Idaho Gives returns to benefit nonprofits

Donors go online to give to their favorite charities and causes on May 1

awebb@idahostatesman.comMarch 7, 2014 

  • NONPROFITS: REGISTER NOW, ATTEND AN OPEN HOUSE FOR IDAHO GIVES

    Events to learn more about the Idaho Gives day:

    • Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Idaho Central Credit Union Meridian Branch, 1615 S. Celebration.

    • March 14, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Idaho Central Credit Union Downtown Boise Branch, 200 N. 4th St.

    • Information: Annie Black at ablack@idahononprofits.org.

    Register: Nonprofit organizations can register for Idaho Gives online. Find a link at Idahostatesman.com.

The one-day Idaho Gives event is both modest and big.

It's modest because donors can give as little as $10 — although some donors gave as much as $7,000 last year.

It's big because last year it raised $578,735 for 541 causes. Close to half of the donations came from the Treasure Valley.

The fundraiser encourages donors to log on to a single website and give to hundreds of nonprofits. It offers support for everyone, whether the cause is child welfare, the environment, animals or something else.

The Idaho Nonprofit Center is the organizer and is urging nonprofit organizations to register for the 2014 event before the April 10 deadline.

"We just opened registration. We have many returning nonprofits and many new nonprofits. That tells us there are a lot of organizations that felt they missed out last year," said Janice Fulkerson.

Fulkerson became the executive director of the Idaho Nonprofit Center after Lynn Hoffmann's retirement earlier this year.

Fulkerson said she hopes to grow the program in 2014 in dollars and participants, though she hasn't set specific goals: "We just want it to be bigger than last year."

In 2013, more than 6,000 donors across the state made more than 9,000 individual donations, meaning many gave more than once.

A HELPFUL FOCUS

Easter Seals-Goodwill raised just $700 but it got connected to a bunch of new donors, said Laura Schultz, assistant vice president of development.

"Getting to know new donors and friends was very valuable," she said. "We didn't know so many people liked and supported us."

Participating Idaho Gives nonprofits have the option of directing donations to specific projects. This focus is helpful for large organizations that juggle several projects at once, said Schultz.

Easter Seals-Goodwill directed donations to two programs, Working Solutions - a job program for low-income people receiving some kind of benefit from the state - and the organization's adult behavioral health center, a program to help people with substance abuse and mental illness regardless of their ability to pay.

The organization is channeling donations to the same two programs this year.

On the actual day of the event, it's "kind of addicting to go to the site and watch the donation updates," said Schultz.

"Even if it's not your organization at the top of the leaderboard, it's still great because all the groups are great nonprofits. It makes me feel good about the state I live in."

SPREADING THE WORD, CHEERING OTHERS

In addition to the donations that come in for specific groups, a pool of $35,000 will be divided among nonprofits with the largest number of unique donors. Nonprofits compete for the bonuses with organizations of similar size.

Idaho Gives will present other awards randomly throughout the day.

Girls on the Run, a program that provides training in sports and life skills for elementary-age girls, has just one full-time employee, Melissa Bixby. But last fall, the program enrolled 378 girls across the Valley.

Idaho Gives 2013 brought in $3,000 for GOTR. A high number of unique donors also helped the organization place third among small nonprofits. That honor brought a $500 bonus.

The Idaho Gives money went to the group's scholarship fund. About 60 percent of the program's participants need help paying the $110 tuition for a 10-week session. GOTR typically gives out between $20,000 and $30,000 in scholarships each year, said Bixby. The donations that come in this year will also go for scholarships.

Donations and grants support the organization, "but $3,000 in one day is so much more than we would be able to bring in any other way," said Bixby.

Bixby attended an Idaho Gives open house in 2013 - this year the open houses are Friday and March 14 - that helped her hone the group's message: "We empower elementary girls through running." She then turned to social media, putting the message and information about Idaho Gives in a Facebook post and "email blast to all of our people," said Bixby. She also sent out postcards.

"We hoped the grass roots would spread the message," she said.

She enlisted a couple of Boise State students to post messages about donation totals, and she found herself awake until midnight. "I was watching the numbers, thinking, who can I call at this time of night to get them to donate?" she said.

She said she likes the collaborative spirit of Idaho Gives. "All groups are cheering each other on," she said.

A SUCCESSFUL MODEL

It's not easy for organizations that rely on grants to find "unrestricted dollars," said Casey Shelley of Strategies 360, a firm working with the Idaho Nonprofit Center on the Idaho Gives project.

That's one of the nice things about the event. Groups can use donations to cover operating funds or to pay the electric bill.

Other states have used the Idaho Gives model successfully for years, said Shelley. A well-established program in Minnesota has raised more than $93 million to date. A newer Seattle program doubled its donation dollar amount over its first couple of years.

Lynn Hoffmann, Fulkerson's predecessor at the Idaho Nonprofit Center, started researching the model and decided to give it a try in Idaho in 2013. Besides gathering new donors and lots of money in a concentrated period, this style of giving also attracts younger donors, said Shelley.

She's hoping more businesses, nonprofits and for-profits alike will get involved this year - that similar businesses will challenge each other to bring in donations, and that businesses will set up easy ways for employees to donate.

Organizers are planning live events for May 1. The Statesman will keep you posted.

Idaho Central Credit Union, PacificSource Health Plans and Idaho National Laboratory are Idaho Gives underwriting sponsors. Additional groups and individuals have contributed to build the $35,000 bonus pool.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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