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What gives?

Franklin County; local nonprofits rake in nearly $92,000 during online fundraiser

In the first ever “Valley Gives” 24-hour online charitable giving event, donors gave nearly $92,000 to 29 Franklin County nonprofits.

A total of 1,104 individual donors in the county went online Wednesday to give 1,154 gifts to their favorite charities, for a final tally of $91,575.

Across the Pioneer Valley, 6,646 donors donated 10,606 gifts for a total of $974,737.

That amount, combined with $200,000 in prize money distributed by event organizer Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, put the final total at $1,174,737. The foundation had set $1 million as a goal.

“The outpouring generosity in the valley far exceeded our expectations. We’re just absolutely thrilled for all of our many nonprofits that were involved,” said Katie Zobel, vice president of philanthropic services for the foundation.

Valley Gives, which was based on other online giving days that have been held across the country in the past three years, aimed to help area nonprofits strengthen their electronic fundraising presence. In the weeks leading up to the event, nonprofits were given social media lessons and could customize their own page on the Valley Gives website.

The site updated regularly as donations came in throughout the day. Organizations could see how much money they had raised, and where that placed them compared to other nonprofits.

Participants “were so thrilled to see progress, they became obsessed with checking the website,” said Zobel. “Organizations feel transformed by this.”

Social media strategies made a difference on Wednesday, said Mandi Jo Hanneke, president of the Pioneer Valley Symphony.

“We’re new to the Twitter universe and trying to use it to get our word out,” she said. “(Valley Gives) has helped us a lot into moving into the social media world.”

Hanneke said that the symphony sent out tweets throughout the day, posted on its Facebook page and sent emails to its donor base, encouraging everyone to make contributions.

At the end of the day, the symphony had collected $12,345 from 266 individuals — the eighth-highest dollar total and fourth-highest number of donors among nonprofits with a budget under $500,000. The symphony will use the money to help pay for its future concerts, including an educational one for Franklin County students, said Hanneke.

The highest performer in the county was the Franklin Land Trust, a nonprofit organization that assists farmers and others by protecting their land from unwanted development projects.

The organization raised $29,567 from 98 unique donors. As the third-highest monetary total among large nonprofits, it earned a $5,000 bonus grant.

“We had hoped to basically just be a part of this and to have our name out there,” said Mary Lynn Sabourin, director of development. “We were pleasantly surprised by the outcome. ... (The money) goes directly into land conservation. It’s huge.”

The Connecticut River Watershed Council also did well, raising $10,874 from 90 donors. It finished 12th in number of unique donors among large nonprofits — earning a special $1,200 bonus, which was an homage to “12/12/12” date Wednesday. It also collected one of the random $1,000 “golden ticket” bonus prizes.

“Valley Gives really inspired people to give who cared about the river and who benefit from the river, but who may not have otherwise given,” said Development Director Dana Gillette.

The organization saw a lot of first-time donors or people who hadn’t given in years, something that was “really exciting” to see, she said.

Springfield organizations take top prizes

Two Springfield-based organizations were the biggest overall winners Wednesday.

The Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society, an animal shelter and adoption center, collected $43,172 from 533 unique donors. Out of all large nonprofits, it raised the most money from the most individual donors — earning an additional $30,000 in prize money.

New Spirit, a nonprofit youth ministry organization, raised $43,103 from 419 individuals. Among small nonprofits, it finished first in total dollars and second in total number of unique donors — qualifying the organization for $25,000 in bonus money.

And a donation made to New Spirit was randomly selected as the biggest “golden ticket” winner of the day, bringing in $20,000 more to the youth ministry organization.

To support the online giving day, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts collected $280,000 over the past eight months from partner agencies, corporate sponsors and individual donors. A prize pool of $200,000 was given to nonprofits throughout the day.

The foundation also paid $80,000 in operational costs for the event, contracting with the Northampton-based public relations agency Communication Angle.

It also contracted with Razoo, a company in Washington, D.C., that specializes in managing websites for online giving events. Razoo took 2.9 percent of each donation made Wednesday as an electronic transaction fee, although part of that money then went to the donors’ credit card companies.

Valley Gives organizers said they plan to host the event again during the next two years.

You can reach Chris Shores at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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