LA CROSSE COMMUNITY FOUNDATION

Jamie Schloegel: Wisconsin study confirms La Crosse is exceptional place to live

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La Crosse County residents involved in the nonprofit world — especially those from outside the area — have always known La Crosse is a special place.

It’s a place where people take care of one another and where community is a priority. Now, the evidence is there for all to see.

Researchers from the Helen Bader Institute for Nonprofit Management at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee this year published a study looking at the size, scope and economic impact of nonprofit organizations throughout the state.

Jamie Schloegel

Schloegel

Called “Nonprofit Wisconsin: In Brief,” the report confirmed the county’s leadership when it comes to philanthropy.

Among all 72 counties in Wisconsin, La Crosse County ranks 12th in population size. But when it comes to giving, the county consistently ranks among the highest. According to data from the National Council on Charitable Statistics included in the report, La Crosse County is:

  • Number 3 in charity income per capita ($20,008).
  • Number 4 in total charitable assets ($3.2 billion).
  • Number 5 in total charitable income ($2.4 billion)

Others in the top five include Dane, Milwaukee, Waukesha and Wood counties.

Giving at this level is not a coincidence.

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La Crosse County has a long history of leveraging community resources to improve quality of life. And in the past 10 years, we’ve seen donors, volunteers and nonprofit organizations embrace collaboration to increase that leverage.

As a community catalyst and convener, the La Crosse Community Foundation has had the privilege of joining area residents and organizations to work together to bring focused efforts and resources to address the area’s most pressing needs.

We’ve seen the start of La Crosse Promise, a partnership that has grown to include city and county government, the School District of La Crosse, both local health systems, La Crosse’s three higher education institutions and more, to improve community vitality through post-secondary educational opportunities.

La Crosse Promise Future Centers are now located in Logan and Central high schools, where every student can get ongoing, one-on-one assistance planning for a successful life post high school. And families who buy, build or renovate homes in select neighborhoods receive up to $50,000 in educational scholarships for their children.

We’ve also seen a group of women who observed families emerging from homelessness without furniture, lamps, plates and many of the other objects that make a house a home, come together to create theExchange.

Completely run by volunteers, theExchange takes in household furnishings others no longer need and works with a variety of community organizations to help people on the margins furnish their homes.

And we’ve seen volunteers come together to form the Riverside Park Band Shell Consortium to raise $850,000 to revitalize the Riverside Park band shell, so thousands of local residents can continue to enjoy free, community concerts each year.

When there’s a culture of philanthropy, people step up to make the community the best it can be. That’s what we have in La Crosse. We have residents who identify needs and partner with others to fill gaps.

Developing that culture is an ongoing process, with no foreseeable end. It’s a process that requires us to be inclusive, transparent, empowered and collaborative, and it’s a process that improves with increased participation and an eye toward the collective good.

Based upon the Nonprofit Wisconsin: In Brief report, La Crosse County is right on track.

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Jamie Schloegel is executive director of the La Crosse Community Foundation.

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