About 20 years ago, a small group of community leaders were motivated by an idea: There ought to be some way for people to give substantial charitable contributions to help local nonprofit organizations that benefit the Manhattan community. They set up the Manhattan Community Foundation.

Then seven years ago, that foundation started something else: An annual fundraising campaign, bolstered by matching funds. The gimmick was to get people to multiply their charitable giving, and it has worked wonders.

The seventh-annual “Grow Green” event, put on by the foundation, raised three-quarters of a million dollars for those charities, according to figures just released. The number of donors: 920. The number of donations: 2,639, meaning some donors gave to multiple organizations. The number of organizations that benefited: 58.

You might ask: Why shouldn’t donors just give directly to the organizations? Why go through the foundation?

Well, there are a couple of reasons: In some cases, the charitable cause might not be big enough to have its own fundraising or management apparatus. In some other cases, the foundation is able to establish an investment fund that can generate returns for years to come, rather than the donation being funneled right into the operations of the charity right away.

Much of the success of the “Grow Green” day has to be attributed to the generosity of the Howe family, who have matched donations in order to multiply their effect. The family’s foundation gave about $227,000 this year.

Many organizations that benefit our community in a wide variety of ways will benefit for years to come, due to the generosity of the donors, and the Howes in particular. To all of them, and to the people who set this all up at the beginning, we tip our caps today.

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