While events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday emphasize the drive of consumerism within American culture, it turns out there is a counterbalance out there. Colorado Gives Day is a philanthropic project that sets aside one day specifically for making donations to nonprofit organizations.
Tuesday marks the third year of the statewide initiative, which aims to increase philanthropy in Colorado through online giving. It was started by the Community First Foundation, a Denver metro area nonprofit organization with the aim of improving quality of life within the community. Its efforts were funded by First Bank, which continues to be involved.
In 2010, the foundation decided to expand its community improvement efforts statewide, and created the Giving First website, a platform for online donations to organizations throughout Colorado. Donations are accepted on the website year round, with the Community First Foundation receiving a small percentage of each donation. On Colorado Gives Day, however, the entirety of a donor's money goes directly to their chosen organization.
"Colorado Gives Day is a big day, but ... the website's live all year. Throughout the year we get random donations on that website," said Brandi Thompson, development coordinator at Summit Community Care Clinic. "They already have the web platform and infrastructure. It's all done for us, and they do all the tech support, so it's a really fantastic program."
Colorado Gives Day is the 24-hour period when donations can be made on the Giving First website. Donors type in the name of the organization they wish to donate to, or do a statewide search by city, zip code or cause to make their choice. There will be no credit card fees on any donation, due to contributions by the Community First Foundation, FirstBank and others. One hundred percent of the donations will be received by the intended nonprofits.
"I think people really get excited to do that statewide program," Thompson said. "They feel like they get to be part of something, and because they get to give locally. I think people get excited and empowered about that."
In addition to receiving the online donations, each nonprofit will get some extra money from FirstBank's incentive fund. This year, FirstBank is providing an extra $300,000 to leverage the donations received. Each organization will receive a proportionally allocated percentage of the incentive fund based on the total amount of money they raised individually divided by the total amount raised by Colorado Gives Day as a whole.
The success of Colorado Gives Day has visibly grown throughout its two years. In 2011 over $12 million was raised for more than 900 nonprofit organizations across the state. So many donors logged onto the website last year that it went down, causing the organizers to extend the donating hours to accommodate the heavy traffic.
This year, in an effort to avoid a similar situation, donors have the option to pre-schedule their donations. If Tuesday is a particularly busy day, or to make sure they won't forget, donors can log on to the website any time leading up to Colorado Gives Day and arrange their donation.
There are a number of nonprofits within Summit County participating in Colorado Gives Day, so those who wish their donations to go to a local source have plenty of options to choose from.
"Whoever [donors] give to will certainly help the residents of Summit County," Thompson said. "We have so many wonderful nonprofits here."
The Summit County Commissioners even issued a proclamation in support of the project, citing the importance of charitable giving.
"Summit County residents are encouraged to participate because all donations, whether large or small, can make a difference to nonprofits in need," the proclamation stated.
When asked if donations on the previous two years made a difference, Elisabeth Lawrence, the events and marketing coordinator at The Summit Foundation, replied, "Without a doubt."
In 2011, for instance, The Summit Foundation received $28,000 in Colorado Gives Day donations.
"That is a huge help," she said, "and really generous of them. [It's] a really easy way, all in one day, to get that kind of fundraising."
Representatives from the Summit Community Care Clinic and the Family and Intercultural Resource Center also reported increased donations over the past few years.
"Charitable giving is incredibly important," said Tamara Drangstveit, executive director of FIRC. "When the government [cuts] back on funding ... private donations become even more valuable."
Donations to charitable organizations are also tax-deductible, and Colorado Gives Day occurs before the end of the year. It offers an opportunity for those who haven't given during 2012 to make a donation, or even several different donations to various organizations all at once and in one place.
"They make it really easy to give, which is just great," said Leigh Girvin, executive director of Continental Divide Land Trust. "It makes it really easy to learn how to be a philanthropist."
Lawrence agrees. "Giving during Colorado Gives Day is a wonderful way to make your philanthropic contribution in 2012 and it's a great way to reach a lot of Summit County."