Charitable clicks generate over $431K in one day

First try at online `crowdfunding' a big success, organizers say

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian Arts & Features Reporter

Published:

 

On the Web

Community Foundation for Southwest Washington

www.cfsww.org

On the Web

Community Foundation for Southwest Washington

www.cfsww.org

Grass roots generosity in Southwest Washington went digital in a big way this week, with individual donors at every level clicking their way to $431,994.69 in gifts to local nonprofit and charitable agencies.

Of that amount, $338,994.69 was pledged by people who visited a special website hosted by the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington, and $93,000 more was in matching gifts, prizes and other incentives that were anted up by local businesses and philanthropists.

The 24-hour period from 7 a.m. Thursday to 7 a.m. Friday was christened “Give More 24!” by the Community Foundation, which invested in new technology in order to create a website where donors could choose individual charities or search by program area, make secure online donations — and then watch totals mount all day long.

Charities involved in the effort also hosted fun activities during the day to energize the community.

There was a day-long carnival at Share, free ballet at Columbia Dance, charity bowling at Big Al’s, a barnstorming band bus and lots more.

“Everyone was talking about it,” said Community Foundation President Jennifer Rhoads. “There was definitely a buzz, a good feeling in our community.”

There were 1,842 individual donations benefitting 85 different nonprofit agencies in Clark, Cowlitz and Skamania counties, according to a final Friday morning wrap-up from the Community Foundation. In addition to the local region, donations also came in from 28 other states and one foreign country.

The whole campaign fell short of its target of $500,000, but Rhoads said that barely matters.

“It was a huge success,” she said. “For the first year, we couldn’t have asked for anything better.” There will definitely be a next year, she said.

“I think the biggest thing was learning how we can leverage technology and social media to raise funds for causes and needs in our own community,” Rhoads said. “We thought this would be a great opportunity for us all to learn together.”

She said that nonprofits that were already online did best during Give More 24!, and some of the smaller nonprofits that never had an online presence before latched on to take part.

“I bet about a third of the nonprofits we worked with never even had a Facebook page before,” she said. “Now they do.”

The Give More 24! campaign was an example of the Community Foundation striving to be a better, more engaged partner with local nonprofits, she said. “We had the funds to invest in this technology. Community foundations are natural leaders for this sort of effort. Small nonprofits wouldn’t be able to afford to do this without us.”

Modest gifts, most clicks

The day’s top dollar-getter was Support for Early Learning and Families, which is coordinating an ambitious program to improve early childhood education — and all aspects of childhood — in Clark County. SELF received 12 gifts totaling $42,666. Evergreen Habitat for Humanity and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra were notable for big spreads between the number of gifts they took in and the amounts raised: just four gifts brought $10,100 to the symphony, while 14 gifts brought $31,487 to Habitat.

Generally speaking, that indicates devoted and deep-pocketed donors making big contributions.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Washington was the most popular charity of the day, receiving the largest number of individual donations: 170 mostly small gifts that totalled $19,152.

“They were very focused on the $10-to-$100 donor, and they were very successful,” said Rhoads. “They were not trying to get out their regular, major donors. They were looking at younger people and families. That’s the type of donor that comes out on this kind of day.”

“We were really interested in bringing new people into the fold,” said Boys & Girls Club executive director Elise Menashe. That meant Boys & Girls Club staff members, volunteers and the families of the kids themselves.

That’s a pretty modest group, Menashe said, but the fact that the minimum donation was $10 made a big difference. Some Boys & Girls Club families don’t have computers and don’t even have credit cards, she said, but that wasn’t an obstacle. Donation jars were set out at each club location for the day. Three-quarters of all donations were $50 or less, she said.

“We had fun with it,” said Menashe. “We were thinking less about the money than about the spirit of giving.”