2015 was another record year for Community CHIP® contributions: a total of $238,000. Wow . . . “thank you” doesn’t really say it strongly enough, but we do mean it.
More than 26,000 Co-op Owners donated an average of about $9 over the the year, or about 17¢ per week. That may not sound like much per person. But Community Shares of Wisconsin (CSW) has always been guided by this principle: when many people donate a little, it adds up to a truly significant amount.
The Community CHIP funds (the typical gift is 1% that’s added to your bill) go to support CSW and its 67 member nonprofits.
How does CSW choose its member nonprofits?
We typically do an in-depth member recruitment every four years or so. As part of the process, we review the groups’ financial information and ensure that their work aligns with our mission. All of our nonprofits work in some way for social or environmental justice. All, too, advocate for change at the grassroots level. A primary way that our groups stand apart: they focus on fundamental systemic change. Together, our goal is to create a community that is more fair and equitable for all.
What’s the application process to become a CSW member?
Who is on your Board?
Our Board comprises a representative from each of our 67 member groups plus five community reps. Our Board members are actively involved in governance, financial oversight, and strategic planning—helping to direct the work of CSW’s full- and part-time staff of nine.
CSW relies on a cooperative model whereby our member groups make the decisions, in concert with community reps. A cooperative model allows us to remain responsive to today’s ever-changing environment by embracing new strategies and innovation.
How does CSW raise funds?
Our largest source of funds is from workplace giving—those in the private and public sector who have CSW as an option for payroll contributions. Those monthly donations, multiplied by thousands of people, added up to about $775,000 last year.
The Community CHIP program is another key source of funding for us. Many people also donate to us by mail or online at www.communityshares.com. And our online giving day, The Big Share™, was successful in 2015, raising over $195,000 for our member nonprofits.
How does my CHIP gift help these area nonprofits?
The Community CHIP gifts are used to support all the benefits CSW offers to member nonprofits, including training and technical expertise. This helps strengthen the nonprofits, increasing their capacity and effectiveness and building a stronger movement for social change.
As Emily Meier at Madison Audubon Society said, “the professional development [from CSW] is incredibly helpful both for me as an individual and for our nonprofit. I’m able to be better at my job and be more confident that my work is making a difference because of the training sessions CSW offers. I could go on and on about the great professional development I’ve gained from being a member of CSW…it’s so valuable.”
Community CHIP gifts also are part of the general funding we distribute to each of our 67 member groups, to support their critical programs. What follows are just a few examples of the work our groups do.
Tenant Resource Center assists thousands each year—over 18,000 just in 2015. As one donor said, “We figured we could help more families by giving to TRC than anywhere else this year.”
ABC for Health Inc. (ABC) helps people obtain and keep healthcare coverage, and it challenges unfair benefit denials or terminations. ABC also advocates for health equity—for example, as it relates to “birth cost recovery.” This policy requires unmarried couples to repay the state the cost of a Medicaid birth, but the policy doesn’t apply to a married couple. (The state is reviewing ABC’s recommendations to treat unmarried couples more equitably.)
Freedom Inc. is a national leader in Black and Brown solidarity. The group offers numerous trainings in multicultural organizing for social justice. And they raise their voices locally as well as internationally: a group from Freedom Inc. recently testified before the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.
Did you know: nearly all of the sand used in hydraulic fracking worldwide is mined right here in Wisconsin? And we don’t understand much about the long-term impacts of this mining. Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters Institute assisted the Chippewa County Board as it challenged this “mine now, ask questions later” approach. In just four days, conservation voters sent 340 messages to County Board members urging a scientific study on the health, economic, and environmental impacts of frac sand mining. And it paid off—the County Board passed a resolution asking the state to investigate the effects of frac sand mining on our air, land, water.
At GSAFE’s Leadership Training Institute, LGBTQ+ youth leaders from across Wisconsin gather to build their leadership skills. High school student Taye had this to say: “I have finally found a sense of community and feel like I belong, since there are people here who are just like me.”
Housing Initiatives finds permanent homes for men with mental illness—a category often overlooked by housing groups. As Mike, a Gulf War veteran, said, “The #1 step in my healing was having a permanent roof over my head. I’m now able to pay my bills and I am working my way towards a job. Soon, I’ll likely leave Housing Initiatives because I’ll be emotionally and financially stable again.”
“The water in the Bad River watershed means everything to our community,” said April Stone Dahl. “We have fish hatcheries and wild rice beds that feed us. Many families rely on subsistence farming and groundwater wells.” However, agricultural runoff is a large part of declining water quality in the watershed. It’s why April signed on as part of Midwest Environmental Advocates’ Petition for Corrective Action, recently sent to the EPA, to encourage the state to comply with the Clean Water Act.
How are the non-profits required to use the money?
Any money that we distribute to our member groups can be used for general operations—and that’s different from most grants and other funding sources, which require that nonprofits use the money only for a single project. “Greatest need” at any one time might mean that one group pursues a lawsuit on behalf of voters concerned about our Voter ID law. Another group might fix the leaky roof on their building. And another group pays taxi fares to ensure that sexual assault victims get the care and treatment they need.
We trust our member groups to know best what their own needs and priorities are.
One more chance to say thanks
Willy Street Co-op is Community Share’s sole CHIP partner for a reason: Co-op Owners realize how important community support is. And you give generously to support CSW and all of these grassroots groups making positive change. Thank you again for all you do for the Community CHIP program.