Around the country, communities come together on GivingTuesday to celebrate generosity in their towns, cities, and countries. The people who live and work in Northwest Ohio came together on GivingTuesday 2018 to celebrate #GivingTuesdayNWO. We spoke with campaign leader Shari Beck from Everence, a Midwest-based financial-services company, about how she built a unique, intentionally offline campaign that ended up raising $1.6 million in just a few hours.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What's your background and how did you get involved with the social good world?
I’m actually not even in fundraising! I’m a financial advisor at Everence, in Archbold, Ohio, where I help people with investments, financial planning, life insurance, and health insurance needs. I want to help families simplify their financial lives by guiding them to make better financial decisions that reflect their faith and values. I am here to walk alongside them to create a plan to achieve their goals.
What inspired you to bring GivingTuesday to Northwest Ohio?
I wanted to bring the celebration of generosity and giving to Northwest Ohio and for our rural community to become a part of this global tradition. I wanted to give people the ability to make a big difference in our community. Generosity is a core value my company so I wasn’t surprised when my team was immediately on board. I was, however, almost waiting for someone to tell me ‘no, I couldn’t do this.’ The town, the GivingTuesday team, someone. It never happened. Everyone was incredibly supportive of my big idea and pitched in to make it happen.
Tell us more about the matching grant. How you secured it, any advice for other community campaigns or nonprofits looking to secure matched funding?
After we’d decided #GivingTuesdayNWO was happening, I set out to secure some matching funding to help ensure that people would attend and that the event would be successful for the nonprofits. When I proposed a goal of $500,000, my colleagues very gently told me to aim a little lower. They were afraid I’d get my heart broken. But I love a bold goal and went for it anyway. At first, I tried to put together corporate packages for sponsorship, gold, silver, etc, but I didn’t get very far with local businesses. It really started to come together more on an individual basis. We had a few local families who heard about what I was trying to do and wanted to participate. The $500,000 match came from individuals and a few businesses who were willing to take a risk. It really did come down to relationships and in-person conversations.
Most GT campaigns have some sort of online aspect, but you avoided that! Tell us more about your decision to host an event instead.
We wanted to do something unique and host an event that would bring nonprofits, families, and businesses together to give as a community. We decided early on that we wanted folks to have to be physically present at the event in order to give. We had a lot of people who wanted to give that night by just sending a check, but we had to kind of tell them the whole point of this event is community, and coming together. If there’s nobody there, that sense of community is lost.
Attendees could give to one of the 14 featured nonprofits, or any 501c3 anywhere in the US whose mission spoke to them – and be eligible to have their donation matched. Each person was given a private donor number and could make a donation using our app or via a paper form that we entered manually into the system.
We held the event at Northwest State Community College. We featured 14 local nonprofits, who shared their missions and how they make a difference in our region. The nonprofit leaders presented on panels of about 20 minutes, followed by 10-minute breaks. During each break, we announced how much had been raised up until that point. About 20min in, we were at $255,000. By the second break, we had jumped to $570,000. By the third break, we were at $820,000. The feeling in the room during each break just confirmed our decision to require people to be present to give. The energy was just palpable. The funny part was, we ran out of time on the program, and while folks were leaving, the number was still going up. The final total raised, including the $500,000 match, was about $1.6 million.
Do you have any advice for leaders thinking about starting a #GivingTuesday movement in their community?
If you have an idea, try it. You never know. At first, I figured I’d raise maybe a few hundred dollars. Once I decided to move forward with the event, I thought that maybe we’d be able to raise $250,000. Even after we secured the matching dollars, we thought ‘Are we even going to get to $500,000? Will people even come?’ It turned out better than my wildest expectations and just goes to prove what can happen when a community comes together to do something good.
GivingTuesdayNWO Promo Video
The look on the nonprofit leaders' faces when they received their checks is everything.