Give Big day: a 'flash mob' of charitable local giving

Next Thursday (June 23), you can join a happy crowd on the Web and be part of the biggest giving day in King County history.

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Next Thursday (June 23), you can join a happy crowd on the Web and be part of the biggest giving day in King County history.

Americans are recognized around the world for their generous personal support of charitable endeavors. This generosity doesn't just come from a traditional sense of duty.

Millions of us who could never give on the scale of a George Soros will still wholeheartedly agree, based on firsthand experience, with his recent statement: “my philanthropy has made me happy.”

And Seattle gives more generously than other U.S. cities, according to a December article in The Daily Beast. It’s only partly because the statistics behind the story include our neighbors Bill and Melinda Gates, and their Foundation. It’s also because individual households here donate an unusually high percentage of their income (3.2 percent) to worthy causes.

So giving big (and making ourselves happy) should be a piece of cake on Give Big day next week, when households throughout King County will have a chance to participate in a virtual "flash mob" of giving. All you need to do is donate online to your chosen nonprofits, through The Seattle Foundation’s new Giving Center between 7 a.m. and midnight on Thursday (June 23).

Give Big is modeled on fundraisers that have been successful in other cities, such as GiveMN in Minneapolis, “Get Up and Give!” in North Texas, and Pittsburgh Gives. Donations to each local nonprofit made during those events, in accordance with regulations, were increased or “stretched” with a percentage of dollars from a pool of funds that cosponsors contributed in advance.

For Give Big in King County, the "stretch pool" is $500,000. At the end of the day, each nonprofit’s share of the pool will equate to the percentage of donations it receives out of the total online donations made through the Giving Center on June 23. For example, if total donations amount to $1 million, and a nonprofit receives $40,000, it will receive an extra 4 percent of the $500,000 pool, or $20,000.

In addition, throughout the day The Seattle Foundation (TSF) will draw names at random from the (hoped-for) flood of individual donors’ names. Winners will be awarded “Golden Tickets” that will automatically increase their gifts by $1,000 each.

Half of the stretch pool was provided by TSF discretionary grant-making dollars and half by local cosponsoring businesses, which also stepped up to provide the Golden Tickets. Major cosponsors of Give Big are JP Morgan Chase, Seattle International Foundation, and Seattle Sounders FC, said Mary Grace Roske, Seattle Foundation’s director of communications. TSF acknowledges these and other generous cosponsors, plus several media partners, on its website

Why June 23? Give Big will perk up the historically slow fundraising month of June, and the 23rd is the day of the Sounders vs. New York Red Bulls match at Qwest Field. According to Roske, “Seattle Sounders has partnered with us since we came up with the idea. Their support and their outreach to fans and ticket holders have been remarkable. They’ll be collecting Give Big donations at the game and will celebrate at halftime with a video.”

Roske described Give Big as “an opportunity for the whole community to come together and support all of the many nonprofits that are doing good work.” It’s also an opportunity for nonprofits to start or boost their fundraising online, the fastest-growing medium of charitable giving today, and to attract new or lapsed donors. Roske said that during a recent day of citywide online giving in another state, 30 percent of the donors were lapsed or new, so apparently such events can be very effective at drawing people into giving again, or for the first time.

To participate in Give Big, nonprofits submit a profile at TSF to be vetted, which when accepted and posted at the Giving Center by the foundation becomes public assurance of their qualifications and legitimacy. “We’ve had quite a response from nonprofits who maybe knew about the site but hadn’t gone to the effort of putting up a profile,” said Roske. The number of nonprofits profiled at TSF has grown at a rate projected to expand the 650 already in the system in May to 1,000 by June 23.

“Our goal when we created this website was to create a place where people could find information on community issues and nonprofits serving those needs,” Roske said. “Give Big will increase awareness of that resource and make it available for people to use.”

TSF never retains information about people who make gifts to nonprofits through the Giving Center (though individual nonprofits will receive info about "their" donors) and never exacts fees from donors, though a transaction fee of 4.5 percent plus 25 cents for each gift will be deducted from each contribution to cover the cost of online-donation software services (at TSF, Click & Pledge — scroll down).

Since a Give Big rollout in late May, several organizations have told TSF that the concept motivated them to start making strategic use of social media. "It finally pushed them to get that Facebook account up,” Roske said, “or open that Twitter account. We had 200 nonprofits represented at the Webinar, and many are now doing creative YouTube campaigns.”

One, an amusing video series from an organization with a mission to improve reading, features a tall, mute chicken in a t-shirt, apparently coached in Stanislavski acting methods (or maybe Charades). Other nonprofits are offering enticements to those who donate early on June 23, such as a ticket to a sporting event.

Donors can find individual organizations on June 23, or anytime, through name searches at the Giving Center. Other options there are to click on a “Key Issue” (Arts & Culture, Health & Wellness, Education, Environment, etc.) to bring up the names of several nonprofits with related missions. Searches can be narrowed by geography or particular populations served.

Living in the birthplace of The Wave, people in King County know that individuals must be ready and willing to stand up as part of a big crowd in order to build a wild surge of concerted action. Will Give Big inspire us to stand up in waves of togetherness and give to the max?

Said Roske, “Research on philanthropy shows that people give because they are asked." So consider yourselves asked ... to the max.

Editor's note: Crosscut receives funding from The Seattle Foundation.


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