities. We’re into the time of year when benefit dinners and auctions pepper our calendars. But without them, nonprofits couldn’t serve Malheur County’s needs – if they could exist at all. They warrant your support and here’s why.

Most nonprofits operating in Malheur County get little to no government funding. They serve children, abused women, the homeless and more only because local people and businesses are generous. The nonprofits count on your check to pay the light bill, cover pay checks, and to serve their particular audience.

And they have found here and across the country that benefit events are necessary. And we have a string of them just in the coming weeks. The Vale FFA, for instance, has its big annual auction in Vale on Saturday. The week after that, Treasure Valley Children’s Relief Nursery puts on its first-ever benefit dinner and auction. Close on the heels of that event is the Hall of Fame scholarship dinner and auction by the Vale Alumni Association, and then one of the area’s biggest fundraisers, the gala to support the Treasure Valley Community College Foundation.

If you’ve ever helped with such an event, you know the enormous work they entail. And if you haven’t, be more sympathetic to your friends, neighbors and relatives who do raise their hands to help. There is the planning for the event itself. Where do you hold it? What do you feed people? How much will it cost? How do you round up enough folks to attend to make it worthwhile? Who’s going to design the promotional poster?

There is the work of rounding up auction items. Hardly a business in the community hasn’t been touched by one nonprofit or another. Business operators are asked time after time: What can you give? And time after time, the offer up a good or a service or a gift certificate. It’s easy to forget when you’re considering buying such an item at an auction that someone somewhere had to pay for that item – or will. A “free” auto tune-up, for instance, costs the repair shop the labor and parts that go into a tune-up.

There is the work of selling the dinner tickets. Now, charity dinners typically aren’t inexpensive. The cost of a single ticket can be enough to feed a family of four at a pizza house. That’s not the point. You’re not buying tickets to get a catered meal. You’re donating to a cause and getting fed at the same time. Likely, you’re also getting entertained.

And then there is the labor of the benefit auction. Goodness, the time these take. Rounding up donations is just the start. Organizing the items, tracking them, creating bidding systems, and figuring out what to auction off when all takes work. Effective auctioneers at these benefits are wise to remind the crowd it’s not there to get a great deal on a birdhouse or coastal retreat. Buying an auction item is really buying into the purpose of the nonprofit.

In some ways, we wish these events weren’t necessary. Imagine if every dollar donors gave could go to help a child or a disabled veteran instead of covering overhead of meals, venues, and servers. Imagine if volunteers who spend countless hours chasing down charity auction items could instead spend that time chasing around toddlers at a nursery or reading to a shut-in. Wishful thinking, indeed.

Sometimes we hear that people cringe a bit when the next nonprofit shows up at the door asking for an auction item or a ticket buy. Yet all of us should remember that it’s much easier to write a check or donate a garden statute than it is to go out asking strangers to give. The volunteers who do that work deserve thanks and appreciation for taking on a chore many would avoid. 

So, as the benefit season rolls out this fall, consider what causes really touch you and then support them with passion. Don’t wait for that volunteer to come knocking. Raise your hand, donate an auction item, and buy tickets. And remember as you do so, that you’re not really helping a nonprofit. You’re helping people in Malheur County who need support and help and who, without you, just may not get it. – LZ