November 25, 2013; Islands’ Sounder


A small community in the Pacific Northwest is taking a creative approach to philanthropy this holiday season. The Orcas Island Community Foundation has taken a wish list from nonprofit organizations across the island and turned them into an online catalog to address unmet needs and promote and facilitate end-of-year charitable contributions.

“It’s modeled after Heifer International only you are not buying a goat for a child in Africa, you can buy food for a local family,” says Kate Long of The Orcas Island Community Foundation.

Donors can choose a project or cause from several categories in the Orcas Opportunities Gift Catalog, including arts, early education, the environment & outdoors, kids and education, or health and services. Contributions in any amount are welcome, but the catalog makes it clear what each item or service costs, and in some cases suggests “shares” in addressing a specific need.

This is a pilot year for the catalog, and the foundation sees it as an opportunity to address smaller-scale projects and promote philanthropy within the community. The projects listed in the catalog represent 27 nonprofits. These organizations were vetted last spring during the foundation’s grant process, and were invited to submit catalog proposals for community needs of up to $2,500.

A few examples of the ways people from this community can support their own:

  • Provide weekend food packs for kids who receive free/reduced fee school lunches ($20 helps four children)
  • Help the Orcas Center purchase a new satellite receiver to allow Metropolitan Operas and National Theatre transmissions that enrich the island’s cultural life ($698 total)
  • Support one day of a dental van that provides free care ($800 helps 16 people)
  • Allow a sixth-grade student to participate in a five-day environmental learning experience at Olympic National Park ($125)

People are encouraged to make donations in honor of friends or loved ones—that is, to make the act of giving back to the community its own form of holiday gift giving.—Eileen Cunniffe