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Give when the going's good

MY VIEW • Even in an economic recovery, there are needs

As 2007 continues to unfold and we reflect on the benefits we have enjoyed from a stronger economy, now is a perfect time to look beyond ourselves and recognize the needs of the less fortunate and share our good fortune with them.

Even during the best of times and through the recent generosity of holiday giving, nonprofits continue to need our help - every day.

Charitable giving always seems most important in the hard times of recession, but so many needs in Oregon continue despite the swings in the economy. And when the economy is strong, we all have the opportunity to give more and to really make a difference in the community issue we care about the most.

In 2007, I encourage longtime donors to continue their generosity. I also call upon a new generation of supporters who want to positively affect their world by practicing philanthropy. Here's how:

• What are your passions? Ask yourself what truly interests you and satisfies your spirit. Do your passions lie in education, youth mentoring, health care, arts in the schools, the environment, college scholarships, volunteer work, home meals for the elderly, rural libraries or the homeless?

Are there other creative avenues of sharing you would like to explore? Do you have more than one interest you'd like to pursue or need help making sure your giving does the most good?

• Where do you get help? A charitable organization such as the Oregon Community Foundation is one of many excellent resources that can help identify your special interests and make it easier for you to get involved. The OCF has the tools to enable donors to reach their goals and can even help explore ways to give that may not have been considered before.

Whether donating money, products or time through hands-on volunteering, your giving will help meet the crucial needs of programs and services throughout Oregon.

• Your investment pays off. Feeling good about doing good is something longtime philanthropists know firsthand. For those of you who give for the first time, your contribution or 'investment' will indeed have a positive impact. But what else do you receive in return for your investment?

The effects of giving are profound and immeasurable: discovering a sense of well-being, inspiring family members and friends, becoming more knowledgeable about a cause or a group, helping to create a better way of life for those in need and passing along your philanthropic values to all you encounter.

• You thrive, your community thrives. Your generosity also helps your community thrive. If you care about the quality of life of your community and the legacy it will leave for generations to come, giving back is the first step toward helping to secure a healthy future for our children and grandchildren.

Communities with strong ties to its citizens are better able to provide much needed charitable support to nonprofit organizations. And those same communities will have access to the best programs and services in the future.

• Express yourself. Oregon is home to more than 23,000 nonprofit corporations that embrace a myriad of activities, and with the help of OCF, Oregonians have impressively topped a cumulative $1 billion in charitable giving.

A New Year's resolution to lose those extra pounds can be a challenge. But giving back meaningfully, and often, doesn't have to be. Spend some time reflecting, and then resolve to express yourself by giving back in 2007. Every day allows each of us to embrace the opportunity to give in ways that count.

Joyce Furman is a founding member of New Avenues for Youth, a service organization for homeless youth, and the fundraising chairwoman of the board of directors. She also is a board member of the Oregon Community Foundation.