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As the air turns cooler and the days grow shorter, our minds quickly turn to the final three months of the year, with thoughts of family gathering around the dinner table over Thanksgiving and then quickly turning to the writing of wish lists and the ensuing rush of gift buying for the holiday season. One item on your end of year to do list which may outlast a stylish sweater or the latest electronic gadget may be to contemplate making charitable donations before the calendar ushers in year 2018.

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Last week I gave you the first 3 of 9 things you should consider when making end of year donations.  Consider these additional strategies for your charitable dollars as you slide that turkey into the oven and keep your fingers crossed that the gravy doesn't turn out lumpy.

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It's that time of year again! We're seeing holiday decorations at the mall and, along with the catalogs piling up in our mailboxes, come the end-of-the-year solicitations from charitable organizations. While I would encourage you to give to United Way of Rock River Valley, we at United Way commend each and every nonprofit working hard to make a difference in our Rockford, IL community and we think their cause also deserves consideration for your charitable giving. 

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United Way of Rock River Valley is more than just a fundraiser — we are a community leader. We lead the hand-raisers and the game-changers when we fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every neighborhood.

Who are the hand-raisers and the game-changers? They are donors and volunteers who understand that we're stronger together than we are alone.

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There are years when a tax deduction can be really helpful. As we go through life, our little deductions grow up and move away, the house gets paid off, and our income likely increases. The result is paying higher income tax bills. If you are in this situation and are charitably inclined, consider establishing a Donor Advised Fund (DAF).

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Labor Day is a tribute to the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well being of our country. To celebrate the day, Rockford United Labor will host the 65th Annual Labor Day Parade on Monday, September 4, 2017 in downtown Rockford. The parade will start at 10:00 a.m. The Parade begins at 6th Avenue and 7th Street, turns west on East State Street, turns south on Wyman Street and ends at Davis Park. The reviewing stand and bleachers will be located outside the E.J. "Zeke" Giorgi Building on Wyman Street. This year's Grand Marshall is Russell McClain and the theme is "Right to Work Hurts All."

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I just heard an interesting segment on NPR on my way back from lunch. The reporter was talking to a few folks on the best way to donate to the ginormous relief efforts needed in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. They said you can make sure your donation gets where you want it to by taking the time to check Charity Navigator, Guidestar, etc.

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I'm excited! United Way of Rock River Valley is unveiling new branding...and I love it. It's direct, emotional, and a little bit gritty. It tells the story of United Way.

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Thank you to the over 400 donors who have already filled out United Way's survey about a new focus area. Today, August 4, is the deadline to complete the survey so please check your email and fill it out if you haven't already.

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More than 70 percent of millennials volunteered for at least one hour annually. Millennials are among the most “generous” and optimistic generation in history, reports Brigid Schulte of The Washington Post. However, organizations cannot simply rely on employer-solicited contributions when working with this group.

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Two weeks ago, United Way of Rock River Valley, RAASE (Rockford Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation), the Rockford Police Department and the Winnebago County Sheriff committed to and educated the public on end-demand strategy as a way to fight prostitution in the Rockford area, specifically in the Midtown neighborhood.

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In May, our United Way board of directors and staff embarked on the incredible journey known as strategic planning. I can tell right now, most of you are thinking, "I've been down that road before. Strategic planning is a great way to devote time and money to printing a plan and storing it on a shelf." Not so with United Way. We are intent on creating, with this community's help, a living, breathing document that will direct our work for the next three years and for years to come.

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There are many ways to give back to your community, ranging from volunteering to mentoring children and adolescents through local organizations, like the Strong Neighborhoods Initiative via United Way of Rock River Valley. However, one of the most effective ways to stretch your passion to help others is by making charitable donations. These donations put your money to work in local communities in several key ways.

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In this Midwestern City, there is no question that Rockford and surrounding areas boast a deep passion for the game of golf. This region alone possesses over 15 public and private golf courses. Due to the high interest of this sport, Rockford United Labor has been able to build a tradition of giving back to the community. For over 23years, Rockford United Labor has supported United Way of Rock River Valley’s community impact by raising additional money by doing what many of its members enjoy, playing golf.  The success of this annual event, held on Thursday, June 22nd, 2017, has raised over $300,000 in fundraising dollars over the years. These outings, along with many others hosted by labor organizations, benefits United Way and have a positive impact on the children and parents in our community.

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Spending time outside is well-documented for its health benefits among health professionals, reports the U.S. National Library of Medicine. In fact, you are bombarded with an endless array of learning opportunities and mental health-boosting nutrients every time you step outdoors, but these benefits are easy to overlook. Take a closer look at some of the exciting ways parks can help improve community health too.

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While you may have already filed your taxes for 2016, it is never too late to start thinking about ways to save on your taxes for next year. One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to reduce your tax bill is to donate to charity. These donations can help you save money and improve your long-term financial stability. In fact, consider how donating to a charity, like United Way of Rock River Valley, could help your finances in these five ways.

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School will be out soon, and while plenty of people will be planning their summer vacation, it is important to remember those in the community who may not have the ability to spend the summer lounging. Instead, you can help make the summer better and more enjoyable by volunteering for community service opportunities in your area. If you are not sure where to begin, consider volunteering for one of these fun, outdoor ways to give back to your community.

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With increased competition to get into the nation’s prestigious colleges and universities, more students need to understand how community service may impact their application. Having the right balance of community service and academic courses can help prospective students get into the college of their choice. As a result, students should understand how admission counselors are weighing community service, what types of community service can improve their chances and how to highlight such experiences in the application.

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