Monday, December 10, 2012

Colorado Gives Day Sets New Record

Marla J. Williams
By Marla J. Williams, president and CEO, Community First Foundation and
Stephanie Tuthill, board chair, Community First Foundation

Coloradans, you are amazing! Congratulations and thank you for setting a new Colorado Gives Day record. In an inspiring demonstration of support for more than 1,200 Colorado nonprofits, you came forward from across the state to contribute $15 million on Colorado Gives Day 2012. This is an increase of 20 percent over last year. And this means that over the course of the last three Colorado Gives Days you have teamed together to donate more than $35 million.

Stephanie Tuthill
We hope you feel good about the impact you are making—Individuals like you gave from $10 to $200,000 and each one of those dollars is truly valued by the nonprofits that do important work every day across our state. Work that brings food, shelter and medical services to those who would otherwise go without; work that protects our environment, improves schools, and enriches our culture through music and the arts. 
We have seen increases in numbers of donors, donations and nonprofits benefiting from charitable giving—all because of you.

To the first-time donor, thank you for coming on board. To the returning Colorado Gives Day donor, thank you for your loyalty and devotion to Colorado nonprofits. We asked you to ”Give Where You Live” – and you did.
To our Colorado Gives Day media sponsors—The Networks of 9NEWS, Comcast, Entravision Communications, Clear Channel,  Colorado Public Television (CPT 12, Channel 12), Rocky Mountain PBS and 5280 Magazine—thank you for getting the word out in a big way.

To our corporate partner FirstBank, our wonderful foundation partners and local businesses as well as new Colorado Gives Day partners El Pomar Foundation and Boettcher Foundation—thank you for believing in Colorado Gives Day and our nonprofit community, and helping make this day a reality.   
On Dec. 4, we came together and demonstrated once more that through our combined generosity we can accomplish amazing things.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

75 Years of Giving

Josie Burke, El Pomar Foundation

By Josie Burke, Director of Communications, El Pomar Foundation

Philanthropy can be interpreted as many things: hard to pronounce, confusing, reserved for the privileged. When El Pomar Foundation and the Boettcher Foundation got together earlier this year to talk about joining forces to mark our 75th anniversaries that occur within five days this December, we had to confront this perception. And that meant changing the vocabulary. If we were going to meet the goal we set--to celebrate our field by encouraging others to join us-- we had to ditch the big 'P' word.

That is how we settled on giving. Everyone can give, even if everyone doesn't think that philanthropy is open to all. So, you will see that our joint anniversary logo mentions that for 75 years both foundations have been working, building and giving for Colorado. We jettisoned all "p"s, except for the one in our name.

Having whittled the alphabet down to 25 letters, we went about narrowing options to find the kind of collaboration that would, indeed, help move the anniversary from a marker to a milestone. We could not, obviously, have a party. We give away money on a regular basis. It couldn't be a typical grant. It had to encompass a lot people. It could not, under any circumstances, be stuffy.

This logic led us down a path that ended in Arvada. In two short years, the entire foundation community has seen Colorado Gives Day energize a whole state. It was an effort created by a foundation, but brought to life by the thousands who pulled up a chair, turned on a computer and gave. Supporting Colorado Gives Day and made so much sense.

We had to put our own spin on it, of course. The prizes offered by El Pomar Foundation and the Boettcher Foundation this year and next will go to non-Metro Denver nonprofits because both foundations are committed to making an impact statewide. To that same end, look for even greater expansion next year, as a grant from El Pomar Foundation and the Boettcher Foundation will allow Community First Foundation to work with specific communities throughout Colorado that want to take local ownership of and Colorado Gives Day.      

Now that you know the back story, we do hope you will join us in giving to your favorite nonprofit on December 4. We can say, with 150 years of combined experience, that giving is very, very phun.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Colorado Gives Day Checklist: Steps You Shouldn't Skip

By Angela Bevacqua, Senior Communications Specialist

Are you a nonprofit counting down the days to Colorado Gives Day? If you’re like us, you are. You’ve got your list and you’re checking it twice. Here are our suggestions on what should be, at a minimum, on your check list.

One of 4 places your appeal appears
Make sure your GivingFirst Profile looks great!
  • Submit final changes by Friday, Nov. 16, so that they can be approved and live in time for the big day.
  • Write a compelling “appeal.” 
    • The appeal is a new feature that lets you write a short summary (300 characters or less) of your organization that appears in several place: 1) in the GivingFirst home page when you get a donation, 2) in search results 3) in the checkout cart, and 4) on your profile page. If you don’t write an appeal, your mission statement is the default. 
    • Consider adding a special appeal just for Colorado Gives Day. For example, “The Puppydog Foundation provides low-cost medical services for ailing dogs seven days a week. Help us reach our goal of hiring new staff to serve 20% more dogs with your Colorado Gives Day donation. 100% of your donation will support our programs.”
    • This is also a great place to remind donors about addition tax credits like Enterprise Zone and Child Care Credit because it will show up in the checkout process.

Add a logo to avoid a blank space
Upload your logo
  • Use your logo to attract donors and help with recognition. Spaces for your logo are on the GivingFirst home page, search pages, checkout pages and, of course, your profile. If you don't upload a logo, the space will be blank. Here’s what the search feature looks like when an organization doesn’t include a logo:
Upload compelling photos
    Bold photos and logos look great on profile
  • Do you want people to check out your profile? Upload your best, most engaging photos. Otherwise consider a powerful number reflecting one of your organization’s outcomes.
Make sure your nonprofit’s website is ready
  • Use the GivingFirst “Donate Now button” to help people understand they are going to a new website.
  • Use the pre-made web announcements.
  • Ensure you’re using accurate links. Link people to either your Nonprofit Profile page or Donation page (log on to the Nonprofit Resources page to access the code for your specific donation page).
Use Donate Now button on your website
Make sure you've got the facts right!
Key messages for Colorado Gives Day include:
  • 24 hours to give where you live
  • 100% of every donation goes to charity
  • The FirstBank Incentive Fund increases the value of every dollar donated
  • Colorado Gives Day is presented by Community First Foundation and FirstBank
Last but not least, contact your supporters!
  • Email
  • Phone calls for big supporters
  • And don’t forget to thank them for their donations!

Good luck on December 4 and we’re here to help. Contact us at:

Check out the Nonprofit Toolkit for marketing resources.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Colorado Gives Day 2012: Where Would You Donate $50,000?

By Jamie Tafoya, FirstBank

Giving back to the community has always been one of FirstBank’s top priorities. And why shouldn’t it be? We live and work in these communities and are committed to helping our neighbors.

In fact, for the third year, FirstBank is pitching in on Colorado Gives Day, donating $600,000 to ignite change for Colorado nonprofits on December 4. This year, $50,000 of our donation will be awarded to individual nonprofits. You will determine which ten nonprofits will receive $1,000 through Colorado Gives Day Trivia and another four lucky nonprofits will win a $10,000 through our Luck-of-the-Draw lottery.

Trivia Prizes
Monday, November 26, we’ll kick-off a week of Colorado Gives Day trivia on Facebook and Twitter. All you have to do is tweet or post your answer on Facebook and you could be given the chance to donate $1,000 to any nonprofit profiled on A total of TEN winners will be named throughout the week, with the final trivia questions being posted on Friday, November 30. We know how important it is for nonprofits to receive funding quickly, so the donations will be delivered by December 21.

Luck-of-the-Draw Prizes
We will also sponsor a $10,000 donation to each of four Colorado Gives Day nonprofits. All participating nonprofits will be placed in one of four groups and we’ll draw one winner per group to receive $10,000. Once Colorado Gives Day donations have been reconciled in January, we’ll announce the winners and present some pretty big checks!

We hope everyone hops online on December 4 to participate in Colorado Gives Day. Small donations go a long way and add up quickly! Here’s to the most successful day of giving in Colorado’s history.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Support Colorado Wildfire Relief on 100% Goes to Charity

By Dana Rinderknecht, Manager of Online Giving

I am a Colorado Native and love this beautiful state where we live. In recent conversations with friends we have been comparing memories, as I do not remember fires happening when I was child. Now I am sure they did but I don’t remember them. I do remember Smokey the Bear telling us that "only you can prevent wildfires," so they must have happened.
The first forest fire that hits my radar is the one in Yellowstone back in 1988 and how devastating that was. In Colorado, the first that we all talk about is the Hayman fire and the destruction and consequences felt.
Once again, we find our state on fire. I watched and read about all the amazing work that nonprofits around Colorado were doing to support those affected. Over and over again I saw the names of nonprofits who I knew were on So, I began to wonder how we here at Community FirstFoundation could help.

Wait! Every single day I talk about the fact that we have an online giving tool that is an easy way for donors to support their favorite nonprofit. Better yet, it is an easy way for donors to support multiple agencies across the state in one single donation. Fires are burning across Colorado – north, south, east and west. Where do you donate to support all of these?

So with the simple question “How can we help?” the team here at Community First Foundation got into action! A logo was designed to show donors easily where to click for more information. An e-mail was sent to all of our current participants asking how they were supporting the fire victims. New pages were created to highlight those that were accepting donations and those who were accepting non-cash donations. Press releases were issued, social media was enacted, and our fire support was off and running.

As we worked to get all these pieces in place, the senior team decided that in conjunction Community First Foundation would pick up all the processing fees for these donations through through the end of July! So 100% of all donations would go to support those who need them most.

I have learned so much from this process. First and foremost, there are so many groups needed to support victims of fire. We always hear about the Red Cross and rightly so as they are a tribute to their mission. But there are also many animal organizations, food banks, mental health organizations and housing assistance organizations that are also true to their mission, helping those who never thought they would need their assistance.

Coloradans are amazing. We see that year round but, of course, especially on Colorado Gives Day. We are also willing to help with our time, treasure and talent. The Colorado wildfires are once again reminding us of this.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Recurring Donations: An Easy Way to Pre-Plan and Automate Your Donations

By Angela Bevacqua
Senior Communications Specialist
Do you have soft spot for a particular cause or nonprofit? Is it hard to donate the amount you really want-- in one lump sum? Do you want to plan your donations all at once, and not worry about them the rest of the year?

These are some of the reasons people use the Recurring Donation feature on

Incremental Giving
Recurring Donations allow people to donate to nonprofits in increments over a specific period of time. After setting up a donation schedule, a person’s donations occur automatically—directly from his or her credit card, debit card or bank account. They can set up daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or even annual recurring donations for a specific amount. Nice and easy.

How to Do It
There’s nothing particularly special about making this happen. After pressing a “Donate Now” button on or a nonprofit’s website, the donation form guides you by asking if your donation is recurring. Then you are walked through a series of questions about the amount of each increment, when you want them to start and when you want them to end. (See screenshot below)
A Growing Option
We’ve offered this online giving option for four years and, so far, found that 14% of all donations from 2008 – 2011 were generated through the feature. This percentage is growing as more people learn about it and nonprofits help spread the word.

What’s Common…and Not So Common
The most common donation installments are monthly, and $25 is the most frequent donation size per installment. But can you believe that one person donated $23,700 and another person made 64 donations through the feature?

So go ahead--check it out and help us break some records!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Five Years of Online Giving!

By Dana Rinderknecht, GivingFirst Manager, Community First Foundation turns five today!

Five years ago, Community First Foundation brought this giving resource to nonprofits and donors in Metro Denver. Sixty nonprofits signed up and put their profiles on the site to show their transparency and accountability to donors. In the first year, an additional 113 nonprofits signed up and more than $680,000 was raised from more than 1,600 gifts.

Today there are 930 nonprofits participating from all over the state of Colorado and we have raised more than $1.2 million so far this year.

The GivingFirst team has been pulling data and looking at the trends to see what this all means. Of course we have the big numbers:

·       $30,086,272 dollars raised

·         57,336 donors

·         125,169 donations

·         1,028 participating nonprofits

But some of the numbers that stick out for me are:

·         50:  the number of states from which donations have come

·         23:  the number of countries from which we have received donations

·         62: the number of Colorado counties where donors live (out of 64 total)

·         53:  the number of donors who have given each of the five years

Let’s look at that last number: 53. There are 53 donors who have come back each of the five years and given to their favorite nonprofits; actually, 161 of their favorite nonprofits. They have given on average almost $5,000 for a grand total of $264,692 in 840 donations. It is exciting to me that they have been with us since the beginning and are still helping nonprofits today. So we are giving each of one of them a Giving eCard to thank them and to help them give a little bit more to their favorite nonprofit.

One of the things I hear from my friends and family is that they don’t think they can really help nonprofits: They think their gifts don’t make an impact. They aren’t the big philanthropists like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet.

I say to them that our data shows otherwise: It is the small gifts that when combined together make the biggest impact. We have had 73,134 donations made for under $100 and an additional 32,123 for under $250. That’s some serious impact.

We will be sharing more of our findings with everyone in the next month as we reflect back on the past five years and look forward to the next five. To the nonprofits, we say thank you for participating with us. To the donors, we say thank you for contributing to these amazing organizations doing fabulous work in our community.
Let’s Celebrate!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Colorado Gives Day 2011: Data Reveals Staggering Generosity

By Bryce Wilkinson, Project Coordinator, Community First Foundation

Colorado Gives Day is exciting! People are eager to support the causes they’re passionate about; nonprofits are busy motivating their donors; the energy of being part of something big is palpable by everyone who participates.

Once the event is over, the donations have been distributed to the nonprofits, and everyone has been thanked for their generosity, the excitement tends to wane.
Not for me, though.

It’s at that point I get to work with the data. When I tell you that looking at Colorado Gives Day data is exciting, I know that some of you are probably thinking, with an eyebrow slightly raised, “Exciting. Really?” Yes, exciting and here’s why: the data embodies all that energy, and turning our attention to it not only allows us to relive the experience ourselves, but also enables us to share it with others.

Just consider the donors. Over 27,000 people jazzed, sitting at their computers, and ready to give; some of them wondering how much can be raised; some hoping they’ll be picked for a Bonus Buck; all of them – from 59 Colorado counties, every state in the U.S., and even 13 countries – motivated to do good.  

A fair amount of these donors (4,539) knew the routine. They gave on the 2010 Colorado Gives Day, and were ready to donate again in 2011. And donate they did. On Colorado Gives Day 2011, these returning donors donated $4.5 million to 847 nonprofits. A little example of how important existing donors are to an organization.

Then there were all the gifts. In total, people gave 52,226 donations to 928 nonprofits totaling $12,369,340. Staggering generosity. Here’s the really cool part about the gifts: most of them were not huge donations. 43,988 donations (84%) were less than $250, and 18,623 donations were under $50. To me, that’s a true testament to the notion that if everyone chips in a little, we can do great things together.

The Colorado Gives Day 2011 data is well worth taking a look at. If you participated in the event, it may conjure up fun memories and help put your personal experience in context of the larger event. If you weren’t able to participate, it may give you a sense of what it was like and encourage you to participate on this year’s event on Tuesday, December 4, 2012.  

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Writing Journey: Undoing Everything I Believed About Writing

By Angela Bevacqua, Senior Communications Specialist, Community First Foundation

I used to think that writing was a natural talent. You either had it or you didn’t. A talented person could just conjure up lovely “turns of phrase,” as I’ve been known to call them. My frustration with writing would mount when these lovely “turns of phrase” didn’t naturally flow from my pen.

No--I would belabor every sentence. My writing would become more and more convoluted, dry, and awkward. I focused on perfect grammar, which only added to the struggle. I was trying so hard to impress. So of course I started to loathe writing and my confidence plummeted.

Thank goodness for a best friend, and stellar writer, who became my writing mentor. I traded sushi dinners for writing lessons.

I marveled at what he taught me. His writing was simple but meaningful. It flowed. In his books and essays he wrote about complex ideas (psychology and spirituality) in a way that anyone could understand. What a remarkable feat.

I learned that the real purpose for writing—particularly in the business world—is…duh… communication. The words and sentence structure should not get in the way of the ideas.

I practiced and practiced and practiced to simplify and enliven my writing. I studied what worked in magazines, newspaper articles (journalists are good at simplifying and writing for the layperson), ads, and promotional marketing.

And what did I discover? It’s actually easier to write this way, once you free yourself up from trying to look smart with big words and long, showy sentences.

Is there Help for Business Writing?
Business writing is rife with convoluted, lingo-ridden copy. It hinders us in so many ways: we lose the reader (zzzzz), our ideas don’t come through, and we stray from our point.

As a communications writer I need to be adept at drawing in the reader so they care about who the Foundation is, what we do for the community, and how to become involved. I’ve pinned the following writing tips above my desk, and refer to them often:

  • Avoid industry jargon
  • Avoid empty phrases
  • Avoid too much detail: people can’t process several ideas in one sentence
  • Enliven with quotes
  • Use punchy writing – active voice and colorful words
  • Lead with a "hook"
  • Use short intro sentences
  • Get into the mind of readers: help them, make your article relevant to them
  • Write as if the reader knows nothing about the topic (don’t assume anything)
  • More narrative: suck the reader in
  • Call to action at the end (spread the word, contact us)

In an upcoming blog I will share examples to illustrate the ideas above.

Recommended Reading
I highly recommend this essay by Mary Ann Hogan called Avoid Jargon andWrite Clearly: a Recipe for Changing the World (requires Chronicle of Philantrhopy subscription). In it she talks about the flaws in writing by nonprofit leaders and “readability” as measured by a tool called a Flesch score. If you care about improving your writing and helping your organization, it’s a great read.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Habitat for Humanity: Hundreds of Helping Hands

By Angela Bevacqua, Senior Communications Specialist

One of the inspiring stories that came from Colorado Gives Day was Habitat for Humanity’s campaign to “raise a house” for a family in need.

Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver rallied 278 people to donate for building materials to construct a safe, healthy home for a family of four. The final tally? A stellar $95,358 raised, including the FirstBank Incentive of more than $2,200. Construction materials for a single home typically cost $85,000.

I’ve always admired this organization’s mission and their belief that “every man, woman and child should have a decent, safe and affordable place to live.” What I didn’t know is that Habitat works in communities around the world—selecting prospective homeowners, organizing volunteers, and coordinating home building.

The staff at Community First Foundation was invited to help build the “Colorado Gives Day house” recently, along with the homeowner Amanda. I was both excited and intrigued to see how our office-dwelling staff would be able to wield hammers and saws to make a contribution… 

Paul fires up the drill.
Here are some of our thoughts about the day:

“The Habitat supervisors were amazing at showing us what to do, and seemed to just sense when we needed help. But I’ll admit, I was pretty sore by the end of the day!”  Paul Mulligan, Donor Support Specialist

Cheryl, Caitlin and Dana get busy.

“It was an amazing experience. We hammered on siding, cut insulation…and most of us used a drill and other power tools for the first time. I loved working side-by-side with Amanda, the homeowner, and my co-workers to create something.”  Caitlin Jenney, Communications Manager

No fear of heights here:
Bryce and Rennetta up high.
“I was so impressed by the dedication and commitment of Habitat homeowners—the process can take more than a year and they are required to put in more than 200 hours of physical labor by building their Habitat house and the houses of others. Amanda was working right there with us and was so grateful for the help.”  Rennetta Lueckenhoff, Executive Assistant

The building crew.
From the staff at Habitat, the volunteers, to the generous donors, it truly takes many hands to eliminate homelessness.

Learn more about Amanda and the program in an article in the Denver Post's YourHub.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

GivingFirst: Unlimited Possibilities for the Passionate Fundraiser

By Dana Rinderknecht, GivingFirst Manager

On January 19th at the Arvada Center, Community First Foundation awarded the FirstBank High Five Prizes to 12 organizations who did an outstanding job on Colorado Gives Day. There were over 500 folks present and they represented a true cross section of Colorado Nonprofits.

Now I will let you in on a little secret. I loved this event! Not only because we put it together, so that makes me biased, but because it is so much fun to see our participants in person. GivingFirst is an online program, and as such we do almost everything electronically – webinars, emails, etc. So I rarely get to talk one-on-one with participants to learn about what they are doing. I read the profiles and the newsletters so I know on a cursory level what is happening. But to hear someone who is passionate about the work they are doing is a whole different phenomenon. To hear the stories of donor calls that happened on Colorado Gives Day, or leading up to or, even better yet, after the day, is so much fun for me. I also love the networking and idea sharing that happens at our events.

From a development perspective, Colorado Gives Day has unlimited possibilities. Hearing what another organization did can trigger a thought that takes you in so many different directions. You may not use that idea for Colorado Gives Day, but for something that you are working on at a different time of the year.
That is really the key to Colorado Gives Day and our program. is a year- round program. Donors can go on and give 365 or in the case of this year 366 days a year. 24 hours a day. They can set up a recurring donation, which means they can give on a regular basis in a time frame that works best for them. That could be monthly or quarterly or even every three weeks. The functionality is very flexible.

Then of course there are GivingFirst Fundraising Pages. These are a great way to raise money for your favorite charity and to challenge yourself. It is the time of year where those who make New Year’s Resolutions have started faltering. Perhaps your resolution was to do something healthy; then creating a Fundraising page is a great way to give you accountability while at the same time helping your favorite nonprofit raise money and awareness.

But I digress. The one comment I heard over and over again at the event was that nonprofits learned so much this year and that they can’t wait for next year.

I say, “Why wait?” Fundraising is year-round. Needs don’t stop because it is the beginning of a new year.