National University System Chancellor Dr. Michael R. Cunningham (left), philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, and National University President Dr. David W. Andrews celebrate Sanford’s $350 million gift. Courtesy of the university

San Diego consistently ranks among the most charitable cities in the United States. Working in the field of philanthropy for the past 15 years here in America’s Finest City, this ranking did not surprise me. We are truly a community that cares about each other and serving the greater good. Our amazing local nonprofits transform philanthropy into results that impact all of our lives.

Here is some surprising data that you might not know, from the 2019 State of Nonprofits and Philanthropy in San Diego, produced by the Nonprofit Institute at the University of San Diego’s School of Leadership and Education Science. We are fortunate to have:

  • A total of 11,523 nonprofit organizations are located in San Diego, serving our community in every way possible
  • 1,072 nonprofits that connect us through artistic and cultural resources such as museums, festivals and theaters
  • 816 nonprofits that care for us as community clinics and hospitals
  • 501 nonprofits that help us raise the next generation through after-school programs, summer camps, and other youth development initiatives
  • 573 nonprofits that steward our natural environment to keep our air, water, land and beaches clean, and provide us with access to enjoy the natural outdoors
  • 2,408 nonprofits that enrich our spiritual lives as churches, temples, mosques and other religious institutions
  • 121 nonprofits which protect our democracy through civil rights and advocacy organizations

Additionally, this same report reveals that San Diegans continue to express a high level of confidence in the nonprofit sector: 87% have high levels of confidence in nonprofit organizations, compared to 66% in corporations, and 53% in government.

On Sunday, more than 800 philanthropists, development professionals, business leaders, elected officials, nonprofit leaders, staff members, volunteers and youth will gather to celebrate the power of philanthropy on San Diego’s 47th annual National Philanthropy Day.

The first official National Philanthropy Day was held in 1986. Today, San Diego’s philanthropy day is one of the largest and most successful in the nation. The day provides an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of giving and all that it has made possible, and to mix with some of the most generous individuals and organizations in our community. The day celebrates the endless daily contributions individuals and organizations across the world make to countless causes and missions.

Last year, more than 130 chapters of the Association of Fundraising Professionals held events across North America. Philanthropists who have been recognized locally include Audrey Geisel, Malin Burnham, Evelyn and Ernest Rady and many others who have given back so much to our community.

This year we have much to celebrate, including one of the largest gifts ever received by a nonprofit in American history: philanthropist T. Denny Sanford’s $350 million gift to National University. National University’s priorities with this gift are increasing access to a quality education for students of all ages, tuition affordability, and student success.

In my field, in addition to witnessing very large and amazing gifts like this, I have also had the honor of experiencing $1 dollar donations mailed in by seniors on a fixed income to help others in need, along with a note saying they wish it was more, as well as envelopes of loose change submitted by school children doing their part to help other children. On top of financial gifts of every size, there are the countless volunteers serving our nonprofits each and every day to carry out their important missions.

On the eve of National Philanthropy Day 2019, I challenge all of us to reflect on one way in which we can harness the power of philanthropy this upcoming holiday season and all through the new year. Be it through sharing our time, experience or resources, I guarantee that there is a philanthropic role we all can fill to make a meaningful difference in our community, nation, or even the world.

It could be organizing a toy drive at your school or office to help make the holidays brighter for families struggling to find joy. Maybe you share your expertise with the marketing or finance teams of a local nonprofit to help them achieve their mission. Or perhaps this is the time you decide to become a monthly financial supporter of a nonprofit whose programs and services touch your heart. Or say “yes,” when asked to serve on a nonprofit board. Share your decision to get involved with a friend, both to help you follow through with your commitment and to inspire your friend to consider making their own decision to serve our community.

Please join us and be inspired by the remarkable work taking place in our community. Celebrate the power and impact of our collective giving, and the ways San Diego’s nonprofits, volunteers and philanthropists are changing the world.

Mark Lagace serves as 2019 board president of the San Diego chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and is the director of philanthropy at Home Start, a nonprofit dedicated to prevention of child abuse.

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