‘Valley Gives’ online fundraiser returns Dec. 12

The first “Valley Gives” 24-hour e-philanthropy event netted $1.2 million for nonprofit organizations up and down the Pioneer Valley last year.

The goal for year two? $2 million.

“This year, people in the community know what it is,” said Kristin Leutz, who helps run the project for the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. Organizations are already in full-swing advertising mode for the one-day fundraiser, which will take place on Dec. 12.

Twenty-five of the 55 Franklin County nonprofits are new this year. The foundation saw the total participation rise from about 260 to 350.

And Leutz is hoping that increase, along with more specialized online marketing and fundraising training this year for the organizations, will translate into a surge of new donors. Just over 6,600 people donated last year and Leutz believes it’s possible — based on how other online giving days perform in their second year — to hit 12,000 this time around.

Like last year, the foundation will award a total of $200,000 in prizes to the nonprofits — which will include random “golden tickets” throughout the day and prizes to the charities, both large and small, that ultimately raise the most money and collect the most donations.

Leutz said that the prize allocations have been restructured to give more organizations chances of winning.

While 2012’s biggest money makers were from Springfield, some Franklin County nonprofits had big fundraising days, as well.

The Franklin Land Trust — a nonprofit organization that assists farmers and others by protecting their land from unwanted development projects — raised $29,567 from 98 donors. It earned a $5,000 bonus grant for netting the third-highest monetary total among large nonprofits.

The Connecticut River Watershed Council also did well, raising $10,874 from 90 donors. In addition to receiving one of the $1,000 “golden ticket” bonus prizes, it earned a special $1,200 bonus for finishing 12th in number of unique donors — an homage to the “12/12” date.

And the Pioneer Valley Symphony, which used Twitter for the first time during last year’s Valley Gives campaign, collected $12,345 from 266 individuals.

Improving organizations’ ability to handle social media and electronic fundraising was one of the main goals behind starting the event last year. Leutz said that the main key to success is having a 24-hour plan going into Dec. 12. The nonprofits that did the best were calling possible donors and posting updates on social media outlets all day. Others took photos and videos beforehand or during the day.

Donations can be made on Dec. 12 by going to www.valleygivesday.org. Event organizers will also be traveling throughout the three counties, at times and locations to be determined, equipped with iPads that serve as “mobile giving stations.”

About 95 percent of each donation will go to the nonprofit. The money flows through the Razoo Foundation, a company based in Washington, D.C., that specializes in online charity drives.

Razoo will retain 4.9 percent of each donation (including credit card transaction costs), compared to 2.9 percent last year. Leutz said that Razoo was the best choice for “Valley Gives,” but that organizers are not contractually obligated to stay with the company for future events.

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