Get Together, Give Together

How teamwork turns our desire to give back into lasting results for the whole Valley

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Around the holidays, as we give thanks, many of us often think about how we can best give back to others who are less fortunate, through a combination of volunteering, financial assistance and community involvement. These acts of individual giving are vital as we try to work together to make a lasting difference. At the same time, the nonprofit world is doing its part by working together to maximize what we call the multiplier effect of “collective impact.”

The good news is that this type of collaboration between community organizations, businesses and individuals is taking place right here, right now. Here are seven examples.

The Coordination Effect. The Nevada Homeless Alliance works with more than 50 nonprofits to address homelessness. The shared vision and use of the latest trends and data help prevent duplication of services and provide a better continuum of care. That means less wasted effort, more resources getting where they’re needed most and better outcomes for the most vulnerable members of our society.

The Impact of Getting Involved. Nonprofits are connecting with communities in ways both old-fashioned and newfangled. Las Vegas’ Downtown Achieves—a collective effort boosting the academic performance of children in Downtown schools—holds regular gatherings to share plans, offer updates and seek input. This builds buy-in and support, and just as importantly, it keeps the community informed and engaged. Meanwhile, Las Vegas technology startup Charitweet gives Twitter users the chance to take their causes and donations viral. When others retweet, they’re both making a donation and increasing visibility for the cause.

The Government Multiplier. These days, there are some unprecedented opportunities for public-private collaborations through what’s called New Market Tax Credits. These credits are reserved for business ventures that spur development, but nonprofits are also able to access these funds because of their social mission—funds that are usually used for capital improvements, such as new buildings and facility expansions, particularly in underserved areas.

The Art of Collective Giving. Las Vegas’ Greater Good Council (GGC) is a group of family foundations that funds critical community projects in education and community development. This year, the GGC committed to investing in education, and through a competitive application process selected Crestwood Elementary’s proposal to implement a program focused on “grit” and resiliency, which have proven to increase academic results and equip students for lifelong success. Another group, the Nevada Corporate Giving Council, brings together about 30 corporate funders who meet regularly to discuss the community’s needs and how best to address them. The group also produces an annual report on Corporate Philanthropy in Nevada, which provides much-needed data on corporate giving.

The Power of Corporate Leadership. Corporations are partnering with the social sector in new and creative ways. The history of Three Square food bank offers a prime example of these partnerships in action: In 2006, MGM Mirage (now MGM Resorts International) and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation—responding to the fact that 250,000 men, women and children in Southern Nevada go hungry every day—created a plan for an innovative, community-driven food bank. Thanks to the leadership of MGM Resorts and the Hilton foundation, other corporations large and small pledged their support. Jointly, these supporters have provided funding, volunteerism and in-kind gifts to launch and sustain Three Square’s operations.

The Cooperative Neighborhood. It’s generally assumed that it’s next to impossible to persuade multiple sectors of society to collaborate on a common mission, but Heroes United proves otherwise. This effort has focused on the northwest Las Vegas neighborhood of Sierra Oeste, which has had some of the Valley’s highest concentrations of gun violence. To combat this epidemic, the Metropolitan Police Department’s Northwest Area Command Center collaborated with business owners, residents, clergy, nonprofit leaders and philanthropists. The partnership worked: Among other successes, there has been a 75 percent reduction in calls for violent crimes in Sierra Oeste in the past year.

The Global View. What happens in Las Vegas doesn’t always stay in Las Vegas. Some of this community’s most powerful organizations support initiatives that aim for a worldwide impact. Take the sustained partnership between Cirque du Soleil, MGM Resorts and UFC (among other corporate giants) to support One Drop, the charity established by Cirque du Soleil co-founder Guy Laliberté. These partners—along with local and international philanthropists and foundations—support One Night for One Drop, an annual fundraiser that promotes local water conservation and global access to clean water. Then there’s Clean the World, a program supported by local hotel-casinos in which unused hotel-room toiletries are recycled and redistributed to impoverished men, women and children around the world.

Ultimately, we all desire a more just world with a greater quality of life, particularly for the less fortunate. The more we come together, the closer we can get to this ideal. As Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

Julie Murray is the CEO and Anna Auerbach is the vice president of Moonridge Group, a philanthropy catalyst that works across sectors to build a stronger, kinder and more connected community.