News and analysis
May 08, 2015

Second Annual ‘Give Local’ Event Raises $68.5 Million in 24 Hours

Ben VanHouten

The Seattle Foundation raised $16.3 million during the giving day through its GiveBIG Seattle event with help from local partners, including the Seattle Sounders FC professional soccer team and its forward Lamar Neagle, seen here.

The largest community giving day in history just broke its own record.

Organizations participating in the second year of Give Local America, held May 5-6, raised $68.5 million over about 24 hours, 29 percent more than last year’s inaugural event. More than 9,000 nonprofits participated, building on the growing trend of local giving days, which harness the support of community foundations and local United Way branches to encourage giving to local nonprofits.

As with other giving days, the event cultivated new donors: 35 percent of donors indicated it was their first gift to a particular charity.

Human services groups received 28 percent of the donations, followed by education and then arts and culture groups, which received 19 percent and 16 percent respectively.

"We are truly amazed at the generous spirit of individuals and communities across America," said Lori Finch, vice president of community foundations at Kimbia, the software company that started the event and built the crowdfunding platform many of the participating foundations use.

Seattle Finishes First

For the second year in a row, the Seattle Foundation raised the most: $16.3 million for over 1,700 local nonprofits. The community saw a 16 percent increase in individual donors and an 18 percent increase in individual gifts.

For the past two years, Seattle has paired Give Local America with its own GiveBIG Seattle event, which launched in 2011. A promotional partnership with The Seattle Sounders FC professional soccer team expanded this year, bringing the giving day event even more exposure through social media and the team’s fan base.

"GiveBIG is a platform, and the more nonprofits that engage and take advantage of the platform, the more momentum and communications there are for the event itself," said Mary Grace Roske, a spokeswoman for the community foundation. "So a growth in participating nonprofits is really good for the event overall."

The Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina and the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County in Indiana came in second and third, both raising about $6.8 million.

Strong Participation

The top three communities by dollars raised differed from the top three with the highest number of gifts.

"More people are giving to these giving days and these campaigns, but they might be giving less," said Bahia Ramos, program director for community foundations at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which studies best practices for such events through its Giving Day Initiative.

"In our eyes, that’s OK, because you’re reaching a wider swath of the community and you’re helping everyone feel like they have a way to contribute," she said. "It’s about participating, not about dollars."

The San Antonio Area Foundation had the highest number of gifts, at 39,357, followed by Sacramento and New Orleans.

The Knight Foundation started supporting giving days in Knight communities — the 26 locales where the Knight brothers once owned newspapers — through its donor-advised fund about three years ago. Many of those events are now held in conjunction with Give Local America.

In 2013, Knight created the Web site, which continues to be updated, and have since started a peer-learning exchange, now open to the public. That learning is important to growth of the giving day concept, Ramos said. Knight has seen a growth in the number of donors during giving days in every community the foundation works with.

"I think it is due in large part to the ability for people to share learning in real time," Ramos said.

The Central Carolina Community Foundation, for example, increased its number of new gifts in the second year of Give Local America. The foundation held a "talk about giving" community outreach program leading up to its Midlands Gives Day to leverage its presence in the area and share information about why residents should give.

Community foundations and local United Ways held training sessions leading up to Give Local America to make sure nonprofits were prepared to market the event and manage their social-media and fundraising efforts on the big day. Foundations also helped by offering incentives, including matching funds for groups that brought in the most new donors or dollars.

Send an e-mail to Eden Stiffman.