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Desert Companion

Give a little, live a little

Someone was gently tsk-tsking me recently on having a “scarcity mindset,” that fearful executive hoarder mentality that assumes your time, energy and money are under constant threat of theft by everyone around you — people who, in this jaundiced world-view, aren’t so much actual people as soul-devouring vampires. (Not exactly the most charitable way to think of, say, a friend who asks for a ride home because his car’s in the shop — oh no! I’ll be home late for Netflix!) The theory is that what starts out as a healthy awareness of the value of your own time, money and energy curdles into a pucker-hearted scrooginess that turns holistic frugality into a obsessive vice, cutting off opportunities for growth and new experiences and, more significantly, turning you into something of an unfun jerkhole.

Point taken. Nobody wants to be a jerkhole. That said, we got ourselves some busy lives, and we can’t all be sainting around town like Mother Theresa, dispensing miracle levels of love and charity. Is it too cynical to ask that giving back to the community sometimes be a little convenient? Not at all. There’s something really cool happening that does just that: Nevada’s Big Give. No lugubrious schmaltzfest telethons, no chest-pounding pledge drives. Organized by nonprofit Nevada Gives, it’s a one-day philanthropalooza April 25 that happens solely online at nvbiggive.org. On that day, you go to the website, pick a charitable Nevada cause you love, and break out the plastic.

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“Online giving is the wave of the future,” says Liz Vohwinkel, the event’s PR and marketing chair. “It’s much more efficient — and cheap — than traditional fundraising.” If that’s the case, why not just a standing website that allows people to give 24/7? Psychology. “The idea of limiting it to one day is to get people really pumped up,” she says.

Of course, the website has soft-opened, and you can give now. But besides that, it’s simply inspiring and instructive (and a bit mind-boggling) to browse the dizzying range of charitable causes and nonprofits (more than 500) that are doing great things in the Las Vegas Valley in areas as diverse as education, health and arts and culture. (Disclosure-type thing: Yes, Nevada Public Radio is participating.)

“It allows everyone to find something they’re passionate about,” says Vohwinkel. Beyond raising money for a worthy collection of nonprofits, a secondary mission of this year’s Big Give is to initiate newbies into the giving spirit. “We’re pushing to not only raise awareness and funds, but we’re hoping to raise the amount of individual giving and unique donors — especially those who have not donated to a nonprofit before,” Vohwinkel says. In 2011, Nevada’s Big Give raised $413,000 for 463 nonprofits. This year, they want to shatter that record, setting their goal at $1 million.

Vohwinkel — who, like the rest of the Big Give crew, does this on a volunteer basis — doesn’t have a pet cause herself. Actually, that’s not true. Her cause is getting people involved in their cause. “I’m passionate about getting people involved in whatever ignites their passion,” she says. “That’s the key to real systemic change.”

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We want you to get snappy with us. Have you entered the Desert Companion “Focus on Nevada” photo contest yet? Don’t wait — the May 5 deadline is just around the corner. Whether you’re a pro photographer with a robo-camera from the future or a smartphone shutterbug who takes quaint pictures of your breakfast, you’re encouraged to enter. The prizes are huge, entry is free and uploading your photos is easy as a grainy Instagram photo of pie. Enter now.

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