With other fundraising canceled during the pandemic, Colorado Gives Day is crucial for nonprofits

Volunteers with the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District conduct trail work at Sapphire Point in September.
Photo by Elaine Collins

The Summit Foundation Marketing and Events Manager Brian Balok said the organization has heard across the board from local nonprofits that there’s an increased demand and need for their services through the novel coronavirus pandemic.

For many nonprofits, Colorado Gives Day on Tuesday, Dec. 8, will be the ideal opportunity to supplement fundraising that has been disrupted by COVID-19 and its resulting ramifications. Balok said typically on Colorado Gives Day the primary benefactors are The Summit Foundation, the Family & Intercultural Resource Center and the Summit Community Cares Clinic. But 2020 is expected to be different.

“It’s not only an increase in demand for front-line nonprofits, but all of the nonprofits that make up the fabric of our community in need,” Balok said. “Fundraising events are down for all nonprofits this year. But the demand (for their services) is great, and they are looking to supplement this year.”

Balok said this year The Summit Foundation — an entity that is the regional facilitator for Colorado Gives in Summit County — hopes to meet or exceed last year’s target of $350,000 for Colorado Gives Day.

“That’s based on demand,” Balok said. “We understand everyone is going through their own particular tough situation. But if you’re able to, we encourage you to contribute — no matter what the amount — because it all adds up to make a big difference.”

The Summit Foundation itself was forced to reimagine its annual in-person fundraising events, including a golf tournament and the Great Rubber Duck Race, into virtual formats. Despite fundraising being down for those events, Balok said The Summit Foundation has been able to provide the same amount of scholarships this year as in past years.

“And looking into next year, we’re trying to make sure that we continue to provide the same level of scholarships,” he said.

Nissa Erickson, development director at the Family & Intercultural Resource Center, said the demand at the nonprofit’s food pantry exemplifies how overall demand for their services have spiked. Erickson said before the pandemic, the average number of monthly visits to their food pantry was 376.

Since the pandemic began, that has spiked to 1,070 visits per month. Erickson said in the first few months of the pandemic the center provided the same amount of services that they normally would give in a full year.

“And we are expecting a pretty big increase and push here as we see how the COVID situation evolves,” she said.

Erickson added that by providing people free food, the center’s services help people stretch their paychecks, saving them up to about $350 a month that they would otherwise need to spend on groceries. Demand for services has fluctuated, but it has remained higher than normal.

“Definitely last spring we saw a huge need and that petered off a little bit in the summertime, but it was still up,” Erickson said. “Now, we are seeing another tick up in that.”

Demand is also spiking for rental assistance. Last week Erickson said the center received over 200 applicants for its rental relief program in the first 24 hours after the application for December and January assistance opened up.

Erickson says they are feeling good going into Tuesday’s Colorado Gives Day — an anonymous donor has already pledged to match up to $25,000 in donations.

Erickson said the center was able to pivot quickly after the onset of the pandemic, taking many face-to-face interactions virtual and converting its Breckenridge thrift store into a food pantry. As of now she says there aren’t any plans to convert the pantry back into a thrift store, as they continue to wait to see what happens with the pandemic.

Erickson also said they were able to put on the big FIRC Fashion Show fundraiser online, which helped to limit revenue losses.

Emily Bruyn, marketing and events manager for the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, said the nonprofit benefited being able to squeeze in its big Casino Night fundraiser last February before the onset of the pandemic. She said Casino Night and Colorado Gives Day are the nonprofit’s two largest fundraisers of the year, with each typically bringing in between $30,000 and $35,000.

Bruyn said the organization has already canceled this coming February’s Casino Night, and the organization is anticipating losing up to 50% of its primary fundraising revenue in 2021. It was also forced to cancel some of its smaller fundraising events earlier this year. To replace the Casino Night losses, Bruyn said Friends of the Dillon Ranger District is considering doing an outdoor fundraising event once the weather warms up.

Amid the current reality, Bruyn said Tuesday’s Colorado Gives Day is much more important this year, especially because fundraising events are unrestricted as opposed to grant funding, which comes with funding limits. She added that the organization won’t find out about one of their largest grants, the Ski Conservation Fund from the National Forest Foundation, until March, which adds additional uncertainty to their 2021 finances. Since the grant relies on ski area lift ticket sales, the pandemic is also putting the security of those funds in some doubt.

“A lot of stuff will kind of be decided this spring after we see how the ski season goes,” Bruyn said.

Colorado Gives Day

When: All day on Tuesday, Dec. 8

Where: Online at

How: Search for nonprofits to support on the website by name, location or cause. Click on the donate button and enter additional details including the amount and type of donation. Every nonprofit receiving a donation on Colorado Gives Day also receives a portion of a $1 million Incentive Fund.

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