Editor's Note: This article is written by Roxie Jerde, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, and originally published by SRQ Magazine.
Among the wealth of white sandy beaches, world-class cultural treasures, warm weather, and fine dining experiences, our region has something else that is quite extraordinary: an abundance of generosity. Anyone who has spent an extended period of time here knows this. It’s evident in the number of prominent names that are displayed on schools, libraries, churches, and nonprofit buildings or the amount of fundraising events you see around town each week.
Many people think philanthropy is something that is exclusive to the wealthy elite, citing articles about Bill Gates or Warren Buffet making gifts of millions of dollars to lofty causes; however, the reality is quite different. Now more than ever, each and every one of us has the ability to make a difference in our own way.
In 2012, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County created the Giving Challenge, an online giving day event to support the hundreds of local nonprofits that serve our region. The goal was to raise awareness about the importance of informed giving and transparency as well as promoting the incredible organizations that are doing good things right in our own backyard. The only prerequisite for a nonprofit to participate was having an up-to-date profile in The Giving Partner, a free, local source for in-depth information on local nonprofits’ programs and impact, leadership, needs, and financial history available to everyone in the community.
While we achieved our goal, what we also found was the Giving Challenge was the perfect tool to tap into our community’s giving spirit, with donors pooling their resources and making gifts at all levels. In the first year of the Giving Challenge, $2.4 million was raised from more than 10,700 donors to benefit 109 local nonprofits. There was so much excitement around the Challenge; the $334,000 match that The Patterson Foundation generously provided (back then there was a limit) was met in just four minutes. It was clear this was an opportunity our community could get behind and one that everyone owned.
Since then, the Giving Challenge has grown to match the generosity of our region. The last Giving Challenge held in 2016 raised an astonishing $13.4 million from more than 45,000 individual donors in just 24 hours—one of the largest giving days of its kind in the Southeastern United States. The beauty of this achievement is that the average gift was only $90. Additionally, half of the more than 63,000 gifts were under $50, again validating the philosophy that all of our citizens have the means and ability to make a difference.
While the numbers are impressive, the real story behind the Giving Challenge is what organizations are able to do with the support they receive and how the impact is realized locally, thanks to the support of the community that loves them. Giving Challenge funds are flexible and provide an influx of cash flow as the pace slows for the summer. Funding has allowed nonprofits to fill gaps, fund passion projects, and experiment on innovative programs. They’ve helped fix leaking roofs, provide hope for homeless youth, purchase adoption vans for animal shelters, and protect wildlife on land and in water. The stories of impact are endless.
This May, we are excited to provide the opportunity for our community to once again step up and flex its philanthropic muscle. At noon on May 1, the 2018 Giving Challenge will go live at www.GivingPartnerChallenge.org for 24 hours, and I encourage you to take a moment or two out of that time to support your favorite local nonprofits. To strengthen giving during the 2018 Giving Challenge and further the impact of your gift, The Patterson Foundation will provide a 1-to-1 match for all unique donations, up to $100 per donor for each organization you support. Join me in proving once more that our community gives as good as it gets.