By Steve Novotney
Preparations for Amazing Raise 2015 officially will get under way this Thursday morning when officials of the Community Foundation of the Ohio Valley will sit down with potential event sponsors at Ye Olde Alpha.
The “Amazing Raise,” a 24-hour fundraising period first held by the Wheeling-based Community Foundation on May 6, 2014, procured a total of $357,000 via more than 2,000 separate donations. Ninety-two different non-profit organizations participated, and donors used an online option to offer most of the funds.
At Thursday’s breakfast those who have heard about the May 5, 2015, event and want to know about it will have the opportunity to become involved.
“It will be a no-pressure situation and a free breakfast at the Alpha,” said Susie Nelson, executive director of the Community Foundation. “What Thursday morning represents is a chance for owners of local companies to hear more about what they heard so much about last year. And if they like what they hear, hopefully they will come on board and help all of the non-profit organizations that choose to participate in May.
“I think we got most of the area’s non-profit organizations educated last year, so now we are working to get our sponsors organized so we can develop a bonus pool of funds so these organizations can gain even more,” she said. “Last year we had sponsors that donated to one pool of funds that was allocated to some of the organizations who performed well.”
The Community Foundation of the Ohio Valley is one of more than 700 operating foundations in the United States. The first Community Foundation was established in Cleveland in 1914, and Wheeling’s chapter opened in 1972. Today, the Community Foundation handles 190 different funds worth more than $33 million. Sixty of those funds provide scholarships, and 50 funds are donor-advised accounts.
Many more non-profit organizations exist in the eight-county area that is included in “Amazing Raise” territory, and Nelson is hopeful last year’s success will attract even more for the 2015 event.
“Any organization that is a 501(c)(3) that is raising money for a cause is eligible for the ‘Amazing Raise,’” Nelson said. “Of course, the organization has to be in good standing with the IRS, and we will begin our registration process in January.
“All of the organizations that participated last year will be getting the information for this year’s event in the mail very soon, but if there are new organizations out there that are interested, I would hope they would call the Community Foundation so we can get the information out to them too,” she said. “Far too often people know they want to help, but they don’t know how to go about it the way they really want to. That’s the opportunity we’re trying to let everyone know exists.”
According to www.giveov.org, the top four recipients of the giving that took place last year, the Augusta Levy Center raised the most with $42,415 offered from 68 different donors. The Linsly School raised the second most, $21,761 via 45 donations, and the Women’s Living Circle was third with $19,040 from 45 contributors.
It’s all about effort, according to Nelson.
“The success in an event like this one really has to do with the amount of work and manpower they give to putting the word out about the event,” she explained. “They have to let their own supporters know about the efforts. People like their board members, their volunteers, and the employees they have, and they have to encourage all of those people to use the means they have to spread the word.
“The people with the participating non-profits have to put in the sweat equity on their end to spread the word, and if they do that, I think they will realize success,” Nelson said. “And they can accomplish that very cheaply thanks to social networks, public service announcements, and by telling their family members and friends.
“We really had no idea we would raise $357,000,” Nelson admitted. “We thought maybe $200,000, and we knew we would be really thrilled if that was the case, but what a great surprise it was.”
If volunteers or employees of a non-profit organization wish to initiate an “Amazing Raise” campaign, Nelson said the registration process will begin in January, and the Community Foundation will stage a forum for those who wish to take advantage of the ideas that proved successful last year.
“This year we are going to have a ‘Boot Camp’ for our participating non-profit organizations with some of the folks who led those efforts can share their secrets,” Nelson offered. “Last year, none of us knew exactly how to go about it because it was the first time for all of us. We had our ideas, but no one really knew for sure.
“We knew newsletters and social media could be important aspects to getting the word out, but there were a lot of ways that were discovered along the way,” she said. “Some of the organizations did those things, plus a lot more, and others did not.”
The Amazing Raise event featured spruced-up times when donors could get an extra bang for their buck.
“We also have prizes that can be won, and they are time-related throughout the day, and some of our organizations focused their efforts on one of those special times because they could win a little more of the pool money we generated through our sponsors,” Nelson explained. “Our purpose is to raise a permanent endowment that can respond to the changing needs of the Upper Ohio Valley.
“That’s our mission, and we go about accomplishing that goal in several ways,” she said. “We’re promoting local philanthropy. We are promoting people to give where they live. And we’re promoting people to support a lot of organizations in one fell swoop with one donation.”