As featured in the Northwest Herald on December 18, 2016

I’m having one of those weeks where something just sticks with me. Ever have those? When someone says something to you that you think about constantly for a few days? I was in conversation and was asked why I think that people tend to be more giving over the holiday season and at the end of the year. I didn’t really need to think twice about my answer at the time, I just said the first thing that came to my mind that I thought was a good response, and then we moved along with the conversation.

But then that nagging feeling crept up a few moments later, and then an hour later, and then that night while brushing my teeth. I work diligently for a nonprofit. I should have the perfect answer, right? Why do people tend to give this time of year instead of throughout? Why does it seem the need is so much greater this time of year? Was it as easy of an answer as I thought? I asked my husband what he thought. Was his answer the same as mine? What about my friends – what did they think?

I believe that we focus more on giving this time of year for several reasons.

We give because we are feeling festive and in the philanthropic spirit, and so we pass it along and pay it forward. We give because we recognize at this time of year, as we are buying presents and celebrating, that some people aren’t, and we want to help.

We give because it is the end of the year, we’ve reviewed our assets and see that we have abundance in our lives and we can afford to donate. We give because it’s what you are supposed to do.

We give because we have a passion for a particular cause. We give because we love to do it and it makes us feel good. No matter what your reason, it is an exceptional thing to be a donor! Our community is in need.

United Way is fortunate to support 30 amazing nonprofit agencies in McHenry County through our annual campaign. Your gift to us is significant because your one donation has the ability to reach and impact those 30 agencies and the people they serve. And now more than ever, it is easy to donate and be connected! We have a brand new website (www.uwmchenry.org) that makes it so easy to click the donate button and become a supporter! We have up-to-date Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram pages where you can follow along with all our progress during our 50 year anniversary. You can see what we are doing, who we help and who is supporting us.

One of the most wonderful things about United Way of Greater McHenry County is that along with accepting donations during the holidays, we work hard all year long to secure contributions through workplace campaigns. We try to encourage employees to realize the value of giving back throughout the year through a payroll deduction. For just $1-2 a week, or the price of a cup of coffee, we have the unique ability to make a large impact with these combined donations.

I challenge you during this holiday season, but also in the New Year and beyond – become passionate about giving. I invite you to join us. I ask you to help build a thriving community with us because you have invested your family and fostered your life here. I ask you to work towards realizing that giving is a privilege and not an obligation. And I ask you, in the moving words shared by Greg Louganis, to “never underestimate your ability to make someone’s life better- even if you never know it.”

• Heather Arnold is the marketing manager at the United Way of Greater McHenry County.