To the human eye, Alachua County is a community filled with natural beauty anchored by the city of Gainesville and home to the University of Florida and Santa Fe College. Recognized as a “tree city of the world” by the United Nations and the Arbor Day Foundation, Gainesville joins only 23 U.S. cities to earn this designation worldwide. But what is more impressive than the environmental allure of our community is the incredible philanthropic spirit of the people and the area.
In recent years, Alachua County has consecutively ranked in the top 30 percent of all counties in the United States for charitable giving. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Alachua County residents donated more than $110 million to charity in 2017, ranking our county 306 out of 3,141 counties in the country for charitable contributions. And with more than 1,800 nonprofits based in the county, an amount significantly higher than the state median of 596, there are plenty of wonderful local causes to support.
For residents, this dynamic nonprofit community offers a multitude of benefits and an array of services. Local organizations provide help to those in need, improve educational opportunities for our youth and nurture a vibrant arts culture among the many programs offered. And when our community was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit community swiftly responded by pivoting their business models to care for our citizens. From providing hundreds of thousands of meals to safely housing hundreds of homeless residents, and from distributing tablets to vulnerable seniors in quarantine and offering virtual learning for school children, our nonprofits met the demands while also facing their challenges. Some highlights include:
• When the University of Florida closed campus, Southern Scholarship Foundation provided 32 students with rent-free housing for months despite losing more than $100,000 from canceled fundraisers.
• When the Cade Museum was forced to close, they could no longer deliver their science programs with school children in person. However, they were able to partner with our local PBS affiliate to broadcast lessons during daytime programming reaching 42,000 children and to share these lessons through their social media platforms reaching another 23,000 viewers around the world.
• When area restaurants were closed, local nonprofits collaborated with chefs, farmers, and staff to distribute more than 10,000 free meals in low-income neighborhoods. An estimated 20 jobs were supported through this effort.
• When fundraisers were canceled for most nonprofits, the Community Foundation of North Central Florida shifted their 24-hour online give day event, The Amazing Give, to provide an emergency relief platform benefiting nonprofits directly. Local organizations were able to raise more than $300,000 in the first month for immediate relief. Meanwhile, more than $1.5 million was secured in charitable donations through the Foundation to support our nonprofit community.
Alachua County’s robust community of nonprofits not only provides social support to citizens but also plays a pivotal role in the region’s economic life. Approximately 20 percent of the local workforce is employed by a nonprofit corporation, and with an average annual wage of $59,478, Alachua County nonprofits rank second in the state with the highest annual pay. A strong and vibrant local nonprofit sector is needed for a strong and vibrant local economy.
While many factors contribute to the uniqueness of our local sector, two are worth noting. As home to the University of Florida, Alachua County has also become home to many nonprofit entities related to the University – from alumni associations to booster clubs, professional groups to research associations. In fact, at least 13 percent of all Alachua County nonprofits are connected to the University in some fashion.
Whether someone wants to volunteer for a cause they love, donate to a charitable organization, or work in the nonprofit sector, Alachua County provides an array of resources to fulfill those passions. These opportunities and a culture of caring make Alachua County a perfect place to live, work, and raise a family. To learn more about local organizations, please visit The Philanthropy Hub, hosted by the Community Foundation of North Central Florida, at www.thephilanthropyhub.org.
Alachua County residents donated more than $110 million to charity in 2017, ranking our county 306 out of 3,141 counties in the country for charitable contributions.
For a complete listing of charities and non-profit organizations in Greater Gainesville visit guidetogreatergainesville.com/directory.