As the clock ticks down on the final weeks of 2014, Colorado’s nonprofit institutions hope each tick will bring them the means they need to continue fulfilling their charitable missions. That’s because the holiday period brings in the lion’s share of a nonprofit’s annual donations. These nonprofits count on their long-term donors, whether individuals, foundations or companies, but they also spend a lot of time during the year trying to reach out to others who may not have heard of their mission. These new donors are sometimes found in unexpected ways, and holiday vacations don’t stand in the way.
David Sevick, director of marketing and communications at the Tennyson Center for Children in Denver, remembers a Christmas holiday he was enjoying a few years ago. The Tennyson Center is a leading treatment and educational facility for emotionally and crisis-affected children and youths aged 5-to-18. Two days after Christmas he decided to drop into the office to see if there was anything that needed doing before his vacation ended. Turns out there was. “I noticed that someone had given us $45,000 online,” he says. “I thought it might be a mistake, that there were too many zeros. So I called him to thank him and to ask if it was a mistake. He said, ‘No. My wife and I saw some things on TV about you. We have a set amount of money (for charity) and it increased this year. We wanted to help you.’ He asked me a lot of questions, which I answered, and he became more interested in what we do.” A half-hour later, Sevick noticed someone had contributed $35,000 online. Sevick called the donor. “It was the same man. He said after the conversation (with Sevick) he and his wife wanted to give more. They hadn’t really known what we did until then. It was just not seeing us on TV or going online to research, but it was talking to someone. We’ve been around 110 years and he knew his investment would last.”
Donations to nonprofits have been rising in Colorado and the nation in recent years, most of it due to an improving economy and stock market. A recent study by Giving USA said charitable giving in the United States rose 4.4 percent between 2012 and 2013, to $335.17 billion. Individuals contributed 72 percent of the total, followed by foundations at 15 percent, bequests 8 percent and corporations 5 percent. That giving trend lends a note of optimism to their future, but nonprofits don’t breathe deeply until they see the end-of-year donations.
“The holidays represent a unique opportunity for people to give that last gift of the year, which makes all the difference to us,” says Kathryn Marshall, state director of the Colorado/Wyoming chapter of the March of Dimes. The March of Dimes, founded 76 years ago by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to find a cure for polio, now devotes it efforts fighting premature births and other infant health problems. “This is a special time to connect with people and families touched by our mission and remind them how important their gift is to helping others who may have babies born with special challenges,” Marshall says. “We cannot fund our mission without these crucial dollars. If we can end the year strong with holiday giving, it means we can help more babies and families in our communities.”
Adam Duario, executive director of the SaddleUp! Foundation in Elizabeth, says the holiday period starting in November normally brings in more than 40 percent of its annual private donations. “Exposure to individuals during the holiday period is vital to SaddleUp!’s fundraising success,” he says. The 12-year-old foundation uses horses in combination with physical, occupational and speech therapists to help up to 100 participants weekly.
Kristin Brownson, president of the Junior League of Denver, which is approaching its 100th anniversary, says Coloradans view the holiday period as the time to give back to their community and to causes that are close to their hearts. Like other nonprofits, the Junior League has expanded its outreach by using social media and email. Due to steady contributions and portfolio management, the Junior League Foundation has been able to increase its distribution by an average of 27% over the last three years, Brownson says. “We’ve been using Colorado Gives Day (scheduled this year for Dec. 9), as a catalyst for pre-holiday giving. We receive almost half of our annual donations during this time,” Brownson says. The Junior League uses the funding for community projects, with the current focus on improving literacy rates in the Denver metro area for children from birth through the third grade. The League also is responsible for creating such institutions as the Children’s Museum of Denver, the Mile High Transplant Bank and the Red Rocks Concert Series.
Colorado Gives Day, created by Community First Foundation and FirstBank in 2010, is a one-stop shop for online donations to about 1,500 Colorado nonprofits. It’s motto is “give where you live.” The program, which is year-long but focuses on one day, has distributed $58.1 million to Colorado nonprofits since its inception.
The Tennyson Center’s Sevick says many Colorado nonprofits went through a rough time from 2007 to 2010 because of the recession. Quite a few had to close their doors but the Tennyson Center was strong enough to survive that period. Individual donations make up about two-thirds of the contributions for the Tennyson Center. Sevick spends most of his time educating the community about the center’s mission, which includes reaching individuals as well as businesses. Colorado companies show their support not only with donations but also by encouraging volunteerism among their employees, he says. Some companies are able to bring two- or three dozen employees to the center’s complex to help clean up the campus and residential facilities.
Sevick says companies and foundations are vital to nonprofits, although individual donations comprise 65 to 70 percent of Tennyson Center’s operating budget. The March of Dimes counts about 75 percent its annual contributions from individuals and families who have been helped by the organization. Marshall, the March of Dimes’ state director, says she has noticed a couple of trends in giving in recent years—first, that companies let their employees determine which charities to contribute to, and second, that donors are trying to encourage more giving by issuing “challenge” or “matching” grants. “We love this idea,’ Marshall says.
All the nonprofits interviewed agreed that Colorado, its people, foundations and businesses, tend to be more generous with their time and money. “I have lived and worked in Colorado almost my entire life and I do believe we are a state of very generous people,” Marshall says. “Coloradans like to help others and they have big hearts.” Adds the Junior League’s Brownson: “We are very lucky to live in Colorado, where our members and donors continue to be very generous to our organization.”
BIO: Brad Smith is a long-time Colorado journalist and freelance writer whose work has appeared in many local and national publications, including The New York Times, Fortune, The Denver Post and The Denver Business Journal.
Colorado Cancer Research Program
1720 South Bellaire Street, Suite 701
Denver, Colorado 80222
The program’s mission is to provide the people of Colorado the opportunity to participate in and benefit from the medical research conducted through cancer clinical trials. It serves as a Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP), as designated by the National Cancer Institute, to enable the people in the community to participate in cancer prevention, cancer control, and cancer treatment research through local physicians and community hospitals.
ColoradoGives.org is a year-round, online giving website featuring nearly 1,500 Colorado nonprofit organizations.Community First Foundation and FirstBank are partnering to present Colorado Gives Day on Tuesday, Dec. 9. Donors are encouraged to join the movement to “give where you live” and raise millions for Colorado nonprofits. To motivate donors, the created a $1 Million Incentive Fund, which increases the value of every dollar donated. If a nonprofit organization receives 10 percent of the total donations made on Colorado Gives Day, that same nonprofit receives 10 percent of the $1 Million Incentive Fund. The 2014 Incentive Fund is 300 percent larger than last year.
Junior League of Denver
6300 E. Yale Ave.
Denver, CO 80222
The Junior League of Denver is a women’s training organization that develops civic leaders committed to improving our community. The league is currently working to improve literacy rates in the Denver metro area for children birth through third grade.
The Kempe Foundation
13123 E 16th Ave., B390
Aurora, CO 80045
The Kempe Foundation for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect
treats abused children, trains professionals, and conducts research to ensure a healthy and hopeful future for these innocent victims.
March of Dimes
1325 S. Colorado Blvd., Ste. B-508
Denver, CO 80222
Every year, more than half a million babies are born too soon, 8,000 of them in Colorado. March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies and support families if something does go wrong.
National Jewish Health
1400 Jackson St.
Denver, CO 80206
Thousands of patients come to National Jewish Health from around the world to team with the facility’s expert physicians and researchers and seek treatment for respiratory, cardiac, immune and related conditions.
National Multiple Sclerosis Society—Colorado-Wyoming Chapter
Denver Metro Office
900 S. Broadway, 2nd Fl.
Denver, CO 80209
The Colorado-Wyoming Chapter works to improve the quality of life for people affected by MS in Colorado and Wyoming and raise funds for critical MS research.
Rose Community Foundation
600 S Cherry St #1200, Denver, CO 80246
39850 Swift Creek Circle
Elizabeth, CO 80107
SaddleUp! is a premier facility that provides inclusive and integrated therapeutic activities and educational programs for individuals with or without special needs as well as their families and caregivers. It specializes in the use of horses as a therapy tool.
2950 Tennyson St.
Denver, CO 80212
At Tennyson Center for Children, families and their children experiencing behavioral, mental health, and/or traumatic experiences receive therapeutic services focusing on improving safety, stability, and family functioning.
Volunteers of America - Colorado
2660 Larimer St, Denver, CO 80205
This national, nonprofit, faith-based organization is dedicated to helping those in need rebuild their lives and reach their full potential.
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