'Build Montana' takes root on Web
Helena Independent Record Editorial, used by permission | Originally posted: Dec 15, 2011 | Read on Helenair.com
As the days wind down in 2011, many Helenans once again take up the giving spirit — not only the giving of gifts under the tree in 10 days’ time, but giving from the checkbook before the calendar turns to January. For people who want to find worthy causes to support but aren’t sure which ones best match their own values, we suggest perusing a new Web portal established this year by the Montana Nonprofit Association. With a few clicks, users can find organizations in Helena or anywhere in the state doing the kind of work that they will feel best supporting.
Build Montana, at www.buildmontana.org , is a terrific resource for people looking to donate, volunteer or simply learn more about the state’s thousands of nonprofits. With this season’s emphasis on donating to organizations before Dec. 31, the page for each nonprofit in the state includes a “Donate Now” button, so procrastinators can wait until the last minute and still give in time to receive the charitable deduction on next year’s taxes.
But there’s more to the site than the ability to offer financial support. As much as anything, the site aims to build awareness and relationships between organizations and Montanans who are able and willing to help in any way.
“As we were creating Build Montana, we asked the question, ‘What kind of tool could we create to help the public understand who the nonprofit sector is and how to connect with them?’ ” said Patty White, MNA’s marketing director.
The MNA fields general inquiries about nonprofits in the state all the time: How many nonprofits are there in Yellowstone County? Where can I volunteer in Cascade County? And so on. Build Montana was formally launched at the group’s annual conference in September, but the site was actually operating in May, and with no publicity at all received a fair amount of traffic from people looking for ways to help in the aftermath of the spring floods that devastated parts of the state.
The site provides a modicum of financial information so people can see how large organizations’ budgets are. For more detailed information, users should visit GuideStar (www.guidestar.org), a much more extensive compilation of financial data for nonprofits across the country, compiled from the groups’ IRS filings.
If you’re using Build Montana to search by ZIP code, enter “596**” instead of any of the specific codes in our area, for instance, since some groups use the common 59601, while others have the P.O. Box-specific 59624, and searching for either of those will yield incomplete results.
Many of us already have our favorite groups and charities at this time of year. But for those new to the area, those looking for a new group to support, or those looking for someplace to volunteer, Build Montana can help point us in the right direction. It’s good for the nonprofit community, and ultimately we hope it’s good for Montana.
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