Culture of Giving

To find out more about how to give this holiday season, visit commfound.org/cultureofgiving.

The Boulder area has historically been a little stingier than the rest of the state when it comes to charitable donations, but the Community Foundation says statistics show local residents are showing more and more of their giving spirit.

The Community Foundation -- an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life and building a culture of giving in Boulder County -- says the results of a pro-bono study by Sterling-Rice Group show the county pulled ahead of the state in terms of giving in the past decade.

"I think that the awareness about our local nonprofits seems to be increasing," said Chris Barge, spokesman for the Community Foundation. "The culture of giving is improving."

According to filings with the IRS from 2002 to 2008 -- the most recent numbers available -- Boulder County residents donated, on average, 1.92 percent of their income in 2008. That was more than the Colorado average of 1.89 percent but still below the national average of 2.08 percent.

Boulder County residents gave $175 million to charitable causes in 2008 -- an increase of more than $27 million since 2002 -- and the average household giving also increased by $150 in that time span.


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"This is both promising news and a call to action, that we can pull together and do even more for our community," said Rick Sterling, executive chairman of Sterling-Rice Group, in a written statement. "It's a testament to all of us that our giving rates have held steady while state and national rates have declined."

Sterling challenged Boulder County residents to exceed the national average.

"If everyone gave 2.5 percent of their income to nonprofits, we would be in the top 10 percent of cities for philanthropy nationwide," he said. "I'd like to see us get there."

Barge said with economic struggles since 2008, it is hard to determine how Boulder County is doing compared to the rest of the nation in more recent years. But he said the increase in the past decade is a positive sign Boulder County is moving in the right direction after below-average giving in previous years.

"Boulder County lagged behind the state and the nation in generosity," Barge said. "For a place that cares so much about its community and has resources, we should have been doing better when it comes to generosity."

Barge said he thinks one factor in the change is the Culture of Giving campaign started in 2000 by the Community Foundation along with the Sterling-Rice Group and the Daily Camera.

"I think having a steady campaign in this community that most communities don't have helped," Barge said. "When you kind of have a core group of leaders for a decade, you get results."

After seeing the numbers from the study this year, Barge said the foundation has put even more effort into the campaign, which runs every holiday season from Thanksgiving to the end of the year.

"It was a much more visible campaign this year," said Barge, who added the foundation went all out on ad spots on buses, newspapers and radio stations. "We just want to help people remember that charitable giving, especially locally, helps improve the community we live in."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Mitchell Byars at 303-473-1329 or byarsm@dailycamera.com.