Giving It Up For A Good Cause
08/27/2018 07:00AM ● Published by Robert Frey
Gallery: South Louisiana Giving Day [3 Images] Click any image to expand.
South Louisiana Giving DayBy Hailey Hensgens Fleming
Fundraising for a worthy cause is not a new concept. From raffles to silent auctions and car washes to cook-offs, we’ve seen it all. However, the Community Foundation of Acadiana stepped out in something brand new on May 10th when they hosted their 1st Annual South Louisiana Giving Day, a 24-hour online giving event in which donors could contribute money to the causes of their choice. This philanthropic effort proved to be wildly successful, not only by raising funds for the 134 participating organizations, but also by raising awareness for the good work being done right here in Acadiana.
The Community Foundation of Acadiana was founded in 2000 with the core focus of benefiting Louisiana communities through philanthropy. Although they are a 501 C-3 organization, Lauren Breaux, the Civic Leadership Coordinator at CFA, explains they operate quite differently.
“From a tax perspective we’re similar to other nonprofit organizations,” she states. “But, from a mission perspective, we’re very different. Our mission is to build legacies and improve communities by connecting generous people to the causes they care about.” The Community Foundation has remained true to that calling having received more than $225 million in cumulative gifts and distributed over $107 million in grants to more than 1,500 nonprofits, churches, schools and other public entities. Hosting the South Louisiana Giving Day proved to be one more way to carry out that mission.
Although new to Acadiana, community foundations across the country have been taking on these kinds of events for years. The Community Foundation of Acadiana hoped to eventually host its own, but only recently acquired the manpower to accomplish it. “Up until 2017 there just weren’t enough full-time staff members to take this on,” explains Breaux. “We decided in May of 2017 that we were going to do it and we had two to three full-time staff members working on the event for the better part of nine months.” During that time, staff members set out to recruit organizations working in the foundation’s 8-parish service area, which includes Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary and Vermillion.
There was no limit as to who could participate and 134 organizations, made up of nonprofits, churches and schools, jumped on board. Marketed as a free fundraising event, the benefit of participation was truly a no brainer. As a less obvious advantage, the giving day event also doubled as a networking opportunity, bringing new attention to local causes. “The website kind of ended up being like a nonprofit directory for organizations in this area,” explains Breaux. “Several donors mentioned that they learned about different organizations that exist in this community that they didn’t even know about just by browsing through the names and the profiles that were listed on our website.”
The free advertisement paid off for several participants as nearly 1/3 of all donations were given by individuals who declared themselves first-time donors to certain organizations. “I think those numbers speak for themselves,” she adds. “To attract that many first-time, new donors alone was a huge win for the organizations in this community.”
The benefit of the giving day was not solely for the recipients, but also for the donors, who enjoyed a unique approach to the usual fundraising antics. Thanks to an expertly engineered website, participants were able to search by category and location to educate themselves on the causes and give directly to those they care about. “If you are really passionate about the arts and culture or community improvement you could actually log on and search organizations based on the category they were associated with,” explains Breaux. The same could also be done for those who wanted to search by Parish.
“From the feedback that I’ve heard, it helped to consolidate giving,” she adds. “Donors could log on to one location and give to multiple organizations and then receive an immediate email tax receipt.”
Donors of all shapes and sizes were drawn to the event, a fact largely contributed to the considerable amount of matching funds available. “We had over half a million dollars in matching funds secured well before the big event,” remarks Breaux. “These matches ranged from $1,000 all the way up to $50,000 and I think it made it really exciting to give because it made them [donors] feel like their donation could go a little bit further.” Additionally, donors and organizations, alike, had the incentives of prize money to work towards. The Foundation raised $30,000 independently to incentivize the 24-hour giving period, sparking a little competition among participants. Organizations could win extra money by reaching certain targets, raising the most money overall or getting the most donations in a “power hour.” Breaux adds, “A lot of people have the mindset that you have to have a lot of money to give and make a difference. I think, through this South Louisiana Giving Day, the big promotion was that anybody could give and any amount makes a difference.”
When the 24 hours was up, members of the Community Foundation and participating organizations, alike, were absolutely blown away by the final tally. With 1,781 donations received, a grand total of $1,095,013.00 had been raised to support various efforts around South Louisiana - a true testament to the joy and generosity of those living here. “It’s no secret that our community is economically not in the best place and to see the generosity of people despite that was really encouraging for us and for all of the organizations that participated,” Breaux states.
With such a stellar first event under their belts, the staff of the Community Foundation of Acadiana have much to be proud of. “It turned out to be a wonderful success and we’re really grateful for it,” remarks Breaux. “We’re really excited about the way the community embraced this type of event, because it is a different type of giving event, and it’s something we’re going to try to do annually.” Breaux also remarks that they’ve taken note of areas to improve on and are already working to put things together to make next year’s event even more successful. “Every May, we plan to have our South Louisiana Giving Day event to really help these nonprofit organizations in the good work they do for our communities,” she adds. “Hopefully, it will just keep growing and we will try to provide this as a tool for all organizations to fundraise as long as we possibly can.”
Next year’s South Louisiana Giving Day will be held Thursday, May 9th, 2019. You can learn more at www.southlouisianagivingday.org.