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Buy local, shop local, give local

All around us, messages ring out about the benefits of living our lives more locally. To my mind, they ring true. As a community banker, I regularly see the benefits of doing business close to where we live and work.

I’ve even advocated in this space another message: Bank local. Just as it makes sense to keep more of your shopping dollar with local merchants, we all benefit when we bank with local institutions that plow that money right back into our communities.

Today I want to talk about an important way we can focus our attention and resources closer to home: Give local.

It’s the time of year when many of us give to nonprofits and charities as part of the holiday spirit and tax planning. Lots of good options abound. But I’d like to point out three distinct advantages of local charities and nonprofit organizations when it comes to giving.

First, more of the money — and in many cases, all of it — stays local. When you give to a local charity, they spend most of those funds on program activities, supplies, salaries and other expenses in the region. In fact, all of it usually stays right here to do good work. That’s a distinct advantage.

When we give, we want to have impact. Local nonprofits give you more bang for your buck. Whenever we spend or give, our funds become amplified by something called the multiplier effect. That means every dollar we spend or give is respent. Then it’s respent over and over again, each time by a larger group of beneficiaries.

Just as it makes more sense to support local merchants, restaurants, farmers and, yes, banks, it makes sense to support local groups doing good works because the full effect of the multiplier plays out locally. That means the people feeling the effects of the multiplier effect started by you are your neighbors. When that happens, your dollar has maximum impact improving the place you call home.

Second, giving locally allows a measure of accountability and involvement that giving to more distant organizations generally does not. When you donate to a local charity, you can go to their offices or to their operation centers and see firsthand the impact you’re having through your donation. You can talk to the people the organization helps. You can volunteer. You can check on the progress of the organization towards its goals by attending its events and meetings, getting on its contact lists and reviewing its annual report.

You can do some of that with more distant charities. But the opportunity for in-person connection with the organization’s leaders, doers, volunteers and beneficiaries is much more possible and likely when the good work you are supporting is close to home. You may even find yourself giving your time as well as your money because you have a greater understanding and appreciation of the work underway.

Third, federal and state tax impacts of giving locally exist for many individuals and organizations. It’s true that the tax benefits of charitable giving don’t discriminate based on whether the charity is local or distant. But by having a local connection, you’re probably more likely to understand giving options that may provide extra donation flexibility, such as programs that allow giving in installments or through direct paycheck deductions. Also, simply having a charity’s offices close makes it easier to drop off a check in person at the end of the year or to donate through a distinctly local program like we have in Minnesota with November’s annual Give to the Max Day.

All of these local options may make it easier to give a little more. You can even give as a gift in honor of a friend or family member.

Many of us include a wide range of giving in our charitable activities. Whether it be the human needs of food or shelter, the arts, education, recreation or health and well-being, the needs are great in our community. Your opportunity to help is great as well.

Dale Lewis is president of Park State Bank in Duluth. You can reach her at president@parkstatebank.com or (218) 722-3500.
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