By Ashley Kasprzak, JVA Consulting
Muster is a funny word. Say it 10 times fast and you may want a sandwich with mustard. OK, that digression was just too tempting because I am writing this at lunchtime.
I have to use the word “muster” when writing about Community First Foundation because their GivingFirst.org program incorporates a high level of inspection and makes groups pass muster before they can participate, and I think that’s great. GivingFirst participants must share information that demonstrates their governing and operational practices as well as program models and impacts.
Dana Rinderknecht, GivingFirst program manager, describes the difference between applying to participate in this program and completing a Colorado Common Grant Application. “There’s a lot more in-depth information about the boards. For example, we ask groups to report their board attendance percentage as well as the percentage of the board that gives dollars and in-kind. We collect and have three years of financial history available online to donors. Plus, we ask groups to upload their policies like strategic plans, fund development plans, leadership succession plans, whistleblower policies and more.”
Donors perusing the GivingFirst organizations can find detailed financial information, program descriptions and even YouTube videos. During a recent conversation, Dana shared how well their program is working, “We launched in May 2007 and giving has gone up each year. We raised $1.1 million from 5,600 gifts in 2009. Our median gift in December was $50—usually this is about $100. Our average gift was $300 and our biggest day for the year was $103,000—that was on Dec. 31. Just under half of all last year’s donations came in December.”
There are 316 nonprofit organizations listed on the GivingFirst site and 70 percent received a donation last year. One of the highest donations to a single nonprofit over the year was $45,000. An employee of one of GivingFirst beneficiaries says that by waiving the credit card processing fees, Community First Foundation is giving nonprofits the equivalent of a small grant.
Excitedly, Dana said, “Over the holiday season we had over 100 donors that gave to multiple organizations in one day.”
Dana’s colleague, Angela Bevacqua, the communications director for Community First Foundation, said, “It becomes one-stop shopping for the donor. And, it’s [online giving] another avenue for nonprofits to reach new audiences. Every holiday season we do a big marketing campaign and attract new donors.”
Almost surprised, Dana said, “$17,000 a month is coming through recurring gifts from checking, saving and credit card accounts.” Donors can set up account withdrawals every seven days, every two weeks, or monthly or annually—whatever works for them. GivingFirst also saves all of a donor’s giving history so that it’s easy for them to pull their records. As tax season approaches, that sounds much easier than opening my mailed donation receipts, getting that paper into my tax file and then sending it all to my tax preparer.
As Dana reflects on last year, she sounds like she’s also predicting 2010, “In 2009 there were smaller donations, but more of them. Our average donation was half of what it was the previous year, but we had lots more givers.” Our conversation wrapped up as Angela and Dana knowingly glanced at each other and announced, “Plus, we have lots of exciting things planned to attract even more donations this year.” I suggest that we all watch and see!