Can Idaho Gives 2017 raise the equivalent of $1 for every Idaho adult? Organizers want to try on Thursday

Since 2013, Idaho Gives — the statewide, 24-hour online annual giving event that takes place this year on Thursday, May 4 — has raised $3.5 million for Idaho nonprofits.

With more than 700 organizations participating now, organizers have raised the stakes in year number five: They’re trying to raise $1.2 million on Thursday. That represents $1 for every adult Idahoan.

The Idaho Nonprofit Center, following the example of similar programs in other states, began the project in Idaho as a new way for nonprofits to reach donors, especially younger, first-time donors. The online platform also offers a one-stop shop where donors can give to many groups they like, all in one place, not to mention a live website where donors and participants can chart their progress throughout the day.

For many of the groups — large and small — Idaho Gives is vital to both their fundraising and getting the word out to Idahoans about why their work matters.

One group’s Idaho Gives story

The Idaho Walk Bike Alliance — like many Idahoans these days — is devoted to “human-powered” transport.

A small, but ardent group of alternative transportation lovers founded the Idaho Walk Bike Alliance in 2009. Its mission includes lobbying for city planning and funding at the state, regional and local levels to make roadways safe and welcoming for Idahoans who want to get around without cars. The alliance also hosts events like the annual Idaho Walk Bike Summit and PARK(ing) Day, an annual event when groups transform metered parking spots into temporary parks to encourage creativity and critical thought about the nature of public spaces. The alliance has around 350 members from across the state.

The alliance is just one of the hundreds of nonprofits participating in the fifth Idaho Gives, the statewide, 24-hour online annual giving event that takes place on Thursday, May 4, hosted by the Idaho Nonprofit Center.

The alliance has participated in Idaho Gives since it began in 2013, said Robyn Hayes, its outreach and development director. Because of all the groups vying for donations, connecting with donors is a challenge, she said. Plus, the alliance’s focus on changing public policy over time isn’t always so sexy.

“We don’t hand out bikes,” said Hayes.

But this year, the alliance is trying something new. Staffers got supporters — everyone from kids to serious cyclists to people who use canes — to make video testimonials about what walking and biking means to them. The alliance has been posting the videos in the weeks leading up to May 4 and sharing links through social media. They’ll continue to use the videos to spread their message long after Idaho Gives, Hayes said.

Like many organizations, the alliance is hosting a special event on Thursday. They’ll staff a table from 5 to 8 p.m. at Title Nine, the women’s athletic wear store, 170 N. 8th St. in Boise, during the First Thursday sports bra fitting event, “Renounce the Bounce.”

“Because you have to have fun in fundraising every once in a while. A lot of the work we do is pretty serious,” said Hayes.

Indeed. Alliance Director Cynthia Gibson recently compiled a “crash calendar” that determined that one Idaho biker or walker is badly injured or killed every three days.

Numbers like that only encourage the work the alliance does — successfully lobbying the Idaho Legislature in the past to make texting while driving an infraction, and during the most recent session, celebrating the passage of a bill that included funding for pedestrian safety.

“We work on state level policy that helps local advocates make the improvements they need in their own communities,” said Gibson, who dreams that one day the Boise Greenbelt will stretch all the way to the Snake River and that every kid will have a safe route to bike or walk to school.

Numbers make a stronger case

Don Kostelec, a longtime supporter of the alliance, worked for ACHD and now is a consultant with expertise in integrating biking and walking options into traditional roadway designs, which have often viewed them as an afterthought. Kostelec views walking and bicycling as the “original transportation,” rather than an alternative. Promoting safe roads makes financial sense for the state, he said.

According to the most recent report from the Idaho Transportation Department, crashes involving cars and pedestrians cost the state $116 million each year. Car/bike crashes cost an additional $41 million.

“Being involved with the alliance, I can help them unearth these numbers and make a case for policy changes. Like, hey, if we devote $1 million a year to creating safer conditions for people to walk and bike, that investment could save a lot of money. Of course, we don’t always get those commitments,” Kostelec said.

“We like to say that traffic is fast, but transportation is slow,” said Gibson. Policy changes and changing long-held mindsets takes time.

But she and supporters are determined and want to capitalize on events like Idaho Gives to raise the alliance’s profile. They also want to dispel the notion that working for transportation that doesn’t focus on cars is an urban issue, or a cause championed by affluent people who want to ride their bikes to the farmer’s market and the like. Nearly one third of Idahoans don’t drive because of income, a disability or age limitations, said Hayes.

“And most rural Idaho communities have a state highway running through them,” she added.

The alliance has set a goal of raising $5,000 on Thursday. Donations will support the “day to day work to make roads safer in Idaho,” said Hayes, as well as preparing to advocate for a safe routes to school bill in the next legislative session.

The alliance and its supporters are heartened by past success. Just this week, Emmett restriped a road that leads from a residential area to its middle school to make designated spaces for walkers and bikers.

Kostelec credited the alliance with getting state agencies on board to find the funding for the Emmett project. A transportation study, he added, showed that 80 percent of the trips people take are shorter than two miles. The boundaries of most Idaho towns are within that range.

“It’s not earth-shattering. We’re just trying to go back to our roots where families, children and older adults can safely walk to school, or to parks or work. Most Idaho towns already have the bones in place for that to happen,” he said.

Support your favorite causes on May 4 through Idaho Gives

Donations will be accepted online at IdahoGives.org beginning at midnight (Mountain Time) and continuing until 11:59 p.m. on May 4.

Dozens of events are being held across the state on May 4 in connection with Idaho Gives. There are events in Boise, Nampa, Meridian, Weiser, Twin Falls, Jerome, Idaho Falls, Chubbuck, Coeur d’Alene, Sandpoint and more.

Find a full list on the Idaho Nonprofit Center website, idahononprofits.org.

Here are a few Treasure Valley events:

▪  Wrap It Up Fiesta with Angel Wings Network Inc. from 4-9 p.m. at 115 E. Main St. in Weiser: food, music, auctions and more. The group supports rural residents living with cancer.

▪  Chrysalis open house, tour and taco bar from noon-6 p.m. at Chrysalis Women’s Transitional Living, 2501 State St. in Boise. Join the group for lunch or dinner and learn more about its housing and recovery programs.

▪  Hands of Hope Northwest from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at 1201 S. Powerline Road in Nampa. Eat lunch and listen to a talk by missionaries about their work in Papua, New Guinea and the Hands of Hope project to build a hospital there.

▪  Arts and cultural organizations in Downtown Boise are co-hosting a Cultural District Open House from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at the Boise Art Museum, 670 Julia Davis Drive. Visit with Boise’s arts and cultural organizations and experience first-hand entertainment, hands-on art activities and performance samplings, and learn more about upcoming summer camps and programs. Read more about this event here.

Idaho Gives quick facts

▪  This year’s overall Idaho Gives goal: raising $1.2 million, or the equivalent of $1 for every adult Idahoan.

▪  This year, the Idaho Nonprofit Center is working with the nonprofit online giving platform Givegab. Participating nonprofits will receive their donations in a few days after the event. Donors will have the option of also covering the program participation fees for their favorite nonprofit when they make their donations. (Groups “pay” 6.7 percent of each donation to support the program — 2 percent to GiveGab for website maintenance, customer service and nonprofit training and support, 2 percent for statewide advertising, 2.7 percent plus $.30 for credit card processing.)

▪  Since 2013, Idaho Gives has raised more than $3.5 million for Idaho organizations. The annual event raised nearly $1.1 million for Idaho nonprofits in 2015 and $1.1 million again 2016.

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