by Jeff Lytle
February’s 24 hour Give Where You Live marathon is history, with a record $5.7 million in donations some as small as $10.
With that mission accomplished, the harder work begins – for the non-profits who got money.
“Our team is honored to be involved with two incredible foundations – The Community Foundation of Collier County and the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation,” says Beth Hatch, executive director of Pathways Early Education Center in Immokalee, whose $45,000 donor total was one of the largest percentage gains (53 percent) over last year, qualifying for a $5,000 bonus.
“Their leadership, continued guidance and generosity help us to change the path for Immokalee’s children on a daily basis” via English-immersion preparation for kindergarten and beyond.
Give Where You Live has tripled in only six years. Donors this year were enticed by matching grants and prizes totaling $400,000 from the Schulze Foundation and $100,000 from the Community Foundation.
The event also serves to shine a spotlight on perhaps lesser known non-profits and spark future donor confidence.
An example is one of this year’s big gainers, by 170 percent to $29,000 over 2019. The STARability Foundation is a new name for a longstanding support group for the developmentally disabled. STAR (Support, Teamwork, Awareness, Respect)ability CEO Karen Govern credits board members, parents and established donors for starting early to beat the drums via personal and social media networking – even a YouTube video touting the match potential.
“The generous support we received through Give Where You Live demonstrates that more people have become aware of our mission …,” Govern explains. “We don’t turn anyone away for inability to pay. The funds will help our Trailblazer Academy workforce training program, art workshops, life skills classes and recreational sports leagues.”
Appreciation comes from higher profile organizations as well, such as The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, which ranked second in overall fundraising this year with $673,000 – up 334 percent – from 100 givers.
“We leverage the match from the Schulze Foundation and the Community Foundation to encourage new and current members to give at this time to increase the value of their gifts,” Vice President Paul Seifert says, including one large boost by an anonymous donor for construction of a dormitory for post-graduate students in conservation, ecology, biological sciences, policy and advocacy, environmental education and wildlife rehabilitation. “This is essential to the program due to the very tight housing market in Collier County and especially Naples,” he notes.
The Naples Senior Center, which earned a third best $530,000 from 120 donors in February, is a surging non-profit that Give Where You Live helped place on the philanthropy map only a few years ago. CEO Jackie Faffer says: “The results affirm public support and appreciation for our mission to serve seniors and their families — and to keep up with the demand for more.
“We are proud to be on the front line to fight loneliness and hunger, help families deal with dementia, enrich lives with academic and recreational activities, and much more. Every dollar is put to work.”
Florida Gulf Coast University drew the fifth highest donor support, $451,000. “Give Where You Live touches the lives of our entire FGCU community — from our 15,000 students to more than 30,000 alumni and over 2,000 employees,” says Tony Lee, director of university relations. “This campaign will support student scholarships, academic programs and research from water to education.”
A thrilled and thankful Debra Haley, executive director of New Horizons of Southwest Florida, says of its $788,000 total: “This is our largest fundraiser of the year and we are overjoyed to finish in first place for the first time.”
New Horizons offers after-school and summer tutoring and mentoring programs at no charge for underprivileged children K-12. “In 2015 we had two sites offering four programs with 90 at-risk students enrolled,” Haley says. “Today we have five sites at local churches offering a range of seven programs and 200 at-risk students enrolled.”
Jason Kurek, chief philanthropy officer for Champions for Learning, chimes in: “Much of the funds from Give Where You Live have been designated by donors to support our mentoring, scholarship and college/career readiness programs. Students are given a clear path to graduate from high school, attend a college or other post-secondary institution, earn their degree/certification with little to no debt, and successfully enter the workforce.”
So there you have it. One mission accomplished and many more under way. As CEO Eileen Connolly-Keesler puts it, “At the Community Foundation of Collier County, we are passionate about making a difference in our community. We know our donors are too.”