This week, we sat down with Kathleen Harmon, the leader behind #AmadorGives in Amador County, California. Here’s what she had to say about her experience so far championing the movement!
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, and how did you get involved with the social good world?
Kathleen: I’m from California, born and raised. I’ve been in Amador County for 23 years. I have two grown children, and I’ve been working in the nonprofit world since I came to Amador. I started by opening up and running a community food bank for 13 years. The Amador Community Foundation at one point was struggling, and there was an opportunity for me to come on board about six years ago as Executive Director. Amador is a small community, everyone knows everyone and I have really been trying to approach my work by thinking about what I can do to improve the lives of people here.
Q: What inspired you to get involved in #GivingTuesday?
Kathleen: Our community has over 300 nonprofits, and there tends to be only a smattering of successful ones. Some of them do really great work but don’t have the national recognition or notoriety attached to them since they’re more grassroots. I’m a person who will try anything once to see if it will work. And in 2014, when we had just had a devastating fire in our region, in three weeks we were able to leverage social media and raise over $400,000 in relief funds. Off the coattails of that incident, which was in September, we decided to move forward with #GivingTuesday that year. We had 13 nonprofits participating and raised $35,000 in that first year which has steadily increased ever since.
Q: What has worked well for #GivingTuesday in Amador so far?
Kathleen: What has worked well for us is using e-blasts. This has opened the door to more nonprofits wanting to participate. We have also had good press coverage in our local newspaper. People talk, and I like them to talk about what the Foundation has done to improve our community. We don’t really have a corporate industry here beyond grocery stores and a Walmart, so corporate donors and matching funds are difficult to source. The American Legion has been really supportive of our efforts. The Jackson Rancheria has also been incredibly generous. But the big thing we did last year that was a real successful was the charity meet and greet that we hosted. We had a banquet hall and hosted a trade show of nonprofits. We invited donors and the local newspaper covered it. Over 200 people came through which was incredible, and it was a huge opportunity to increase awareness for the diverse causes within our community, and everybody had some new donors to show for it.
Q: What challenges have you faced in getting #GivingTuesday in Amador off the ground?
Kathleen: Since we’re small, scaling it up is tough after a point. A big challenge is dialing everybody into the power of social media. We have an older generation in Amador, and getting young people engaged is difficult since they are often home for the summers but going to school elsewhere during the year. We are trying to focus more on educating people around the power of social media and how to ramp up this aspect in a community that struggles with bandwidth.
Q: What's the potential or impact of the movement in Amador?
Kathleen: The impact is huge. The awareness we’ve been able to create about nonprofit activity where it previously didn’t exist has been incredible. Across the board, people have been giving and giving again and we have proved that donor fatigue can be a bit of a myth. We’ve been teaching the nonprofits that it is okay to ask multiple times, and how to do that by telling effective stories. We’ve been working on empowering the nonprofit sector in order to strengthen our community for generations to come, and the impact has been overwhelmingly positive. On a personal note, #GivingTuesday gave me the fire in my belly that I felt like truly motivates me to make a difference in this community.
Q: What is one of your favorite #GivingTuesday stories?
Kathleen: The media coverage of our efforts with the meet and greet ended up engaging someone who had never given before, simply because he did not know how to give, and he walked in with a cheque for a substantial amount of money and asked us to do something good in the Amador community. The collective power of #GivingTuesday impressed him enough to compel him to give after never having made a philanthropic gift before.
Q: What are you most looking forward to for #GivingTuesday 2018?
Kathleen: how much we’re going to do. I have 45 nonprofits on board now, and we’re outgrowing our meet and greet space which is a nice problem to have. Thinking about how much we can accomplish is so exciting. And this year we’re going to work on securing more volunteers and work on expanding the ask to giving time and other items to enable more people to be able to participate.
Q: One of the reasons the #GivingTuesday movement has been so successful globally is because of the vision and leadership of country and community leaders like you, who step up in the name of social good. What does leadership mean to you?
Kathleen: I believe a good leader equips others to do their job well. I believe in bringing something like #GivingTuesday to our community. My radar is always on, but my job is to help equip and expand the thinking in the nonprofit community with the tools that they need to excel. There’s power in numbers.
Q: Do you have any advice for leaders thinking about starting a #GivingTuesday movement in their country or city?
Kathleen: Just do it. Grassroots is good, and you can change it! Just engage in the process. I don’t think I even signed up to the global movement in the first year, we just tried it. Also, ask other people what has worked and what hasn’t. I brought so much back from the community leaders summit in Dallas this year. Don’t be afraid to try something new, because that’s where success sits. Be willing to change the parameters if something doesn’t work. Collaborate with your nonprofits.
Q: What is a quote by one of your favorite leaders? Or Who is someone you admire for their vision and leadership and why?
Kathleen: “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit” by Harry S. Truman
I live by this in all areas of my life. If I’m in it for notoriety I will be careful. If I’m in it to truly make a difference, well truly, it is amazing what can be accomplished if I don’t care that I get credit for it.