Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Who Will You Donate To on Colorado Gives Day?

By Dana Rinderknecht, GivingFirst Manager

I can’t believe that it is almost here. After over a year of planning, we are working on reviewing new participant profiles and ensuring that current participant profiles are up to date for Colorado Gives Day. What an amazing, amazing group of nonprofits we have on GivingFirst.org.

As I have been reviewing and updating profiles, I have started the thought process on how I will donate on Colorado Gives Day. First, of course, I will donate to the three main nonprofits who I give to on at least an annual basis. My old favorites! These are the ones that have impacted my life and I will always love and support.

But who else can I support? This is a great time to look at the impact of other nonprofits  in our community. Who else speaks to my heart but whom I have not personally been involved?

Since I have the unique pleasure of reviewing nonprofit information for my job, I always start with looking at their mission. What do they do in the community? Then of course, as a well trained donor, I look at their financials. It has been tough for our sector, as it has for so many others. I look to see their solvency numbers and in general where they receive their revenue dollars. For me, I like the organizations that have high foundation and corporation support but low individual donors. That’s because I view them as a well vetted program -- hence their funder support -- but the smaller revenue from individuals indicates they are most likely a well kept secret in our community, and so they are using GivingFirst.org as one of their ways to get their message to the general public.

Then I move into programs to see how they do their work in their specific community. I love it when they put in budget amounts because I love to see what each program costs and how well they plan their money, but not all groups do so; this is just a nice to know for me. My favorite part of the programs is the evidence of success because this is where a nonprofit can tell a story about someone impacted by this program. I love to read the stories.

Finally, I look at their Needs Statement to see what the agencies top 5 needs are. This is a great place to learn what they see as necessary for their agency. It is not always just dollar related. Sometimes I see food and clothing donations or volunteer projects or other ways they need our help.

GivingFirst.org is a wealth of great information. It is all there for each of us to look at in our own individual ways. Now I am biased, but I think this is one of the absolutely coolest tools in Colorado to learn about our nonprofit community.

Off to see who else I will donate to on Colorado Gives Day!  DECEMBER 8th!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dining, Dancing, Singing...What Nonprofits Will Do for CO Gives Day

By Angela Bevacqua, Communications Specialist


It’s just over a month until Colorado Gives Day, and things are really heating up. On November 1, more than 120 nonprofits submitted profiles, and Dana is hunkered down to make sure they are all thoroughly reviewed before going live.

It’s been inspiring to see all of the energy and creative ideas that nonprofits are putting into Colorado Gives Day. Here is a sampling:

Work Options for Women
Want to dine and donate at the same time? Head down to Café Options at 1650 Curtis Street in downtown Denver. This café, run by Work Options for Women (WOW), will have computer kiosks set up to take your donation during breakfast and lunch on December 8. What’s more, the café’s staff will serve special treats for donors. More information about the day’s activities will be posted at http://workoptions.org/colorado-gives-day.html.

Café Options is a fast casual restaurant serving breakfast and lunch from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. 100 percent of the proceeds from Café Options go to Work Options for Women—a nonprofit that helps women end the cycle of poverty by providing them with the work and life skills to reach self-sufficiency.

Boulder County AIDS Project (BCAP)
BCAP will be pushing the midnight oil by kicking off their promotion in the wee hours of December 7. Activities will culminate in a concert at the Boulder Draft House at 9 p.m. on Dec. 8. They hope that up to 400 people will come to donate and hear the bands Novus Folium and Della perform. Watch their website for details coming soon. http://www.bcap.org/

BCAP serves men, women and children who are HIV positive living in Boulder, Broomfield, Clear Creek and Gilpin Counties. All care services are free and confidential.

The Jefferson County Library Foundation
The heads of the library and library foundation are willing to “make spectacles” of themselves, they say, in order to raise money for the library. If they meet their goal, Natalie Martinez, executive director of Jefferson County Library Foundation, and Marcellus Turner, executive director of Jefferson County Public Library, will dress up in holiday costumes and perform a public storytime-reading of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at Holiday Fest at Colorado Mills Mall.

The Jefferson County Library Foundation is a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to enhancing the programs and services of the Jefferson County Public Library. http://www.jeffcolibraryfoundation.org/


If you're a nonprofit, we'd love to hear what you are doing!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Evergreen Bands Together for Colorado Gives Day

By Angela Bevacqua

Now that’s community spirit!

Word reached my desk this morning that the Evergreen Chamber of Commerce and 14 nonprofits in the area are partnering together for Colorado Gives Day. Several Evergreen, Colorado, businesses are also showing their support by offering discounts and thank you gifts to donors on December 8.

Michelle Mohnhaupt, who oversees the Evergreen Chamber’s nonprofit members, explained that the idea developed at a recent meeting for the group. And the concept has been steam-rolling ever since.

Summer is busy in Evergreen, Michelle explained, but it really drops off in the winter. Both for-profits and nonprofits hurt at the end of the year. But by collaborating to support local giving on Colorado Gives Day, the chamber, nonprofits and businesses will be infusing energy into their town during the dead of winter.

Here’s what will be happening in Evergreen this December 8:
  • Four businesses will host online giving at their locations, including Colorado Gives Day partner FirstBank
  • Donors will receive goody bags filled with coupons and discounts from local Chamber businesses when they donate at any of the four locations
The Participating Nonprofits
Art for the Mountain Community
Blue Spruce Habitat for Humanity
Bootstraps, Inc.
Drive Smart Evergreen/Conifer
Evergreen Jazz Festival
Evergreen Christian Outreach
Evergreen Audubon/Evergreen Nature Center
Into Your Hands
Jefferson County Historical Society
The Jefferson Foundation
Mount Evans Hospice Inc./Home Health Care
Mountain Area Land Trust (MALT)
Mountain Resource Center (MRC)
Seniors' Resource Center - Evergreen

To learn more, visit: www.evergreenchamber.org/COgives.htm

Colorado Gives Day is nothing without the energy and commitment of hundreds—if not thousands—of people supporting the services where they live.

Let us know what you’re doing to support or promote charity in your community. And let’s keep that buzz going!

Angela Bevacqua is the communications specialist at Community First Foundation. She currently volunteers at Cooking Matters, a cooking-based nutrition education program by Share Our Strength, that teaches families how to prepare healthy meals on a limited budget. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Online Fundraising in MN and Pittsburgh: How Did They Do It?

By Angela Bevacqua, communications specialist at Community First Foundation

One year ago, when the team at Community First Foundation began germinating the idea of a Colorado Gives Day, we knew we were fortunate: we weren’t re-creating the wheel. In fact, six regions in the U.S. had successfully launched an online giving day.

We were especially intrigued by Give to the Max Day in Minnesota and Match Day in Pittsburgh. What we learned helped us shape Colorado Gives Day.

We wanted to bring the advantage of learning from experience to Colorado nonprofits, too. So in August we conducted a webinar called “Giving Days: Fundraising Techniques That Work.” It featured nonprofits in Minnesota and Pittsburgh that successfully raised money during their states’ online giving day. It was a chance for Colorado nonprofits to ask questions and start thinking about their own plans for Colorado Gives Day.

An All-In-One Campaign
Betsy McDermott Altheimer, development program director for Springboard for the Arts, in St. Paul, Minnesota, participated in Give to the Max Day through GiveMN.org. Here are the techniques she shared with Colorado nonprofits, who were eager to learn from her success:

  • Created one end-of-year marketing campaign that integrated their annual appeal with the giving day promotion
  • Created a memorable theme called “BOUNCE” for the marketing campaign
  • Reached out with social media, e-mails, print letters and linked them all back to the campaign
  • Focused on online communication since the giving day was an online giving initiative
  • Encouraged small donations (They added up!)
Cheaper, Easier and More Successful Than an Event
Bob Phelps, principal at Pittsburgh Urban Christian School, participated in Match Day through pittsburghgives.org. Here’s what he told us the school did to bring in big dollars:

  • Saved time, money, and resources by replacing their annual fundraising dinner/auction with a giving day promotion. Raised $50K vs. their usual $25K!
  • Highlighted the needs of their school
  • Emphasized that the PittsburghGives incentive meant they would “have access to additional funds” if people donated on Match Day
  • Created their own, additional incentives: a challenge grant from a foundation they recruited and a match from their board
  • Started planning early. Let people know 3 – 4 months in advance, increasing frequency as the day drew closer
You can access a recording of this webinar here. There are other great tools, information, and another webinar recording about PR Strategies on the Colorado Gives Day Nonprofit Resources page. If you are a nonprofit on GivingFirst.org, here's how to access the page:

1. Sign on to GivingFirst.org as a nonprofit.
2. From the “Menu” navigation button, select Nonprofit Resources.
3. Click on the first item: Colorado Gives Day.

Angela Bevacqua is the communications specialist at Community First Foundation. Her volunteering interests revolve around the arts and health. She currently volunteers at Operation Frontline, a cooking-based nutrition education program that teaches families how to prepare healthy, tasty meals on a limited budget. Last winter she volunteered as an event assistant at the Boulder International Film Festival.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Remember the Whys and Hows of Giving


Why do you give?
By Bryce Wilkinson,  project coordinator at Community First Foundation

It’s a simple question, but the answers tend to be more complicated. Sometimes it’s because you heard a story which moved you to action. Other times the connection isn’t with the cause itself but a person you know; your friend asked you to donate or your uncle works at this nonprofit, so you donate to it. Personal reasons – your wife is a breast cancer survivor or you enjoy gardening – can also prompt you to donate Often, though, there is some combination of factors swirled together in just the right way at just the right time that compels you to give.

A recent donation I made had a number of contributing factors behind it. I served as a Peace Corps volunteer for two years in Niger, West Africa. During that time, I had my fair share of parasites from contaminated water. The other day I read an article about illnesses resulting from contaminated water which made me remember how difficult it is to live with amoebas swimming around in your gut, so I made a donation to a nonprofit that works on providing clean drinking water.

How do you give?
My parents (and I suspect many of your parents as well) are not very technologically inclined. They do not purchase items online. They drive to the bank to do transactions in person. And, they make donations to organizations important to them by sending checks on a regular basis.

I, on the other hand, prefer to shop on the Internet, only go to the bank to deposit the birthday check my parents sent (my bank doesn’t have an app for that yet, sigh), and I only donate online.

So what?
There’s nothing new here, right? We all know that people give for various reasons; it’s common knowledge that some people are more comfortable operating in a digital environment while others prefer paper.

Here’s the thing: as nonprofit professionals we often fail to act on this knowledge.

People do give for a number of reasons, so present them with your message every which way you can. Provide some facts in an annual report, share your mission on a blog, send your friends an email asking them to donate, and tell a story that encapsulates what you do in a personal way. In this way, the theme of your message is consistent, but by mixing up the way in which it is communicated, you can touch upon and emphasize the many reasons to support your centered mission.

Then once a connection is established and a donation has been made, continue to communicate through the medium the gift was made. If, as a nonprofit, you received a check in the mail, send a thank you note in the mail. But, if you received a gift online, send a thank you email.

As you put the finishing touches on your annual campaign, take a little time to reflect on the why and the how of giving and act accordingly.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Colorado Businesses: Tooting their Horns!

By Mike Jackson


I love Colorado! I’ve lived in this state more than 30 years and appreciate the gift we all share of living in this beautiful place.

As the director of nonprofit relations and services, I help nonprofit organizations look for funding, invest for their future, and prepare for tomorrow. I regularly meet with nonprofit professionals who work day-in-and-day-out to tell their organization’s story and recruit charitable support from the public.

What always stands out to me is both the good work being done and the amount of work there is to do. From feeding the hungry to protecting the environment, the need is out there. But the resources just aren’t keeping up.

With the launch of Colorado Gives Day—our initiative to help Colorado nonprofits through online giving—we are reaching out to local businesses for support. I’m especially impressed with FirstBank, our presenting partner.

FirstBank is a local Colorado company. Their investment in the nonprofit sector over the years has been significant but understated. They are an extremely charitable organization that not only supports numerous causes, they also encourage their staff to volunteer, participate on boards, sponsor fundraisers and give. They do this every day, and don’t always get the recognition they should.

It’s time to toot their horn!

FirstBank has contributed $300,000 to support Colorado Gives Day. $250,000 of this amount is a lead gift for an incentive fund that will boost all donations made by the public through GivingFirst.org on December 8, 2010.

With this generous gift, FirstBank has made their single largest contribution to charity in the organization’s history, and have done so in a very unique way. The beauty of this gift is that as an organization, FirstBank is not choosing which charities their contribution goes to. They’re allowing the public, their customers, you—to direct these funds.

They are also leading the way for other businesses with a strong sense of social responsibility to follow suit. Any business that contributes at least $1,000 to the incentive fund will become a member of what we call the Circle of Giving.

Already, businesses are tooting their horns by making a contribution—a contribution that lets their customers how to help the community.

This is powerful corporate philanthropy.

Click here to see the names of businesses that have contributed to the Colorado Gives Day Incentive Fund so far (lower left side of page). 
Click here to learn more about how a business can toot its horn and make a contribution.

Mike Jackson is the director of nonprofit relations and services at Community First Foundation.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Create a GivingFirst Profile that Glistens!

By Dana Rinderknecht, GivingFirst Manager

We all hear it over and over again – you need to craft a clear, concise, compelling message about your organization. At the same time, the Internet is overwhelming with the amount of information that you can find, let alone try to digest. I know that when I am searching for information, if I don’t find it immediately, I am on to the next place. If it is really important to me and I think I’m on the right track, I may click a couple more times, but it has to be something I really need or want. My attention span can be that of an infant or a gnat.

So, my nonprofit friends, as you start to work on your GivingFirst profile for the first time, or if you are looking at it again after some time, put on your donor internet-user glasses. Open up your profile or that of an organization you know and click around. What do you look at first? What catches your eye? What do you wish was included? As a donor, the items I tend to look for most often are: numbers, pictures and videos, programs, and stories.

For me, numbers are key; I am a CSU math major after all! I like to see financial trends, understanding current events and how they affect your numbers, but if there is something I wonder about it is nice to see explanations. Also, I like to see the numbers you serve, how many lives you have touched.

Then I look at the pictures and the videos. Pictures of the people or animals you’re helping are great. The video needs to be to the point, clever, and ask me to do something. If the video is long, I have clicked on something else on my computer while listening to it or I have moved on to another part of your profile.

The Programs tab is the area where you are really talking about who you serve, what you do, where you are making an impact. But, again, numbers are helpful as are bullets to show the impact you are making in an eye-catching way.

The one thing I see missing over and over again as I read profiles are stories. Tell me about someone your program has influenced. You all have the stories, I have heard them, your donors should have heard them, but have you told the GivingFirst audience? Put a picture that is related to that story – visuals can be a huge motivator to give.

Remember, everyone wants something different, and your GivingFirst profile allows you to cater to individual interests by displaying all of your information in one place, in one common format. It’s information that has been reviewed by Community First Foundation, so that they have an increased level of confidence in you!

With Colorado Gives Day coming soon, this is a great time to get someone who is involved with your organization, but may not know you through and through, to review your information. New board members, employee spouses, or friends all are good to ask for help with this task.

Then your final task is to listen to what they say, look at your profile, and update what makes sense for you.

I look forward to reviewing the information - learning what’s new with current participants and learning all about new ones.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Do you know how to donate on YOUR Web site?

By Dana Rinderknecht

Can you believe it is almost the end of July? For those of us in the nonprofit world, that means plans are under way for annual campaigns and year-end giving. It is time to get ready for the Giving Season.

Are you ready?

You probably have your direct mail/annual letter campaign designs started. Perhaps you even have it at the printers or even the mail house. Hours have been spent making sure that everything looks just right and that you are sending a message that will resonate with your donors and those who support you and care for your organization (or at least joined your database at one point!). But what happens once that campaign drops and gets into the hands of those supporters?

The Nonprofit Times did a study that found that more and more people are heading to the web for information before they make a donation. In fact, according to their research, 44% of respondents are looking on the Internet, up from 25% just three years ago. So that means your website must be ready to deliver a good impression and provide an easy way to donate.

Have you looked at your website lately? Have you asked someone who doesn’t look at your website every day to look at it?

Sometimes we are too close to what we are doing to adequately review our own work. I know that I always pass my information off to those who don’t know the information as solidly as I do for their feedback.

Take a look at how easy it is to make a donation on your site. Is your donation button “above the fold”? Does it stick out?

I look at organizations’ websites on a very regular basis and am amazed at how hard it is to actually give my money. Rarely is there a donate button on the front page. If there is one, sometimes it can take several clicks to actually find out how to donate. Then the most irritating thing to me is to have to print a form and write a check rather than make an actual online donation. That’s too hard; now I have lost interest and am on to the next place.

Now is the time to take a hard look at your Web site before donors start flocking to it (and it’s likely that nearly half of them will). Most of the time, just a few simple changes can make all the difference in the ability for your supporters to find what they need. Take a look and see what you can do to make it easy for your supports to learn about your organization and donate.

Are you ready?

BONUS TIPS:

• Don’t forget that we have an eye-catching “Donate Now” button GivingFirst participants can use and link to their GivingFirst donation page. Participants can access it from the administrative side of GivingFirst.org.

• Be sure to include a “donate now” link in every online communication you send out!

• Put a link in your e-mail signature.

• Include your “donate now” button in your e-mail campaigns.

• Make sure your website is listed on any offline communications, too.

Dana Rinderknecht is the GivingFirst manager at Community First Foundation. She has reviewed more than 300 nonprofit profiles and conducted hundreds of trainings for GivingFirst.org.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Colorado Gives Day Q&A

By Angela Bevacqua

We hope that many of you have heard about Colorado Gives Day—a new initiative we launched in May. As the name implies, Colorado Gives Day is a specific day of the year—December 8—that we will be asking residents to support the work of Colorado nonprofits that is so important to our quality of life.

Here’s more about Colorado Gives Day directly from our president and CEO, Kenneth Eggeman, Ph.D.

AB: Why does Colorado need a special “giving day”?
KE: To spur interest, to spur excitement, to really help people become aware of the condition of philanthropy in Colorado. A “giving” day creates an opportunity for as many people as possible to become aware of the situation and do something about it.

AB: What is the condition of giving in our state?
KE: Based on the Colorado Nonprofit Association’s State of Giving study, Colorado ranks 38th in charitable contributions compared to other states. I know we can do better, especially given the fact that we have high earning power in this state.

AB: Where did the concept of a “giving day” come from?
KE: Our staff discussed what would be the best medium to help improve giving in Colorado. The concept of a “giving day” took on the most energy. A number of other states have attempted something similar. Each had its own unique characteristics and circumstances. One in particular was Minnesota who took this on and had a resounding response. Minnesota has always been recognized as a very philanthropic state.

AB: How will focusing on one day a year help Colorado nonprofits?
KE: It allows us to create awareness of giving in Colorado and encourage people to respond quickly. One “giving day” focuses on intention. It’s like having the fireworks so you can announce the parade.

AB: How are you asking people to donate on December 8, Colorado Gives Day?
KE: Through GivingFirst.org—our online giving website. It is important to provide an easy medium for giving. Using your credit card and going online is about as easy as you can make it. The expenses associated with online giving are significantly reduced compared to annual fund drives, capital campaigns and the kinds of fundraising that are typical for nonprofits. Community First Foundation and FirstBank are covering credit card fees so that100% of donations will go to the nonprofits.

AB: How much are you expecting to raise on December 8?
KE: One million dollars in one day. I believe very firmly that we can achieve that.

AB: Who else is supporting this event?
KE: We locked arms and became partners with FirstBank. They put $250,000 on the table to supplement gifts and another $50,000 to help cover credit card expenses on December 8. Comcast is also engaged in the community and wanted to help change the face of philanthropy in Colorado and become a media partner. Other partnerships are in development.

AB: December 8 is a long way off. What is happening in the next six months?
KE: We’re asking the nonprofits that now participate with GivingFirst.org to work with their donors to inspire interest and commitment to participate on Colorado Gives Day. We’re inviting more nonprofits to join GivingFirst.org. We’re also engaging the business world and asking for their endorsement or financial support. We’ll also be offering some informative online activities for both nonprofits and donors. Overall, we’re working on a buildup to December 8 when we’re going to have a lot of excitement and a very successful experience.

Angela Bevacqua is a communications specialist at Community First Foundation.

Click here to learn more about Colorado Gives Day.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Studies Show Growth in Online Giving

By Angela Bevacqua

Welcome to our new blog! We plan to discuss topics related to philanthropy, online giving, and GivingFirst in particular. We also hope to share perspectives from a variety of people here at the Foundation.

But what’s on our minds right now are the results from recent giving studies.

The bad news is that the Giving USA Foundation and Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University reported that charitable giving from individuals, corporations and foundations was down 3.6% in 2009 over 2008. The hardest hit areas were religion, arts/culture/humanities, education, and public-society benefit. Individual giving in particular was down .4%

But the good news is that online giving continues to climb. A study by the software firm Convio indicates that online giving was up 14% in 2009 among the charities they reviewed. In fact, 92% received more donations online in 2009 than 2008.

This comes as no surprise to us. In fact, our data through GivingFirst.org is showing more dramatic results: donations were up 30% in 2009 over the previous year. We always see a dramatic spike in donations in November and December. Last year was no exception: 58% of online gifts were given during the holiday season. This tells us, as it should you, that this is one of the best times to use limited advertising, promotional dollars and resources to get your word out.

And now on to 2010—where the really good news comes in.

Consistent with a Chronicle of Philanthropy poll that says the early months of 2010 have been stronger than last year, we second that with a resounding, “Yes!” In fact, we have seen a staggering 160% increase from January - May 2010 over the same time last year.

What do we attribute that to? We believe there are many factors…people are feeling more stable economically, online giving is a growing and easy way to give, word-of-mouth about GivingFirst is increasing…we can’t pinpoint any single reason. But we do know, from the comments we receive, that more and more nonprofits appreciate the ability to accept online donations and receive 100% of those gifts, fee-free, through GivingFirst.org.

The growth in online giving shows us that we’re moving in the right direction. You’re moving in the right direction. E-philanthropy is growing and it’s here to stay.

Angela Bevacqua is the communications specialist at Community First Foundation.