Meet Chris and Holly Nelson, 2022 Tocqueville Society Co-Chairs

Meet Chris and Holly Nelson, 2022 Tocqueville Society Co-Chairs Image

“Trust the Process”

For over two decades, Chris and Holly Nelson have been supporting the mission and vision of United Way of Buffalo & Erie County as donors and volunteers. Between the two of them, the pair have served in a variety of roles – championing workplace campaigns, promoting planned giving as part of the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County Centennial in 2017. But perhaps one of the most impactful experiences was when Holly served as a program investments volunteer reviewer very early in the couple’s relationship with United Way. 

From that experience, the Nelsons gained a deep appreciation for the process that United Way goes through to decide where the money of the donors will go. Holly says, “I really appreciated that there were people from all walks of life in our community and a lot of community leaders who actually sit down and review those applications and try to make the best decisions based on what is going on in our community at the time.”

Another experience that profoundly shaped the Nelsons’ understanding of United Way was participating in the Poverty Simulation. “It was just so eye opening,” says Chris. “To think about how difficult it is to navigate this world when you’re living in financial hardship. And so that just hit me in a totally different way – when I was trying to figure out how to take care of children, how to meet our basic needs, how to navigate through the social services within the community. It re-energized me with regard to what United Way does.”

When Chris and Holly talk about philanthropy, one of the things that immediately becomes clear is the incredible joy the couple finds in giving back. Guided by their faith, the Nelsons share a sense of responsibility to steward well all that they have been given in life and to be helpful to those in need. Giving is always a priority, and one they greet with thankful hearts. 

“Giving,” says Holly, “is a muscle that needs exercise. But the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets, and the more satisfying it is to give.”

For the Nelsons, giving is also an expression of their family’s values. As the parents of triplets, Chris and Holly always knew how important it was to them to demonstrate to their children what it means to give back and to engage them in it from the start. From piggy bank pledges to participating in that Poverty Simulation as a family, the Nelsons have always made being part of United Way a family affair. 

“It’s planting seeds,” says Holly. “And you just hope they sprout into something that has some staying power when they get older.”

Now that their three children are in college, Chris and Holly are excited to have the opportunity to share the work of United Way and invite people to be part of the significant impact that Tocqueville Society has in Erie County as 2022 Tocqueville Society Chairs. 

“We have experienced a lot of horror in this community over the last few years, and there are a lot of needs. And by becoming a member of Tocqueville Society, you can have a very significant impact. You can be confident that United Way is going to use the dollars in the best way possible to meet the needs of the community. We have a lot of confidence in how the process works, and to be able to invite new people into that process is really exciting,” Chris says. 

Holly echoes, “Trust the process. Everyone works very hard for their money, and when you give you want to trust that it’s going to be used wisely. And I would say that you can trust the process that United Way goes through to make those funding decisions.”


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