Recent trends in charitable giving mean nonprofits need to be creative to survive and thrive. The Give! campaign can help.

Charitable giving in the United States is on the decline, with fewer American households giving to nonprofits. Since individual giving represents 70-80 percent of income to charities, most nonprofits rely on these donors to fund their work. Nonprofits need new donors every year to replace those who drop off the donor rolls, and to grow their budgets to meet demand for services.

Unfortunately, it’s getting harder to attract donors, and the vast majority of nonprofits are small and running on shoestring budgets. They can’t afford sophisticated media and fundraising operations.

Nonprofit resources to help people in need will be even more severely strained this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The large-scale cancellation of events, losses by restaurants, retail and other workplaces are wiping out jobs and leaving more people unable to provide for their families. The strain on our health care system from predicted widespread infections will create a need for more resources, as well.

So what’s a nonprofit to do?

Our local Give! campaign offers some answers. It’s a case study in how nonprofits and whole communities can collaborate to buck these trends, to expand the pie and lay the foundation for future giving and growing local philanthropy.

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Founded 11 years ago by the Colorado Springs Independent (and the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, before it became an independent nonprofit), Give! is a community-wide year-end awareness and giving campaign for local nonprofits in El Paso and Teller counties. Since 2009 Give! has helped 223 local nonprofits raise over $13 million for their work.

People do care, and they want to donate to causes they care about. The changing media landscape, however, makes it harder for nonprofits to compete for attention and harder for potential donors to learn about and connect with causes they want to support.

That’s why Give! is not just a fundraising campaign. Give! involves 20+ media partners to help get the word out and profile individual nonprofits during the campaign. Give! also builds the capacity of nonprofits that participate in the campaign each year by offering expert training in marketing, social media and donor care.

One of its key successes has been helping nonprofits reach people who become new donors (and often volunteers, too), including young people. Among more than 11,000 donations made to 100 nonprofits in last year’s Give!, over 5,000 were from donors new to those nonprofits.

Young donors are key to keeping individual giving alive into the future. Give! spurs innovation among nonprofits to find new ways of attracting young donors by offering cash prizes in the Young Donors Competition, funded by local foundations like The Bloom Foundation at the Pikes Peak Community Foundation. Last year more than 1,400 contributions through Give! were made by young donors aged 13-36.

The Give! model gets the whole community involved. Local businesses join the campaign to offer free thank you gifts (“Rewards”) and a growing list of media outlets help tell the stories, and foundations and corporate funders invest as sponsors to help grow philanthropy.

With online leaderboards, competitions and matching grants, Give! makes giving more fun. Research shows these strategies also increase donations.

Many nonprofits have benefited. The National Association on Mental Illness and Kids on Bikes are two examples of local organizations that started with the Give! campaign many years ago when they were just starting out. Give! helped them grow their skills, awareness and fundraising to make a bigger impact.

Give! helps new organizations gain a foothold to start developing their donor base and fundraising programs. In 2019 the Funky Little Theatre Company joined as a first-time Give! group. They had done almost no fundraising in the past, but through Give!’s platform they raised nearly $18,000, earned a TV spot on FOX21 News and attracted 286 donors (129 of them new to the organization). They’ll be able to build on those numbers for years to come.

Established nonprofits gain a lot through Give!, too. Asked how Give! helped them in 2018, Fostering Hope said “Give! helped us raise more than $50,000, which was more than 1/3 of the donations we raised from individuals and board members last year. The matching grant program helped us leverage giving from business and church partners, and it inspired individuals to do more. In addition, we received TV and public radio media coverage that significantly boosted awareness of what we do.”

Local nonprofits not only serve vital needs from housing to health care, they contribute to a vibrant culture and economy through the arts and education.

If you know a nonprofit that could use some help getting the word out and reaching new donors, let them know Give! is accepting applications for the 2020 campaign until April 17. Give! Is also seeking new sponsors and partners. For more information go to indygive.com.

Philanthropy is essential for the success of our community, and Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region are known for our generosity. Let’s keep it going strong by working together to buck the trend of the declining donor. Give! exists to inspire philanthropy, and we hope you will join us.

Barb Van Hoy is executive director of the Give! campaign, the charitable arm of the Colorado Publishing House.