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VCF inspiring hope FINAL

Vermont has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic with strength and compassion, thanks in no small part to the generosity of charitable individuals, families, and businesses. Now Vermont is entering an encouraging phase of recovery.

Optimism about that progress is understandably tempered by deep concern over the war and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, as well as domestic economic challenges, including spiking gasoline prices affecting the affordability of food, heat, and transportation. These factors exacerbate the economic and social inequities already at play in our society.

While this is a time of uncertainty, it is also a time to rebuild. Charitable giving can be a bridge to hope that advances Vermont’s progress towards meaningful recovery.

The Insight Hub asked Vermont Community Foundation Vice President for Philanthropy Stacie Fagan to articulate three ways giving can inspire hope this year.

Support Civic Engagement: “A reinvestment in building public trust through public service is really important." 

Engaging people in government work and teaching them about how elected bodies function has numerous benefits.

It strengthens community, revitalizes the democratic process, and reminds people that by voting, serving in appointed or electoral roles, or simply showing up for public meetings, they can help direct decisions small and large.

Giving to civic engagement is a worthy move for all charitable individuals, but especially for philanthropists who want to seed work that “pays it forward” and strengthens society for the generations coming behind them.

And while recent stock market volatility has created bumps for investors, it is important to remember the broader context of unprecedented wealth creation over the last decade. “We know there’s a great deal of capacity and a tremendous desire to make a difference,” Fagan said.

Furthermore, holding back on giving carries the risk of missed opportunity.

Support Arts Recovery: “It’s so pivotal, the creative gene. Art has led us out of dark times before and we will look to artists and artisans to do that again. Through the arts we can heal, connect, inspire, celebrate, and create our way forward."

Art nurtures the soul, lifts the spirit, and circulates millions of dollars through the Vermont economy. Music, theater, visual art, dance—these and other art forms restore and replenish people, helping them refill the tank and find strength to navigate difficult times.

Many arts organizations are still limping from the pandemic. Although generous giving and federal stimulus money helped them survive the depth of the COVID-19 crisis, they continue to face challenges.

Audiences remain skittish. Ticket sales have not fully recovered. Organizations face the expense and challenge of permanently integrating “hybrid” programming as a defense against future waves of a pandemic.

To help arts organizations stay nimble and innovative, donors should consider unrestricted giving that allows arts administrators to direct funds to emerging needs as they see fit. Now more than ever, this flexibility is needed to adapt in real-time to trends that might defy even the most careful planning.

Explore “passion” giving, to support the work of organizations that are showing up, with free theater, music in local parks, and public art commissions.

Support career training and retraining: "We risk losing incredible expertise and perspective if we don’t find ways to support people in Vermont and keep them engaged in the workforce."

The pandemic disrupted schooling and the economy, with lingering effects. Young people on the verge of graduating from high school need help more than ever to land in productive, well-paying fields, whether the route is college or career training.

Giving to nonprofits that beef up student advising for high school seniors and recent graduates is a way to assist, as well as giving to community colleges and other institutions that offer in-demand credentials. Meanwhile, with some 26,000 fewer people in the Vermont workforce this year compared to three years ago, retraining could help bring back mid-career workers who left their jobs due to pandemic-related family responsibilities or frustrations with pay and quality of work.

Finally, not all the older workers who retired during the pandemic are ready to leave the workforce for good. Some are looking for new challenges, or opportunities that could build on their experience, wisdom, and skill.

How to Give Now

Philanthropic advisors at the Vermont Community Foundation can help provide advice and assist charitable individuals looking for the details on deserving causes and tax implications.

The good news? There are many months left in 2022. We want to help you inspire hope with your giving in Vermont and beyond.