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A volunteer helps at Gather Pantry Market in Portsmouth. (Photo by Cheryl Senter.)

A volunteer helps at Gather Pantry Market in Portsmouth. (Photo by Cheryl Senter.)

What to give? Operating support!

New Hampshire relies heavily on the nonprofit sector, and the nonprofit sector relies on all of us to help keep operations running — in good times and in challenging times.

In the past few years, New Hampshire’s nonprofits have adapted heroically to a landscape where change and crisis have been the constants.

Nonprofits are truly at the heart of civil society. They make communities healthier, happier, safer, more vibrant and prosperous for everyone. New Hampshire relies on nonprofits to pull more weight than they do in other places. And they have continued to pull their weight — and then some — during these unprecedented times.

No matter how good any of our contingency plans are, the last three years have been tough. In response, nonprofits have adapted — and then adapted again — to serve community needs: feeding struggling families; protecting democracy and promoting civil rights; caring for natural resources in the face of a climate crisis; mentoring and caring for young people — and so much more.

A key element to helping nonprofits meet pressing community needs is flexible operating support. Nonprofits not only need support from generous people — but they need support that funds their whole missions, not just specific programs or projects, in the face of complex and changing needs.

When a brand-new accessible nature trail is severely damaged by an extreme storm, the nonprofit that built it needs to be able to keep paying their staff and rent while they rebuild. When a food pantry’s walk-in cooler stops working, they need to be able to pay the repair person. When nonprofits that promote equity and justice are suddenly faced with protests and threats, they have to support their staff to keep doing the work. And in this era of increased costs of utilities, nonprofits that do so much for our communities simply need to be able to keep the lights and heat on.

The Charitable Foundation encourages generous people to offer flexible operating support to nonprofits — whether they have $25 to donate or $250,000. That kind of support allows nonprofits to simply get on with the work that needs doing.

At the Foundation, we work every day with the dedicated professionals who make New Hampshire’s nonprofits run. They know their missions, and their operations, and their communities. And they know what they need.

Pre-pandemic — and again in 2022 — the Foundation surveyed New Hampshire nonprofits about their needs, with help from the Center for Effective Philanthropy. One message came through loud and clear: Nonprofits need unrestricted operating support, year over year. That was true before the health crisis that rocked all of our communities — and that truth has only been underscored since.

The Foundation shifted its Community Grants program to solely multi-year operating support in 2018. We encourage people who hold donor-advised funds at the Foundation to do the same.

That change, one nonprofit partner recently reported, “Could not have come at a better time. This helped us keep our staff and operations functioning in difficult times.”

New Hampshire needs nonprofits — in difficult times and in good ones. By giving to support nonprofit missions, you are helping your community to thrive.

William Abbott is a senior philanthropy officer at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, working with generous people and businesses in the Lakes and North Country regions. He can be reached at Jvyyvnz.Noobgg@aups.bet or 1-800-464-6641 ext. 279.

Rosalind Erwin is a senior program officer at the Charitable Foundation who works with nonprofits in the Seacoast region and oversees the Foundation’s statewide environmental grantmaking portfolio. She can be reached at Ebfnyvaq.Rejva@aups.bet or 1-800-464-6641, ext. 200.