Each year, after consulting with area stakeholders and Giving Circle members, the group selects a community issue to examine. The annual topic reflects both the emergent needs of the Seacoast community and the interests of our membership. Through reading materials and guest speakers selected by the Learn committee, the Giving Circle's Board members learn about each cycle's particular topic at the monthly meetings. After gaining a broad overview of the issue, including current trends and local needs, the group targets a more specific area for investment.
Several times a year, the Giving Circle's Board members convene to study topics that will enhance the group's skill and knowledge of the non-profit sector, philanthropy, advocacy, and volunteerism.
Strengthening Resilient Communities During a Pandemic
Giving Cycle 2020-2021
This cycle the effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic were undeniable. The immediate threat to the health of our residents coupled with the downstream health, economic, and stress related impact resulted in an increased demand for services across many sectors. The impact of school closures, job loss, isolation, anxiety and stress disproportionately affected the most vulnerable among us. There was a rapid increase in households needing assistance to meet basic needs including health, food insecurity, housing, and childcare. For many, this was their first call for help.
We awarded $90,000 to six outstanding nonprofits who have played a critical role in responding to the urgent community need during this crisis. These organizations include Fair Tide, Gather, HAVEN, Seacoast Community School, Seacoast Youth Services and Waypoint. Funds will be used to support programs that provide food, stable housing, child care, case management, and mental health treatment services.
Trauma due to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
Giving Cycle 2019-2020
In this giving cycle, we learned that trauma due to adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, can negatively impact brain development and lead to poor life outcomes. ACEs include traumatic events such as experiencing and/or witnessing violence, abuse, neglect, family-related suicide, substance use disorders, mental health disorder, divorce or incarceration. We learned that prevention and intervention can significantly reduce the negative impact of these events.
We awarded $75,000 in unrestricted funding to five outstanding nonprofits, including Big Brothers Big Sisters of New Hampshire, The Chase Home, Child Advocacy Center of Rockingham County, Haven and Seacoast Family Promise. The grants will be used to prevent, mitigate the impact of, and help treat victims of ACEs in our Seacoast Community.
Substance Use Disorders
Giving Cycle 2018-2019
This cycle we revisited our sixth topic, as issues related to substance use disorders have grown to epidemic proportions in our community. Though New Hampshire is one of the healthiest states, it has the third highest death rate from substance use disorders per capita in the country. In the past, we learned that successful approaches to combatting this issue involve prevention, intervention, treatment, recovery, and harm reduction. This year, we learned about subtleties within this framework that have proven effective. We decided to focus on organizations that aim to foster resiliency, reduce stigma, embrace principles of harm reduction, use a trauma-informed approach, and address the whole person.
We awarded a record $92,000 in unrestricted funding to six organizations including The Chase Home, Hope on Haven Hill, Safe Harbor Recovery Center, Seacoast Mental Health, SOS Recovery Organization, and Step Up Parents. Funds will be used to help remove barriers to critical services for victims and their families.
Giving Cycle 2017-2018
During this cycle, the Giving Circle revisited the first issue we explored and funded in 2006-2007, the Environment. The Seacoast’s unique natural environment is a critical component of our cultural and economic vitality. We learned that sustainability, conservation and resilience are key to moderating the impact that our activities have on the water we drink, the air we breathe and the ocean that provides sustenance and other valuable resources to our communities.
We selected five outstanding grant recipients including Conservation Law Foundation, New England Grassroots Environment Fund, Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire, Toxics Action Center and White Pine Programs. These organizations will use our funds to help protect our watershed, support land conservation, ensure families have safe drinking water and deliver environmental education to the next generation.
Giving Cycle 2016-2017
"The Arts" is a broad topic, defined as "representing an outlet of expression that is usually influenced by culture and which in turn helps to change culture, and which topics include literature, performing arts, culinary arts, media arts, and visual arts."
We learned from our Learn Forum's panelists that in the Seacoast area the arts play a major role in our community and contribute greatly to our economy and well being. Some of the highlighted areas of need centered around artist support, art education, arts in healthcare, collaboration, community engagement, and advocacy. We also learned that the Giving Circle could make the greatest impact if we gave unrestricted funds and awarded multiple smaller grants. This cycle, we awarded gifts to six grant recipients: PMAC, The Dance Hall, 3S Artspace, Seacoast Mental Health, Arts in Reach, and New Hampshire Theater Project. Through our grants, we are supporting all aspects of arts in our community that we learned are vital - advocacy, arts education, artist support, arts in healthcare, and community collaboration.
Giving Cycle 2015-2016
Nonprofits operate in an increasingly challenging environment that presents opposing conditions. One the one hand, they are experiencing unrelenting demand for services, while on the other hand they face increased accountability and declining financial resources. Nonprofits are squeezed to provide more with less and while also needing to "invest" in capacity building within their organization. Common opportunities for capacity building investment include: Mission, Vision, and Strategy Development; Fund Development; Leadership; Governance/Board Development; Financial Management; Technology; as well as Collaboration.
We learned that smaller grant sizes could allow a number of organizations to take on specific Capacity Building projects and we granted TWO $15,000 grants to Chase Home for Children and New Hampshire Food Bank as well as FOUR $5,000 grants to Krempels Center, New Hampshire Theatre Project, Seacoast Eat Local, and Womenaid of Greater Portsmouth.
Healthy Child Development:
Giving Cycle 2014-2015
Our study of healthy child development focused on four key areas: economic security, education, health, and family and community. For over ten years, New Hampshire was ranked first in the nation for child wellbeing, but in 2013 dropped to fourth, a marked shift for our children. Data collected about these four focus areas suggest that this shift is partially due to New Hampshire's child poverty rate, which continues to rise more steeply than the national average. Growing up in poverty is one of the single greatest threats to healthy child development and a child's future success.
We learned of two particularly vulnerable populations: children birth to age 3, and teenagers. In our biggest fundraising year ever, we were able to give two collective gifts supporting BOTH of these at-risk populations. We granted $62,130 to Child and Family Services, Early Support Services Program, providing resources therapies to children with developmental delays and disabilities. We also granted $10,000 to Families First, allowing them to pilot a nationally recognized program never before provided in New Hampshire, called the Parent Project, helping the area most at-risk teens.
Giving Cycle 2013-2014
Despite the fact that mental health conditions are common and treatable, many in our communities suffer in silence. Stigma surrounding mental illnesses, discriminatory insurance coverage, workforce shortages, and a fragmented system limits access to care for many. However, it has been routinely shown that effective treatment does exist. A recent study by the NIMH reported that 74% of people diagnosed with schizophrenia recover with early intervention. In fact research has shown that mental health services are as effective as treatments for other common health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
With our collective funds, the SWGC supported the New Hampshire chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI %u2013 NH), dedicated to improving the lives of people affected by mental illness or serious emotional disorders through education, support and advocacy. The SWGC's grant will fund the implementation of an anti-stigma campaign on the Seacoast, Time to Make a Difference: Transform Mental Health. Through this campaign NAMI NH will seek to raise awareness around mental illness and recovery, eliminate stigma, and help the community prepare a strategy for advocating for improvements to the mental health system. Giving Circle members were impressed by NAMI NH efforts to reduce stigma and create systemic change, and excited by the opportunity to leverage our growing membership and our connections within our community to help advocate for NAMI NH's mission.
Giving Cycle 2012-2013
In our seventh giving cycle our members decided to study hunger and food insecurity and its impact on the Seacoast. We learned that 10 to 13% of the people living in NH are food insecure. Many people who do qualify for food assistance (or SNAP) do not take advantage of the programs and funding available to them. Yet, chronic food insecurity is linked to problems with weight, poor physical and cognitive development, and reduced performance in the school and workplace. Although the unemployment rate in this state has remained relatively stable, many have experienced a decrease in pay and benefits as their jobs have shifted from manufacturing to the service industry. Finally, as the infrastructure for processing food harvested from local farms has been eliminated, there is food that goes to waste in our state because of insufficient storage and processing facilities.
The members of the Giving Circle raised over $58,000 to help tackle the issue of hunger and food insecurity on the Seacoast. The Seacoast Family Food Pantry, our 2013 primary recipient, received over $53,000 and the NH Food Bank, our 2013 finalist, received $5,000. The Seacoast Family Food Pantry has utilized these funds to assist those struggling with hunger and food insecurity on the Seacoast through their summer bag lunch program, some much needed infrastructure upgrades, and the purchase of healthy food for some of their most vulnerable clients, seniors and working families with children. The funds gifted to NH Food Bank have been used to help stock shelves that have been left bare following recent supermarket closures that led to a significant drop in food donations.
Giving Cycle 2011-2012
In our sixth giving cycle, Giving Circle members elected to concentrate on substance abuse and addiction. We learned that 10% of New Hampshire's citizens have a diagnosable substance abuse disorder, placing our state among the highest per capita in the nation for substance abuse. While there is clear evidence that prevention-based strategies work to reduce drug and alcohol abuse, particularly among youth, very few such programs exist in our state. Thus, our members decided to focus on organizations aimed at reducing the harmful effects of substance abuse on the Seacoast through prevention, intervention, treatment, recovery, and advocacy.
In the spring of 2012, the Giving Circle selected Seacoast Youth Services (SYS) to be our grant winner. SYS offers education, prevention, and timely intervention programs and services regarding alcohol and other drug abuse, along with positive youth development opportunities, for adolescents and their families on the Seacoast. With the Giving Circle's award, SYS created additional after-school programming for middle and high school-aged youth that focuses on developing social skills, managing anxiety, and making healthy and safe choices. The organization also upgraded their physical space so that it would be inviting and more professional, and purchased a van to provide much-needed transportation for participating youth to access the after-school programs.
Giving Cycle 2010-2011
In our fifth giving cycle, the group focused on our region's senior population, and studied nonprofits providing non-medical support to help at-risk seniors age with dignity in their homes. Throughout this cycle, our members repeatedly heard about the rapidly growing senior population in New Hampshire, the lack of coordinated care for the frail elderly, and the need to "change the face of aging" in our Seacoast community.
In May of 2011, members selected Rockingham Community Action's Seniors Count Program as the Giving Circle's nonprofit grant recipient. The Giving Circle's members were inspired by the specific type of services offered by Seniors Count, as well as the model of integrated care provided as it is the highest standard of care for seniors. Our gift helped to fund the vital Community Liaison staff position for Seniors Count.
Women and Economic Security:
Giving Cycle 2009-2010
In our fourth giving cycle, the group chose to focus on women's issues, specifically women's economic security. We learned that many obstacles come between women and their financial stability: the decline in higher wage jobs; the increase in housing and health care costs; and the lack of access to transportation and affordable childcare. Through our giving, we aimed to help single mothers and/or working mothers overcome one or more of these obstacles.
In June of 2010, we selected More Than Wheels (formerly Bonnie CLAC) as our gift recipient. Our group was struck by the key role transportation plays in a woman's ability to gain financial stability. More Than Wheels provides individuals with access to reliable, affordable transportation through one-on-one intensive coaching and financial fitness training. The organization helps low-income clients, 70% of whom are women, improve their personal financial skills and credit ratings before purchasing an affordable, reliable and fuel-efficient car. Our group's gift will support outreach to prospective female clients in our community and a Matching Savings Program for low-income women on the Seacoast. All funds donated in excess of $20K will provide general operating support restricted to the Seacoast region.
Children at Risk:
Giving Cycle 2008-2009
During our third giving cycle, we learned about the many challenges facing young people in our community, and grew passionate about the opportunity to invest in programs that prevent risky behavior among youth ages 11 - 18 years. Research shows that between the hours of 3:00 PM and 6:00 PM, there are not only higher rates of teen suicide, drug /alcohol use, and sexual activity, but there is also an increase in the number of 911 calls made regarding adolescents.
In June of 2009, we selected New Heights to be our gift recipient. Founded by Seacoast Mental Health Center in 1987, New Heights is an after-school and vacation program that annually serves over 500 middle and high school students, providing risk-prevention and confidence-building activities designed to help them make a successful transition to adulthood. Giving Circle members and supporters donated over $42,000 to New Heights; our dollars served as general operating support and supported New Heights' Junior Staff Program, a mentoring track that places older adolescents in leadership positions to facilitate daily activities and to serve as accessible and positive role models to the younger participants.
Affordable Housing and Homelessness:
Giving Cycle 2007-2008
In our second giving cycle, members chose to focus on affordable housing and homelessness. In our community, thousands of local families, many with young children, have experienced periods of homelessness. In fact, the average age of a homeless person in New Hampshire is nine years old. Through our study of this issue we learned that substance abuse, mental health disorders, and lack of access to basic primary health care often compound the challenge of finding affordable housing.
To help combat this problem, the Giving Circle selected Families First's Health Care for the Homeless Program to receive its 2008 gift. This program serves our community's most vulnerable residents, offering them immediate relief from medical problems and helping them to rebuild their lives. With our members' gifts and those of friends, we provided over $21,000 to enable Families First to hire a part-time care coordinator for the Health Care for the Homeless Program. For more information, visit www.familiesfirstseacoast.org.
Environment on the Seacoast:
Giving Cycle 2006-2007
The Giving Circle selected the environment as the focus of its first cycle of giving. This decision reflected our new awareness that environmental stewardship can be a human justice issue and that topics such as climate change, land conservation, and water quality are both urgent and local.
We selected the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) to receive our first gift. With member contributions and the generosity of friends and neighbors, our gift grew to nearly $10,000. These funds have helped CLF pursue strategic ways to protect the Great Bay Estuary, a critically important natural treasure that is at risk of collapse. For more information, visit www.clf.org.