Idaho Gives: Donations top $1 million, set new record

Nonprofit organizations from across the Valley came up with a slew of clever ways to inspire donors to open their pocket books on Thursday, the third annual Idaho Gives.

Donors were able to support their favorite nonprofits on the Idaho Gives donation website during a single 24-hour period. When that window closed at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, the event had raised a combined $1,079,656 — easily surpassing the $750,000 raised in 2014.

Janice Fulkerson, executive director of the Idaho Nonprofit Center, the event organizer, said she watched the Idaho Gives website go live at midnight. Pre-scheduled and live donations started popping up on the home page immediately. She got just a few hours of sleep before starting her day. It included Idaho Gives proclamations by Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd and Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little.

While gathering donations is serious business for the organizations that rely on them, humor had a place on Thursday.

Friends of Zoo Boise brought a skunk to visit donors on Main Street. A member of the Winter Wildlands Alliance crooned a Johnny Cash tune on a rainy stretch of sidewalk. A real-life garden fairy cut a ribbon with a giant pair of scissors at the Idaho Botanical Garden, officially opening a new, long-anticipated entrance gate.

Boise Bicycle Project staffers took to their bikes at midnight. They planned to spend the entire 24-hour Idaho Gives period pedaling from site to site. They were at Washington Elementary in Boise’s North End at 8 a.m., partnering with the nonprofit Boise Elementary Spanish for a bike giveaway and Spanish lesson heavy with bike-centric words.

Chad Ishiyama, executive director of Boise Elementary Spanish, said the organization was participating in Thursday’s event to help raise public awareness of small nonprofits like his, a language program active in 10 local elementary schools. While Boise Elementary Spanish has participated in Idaho Gives each year, 2015 was its first “big campaign,” said Ishiyama.

Ann DeBolt, a botanist at the Idaho Botanical Garden, said she believes more people are aware of the day-long giving event than in the past.

“I’ve heard people talking about Idaho Gives who you wouldn’t necessarily expect to be talking about Idaho Gives,” said DeBolt.

The Idaho Botanical Garden is trying to raise money to build a new, larger education building on its site as well as enhance its children’s garden.

Donations to Idaho Gives are tax-deductible. The organization has already started plans for its 2016 event, including a date: May 5.