In honor of Omaha Gives!, Kali Baker, vice-president of community relations at the Omaha Community Foundation, and Ally Freeman, communications manager at the foundation, answer Five Questions about the event that has the whole city talking (and giving) today.
Community foundations tend to be very collegial. We share our ideas. So when community giving days started happening nationally about 10 years ago, we began looking at what other communities were doing. The entire state of Minnesota holds one each November called GiveMN. And Lincoln and Lexington, Neb., were doing them before we were, as well. We took the best ideas and interpreted them in a way that would work for Omaha.
There are enough worthy causes out there that you can give 365 days a year – and many people do. But people have a lot things they’d like to do and sometimes, even with the best intentions, they put off giving. So we’ve made this Omaha’s charitable challenge. We’re asking the community to take this 24 hours to help nonprofits. The bonus funds, prizes and the sense of urgency encourage people to take action.
It’s not necessarily more successful, just different. The percentage of monies earned through online fundraising may still be smaller than that of traditional fundraising, but we know it’s growing, so it’s important to provide opportunities for people to give in that way.
Also, this is a day when $10 really does make a difference. Because we award random hourly prizes and participation prizes for nonprofit with the most donors, even a small donation can be extremely meaningful to the organization you’ve chosen to support.
From a marketing perspective, we’ve created this really layered approach. We have generous media sponsors who help us create a general awareness of the event. Then the nonprofits that are involved take a more direct approach by actually asking people to support them during Omaha Gives!
Omaha is unique for a few reasons and some of them are also what makes Omaha Gives! unique. We are small enough that there are really strong relationships between the community, nonprofits and businesses. But we are large enough to have lots of resources. In general, this balance has always made Omaha a successful and generous community.
For the nonprofits, that $10 donation can represent the beginning of the relationship. Once a donor has given, it’s up to the organization to think about ways of telling their story. Some of them have done so in really creative and innovative ways. For example, we always encourage organizations to thank their donors. The organization, InCommon Community Development, took that one step further and made “thank you” memes with their donor’s profile picture on them. It was a bold and unexpected move and it got them a lot of recognition. During our first year, College Possible, which helps low-income kids become college graduates, sent singing telegrams to random donors. The Charles Drew Health Center used this event to help them build their donor database.
Two years ago, Omaha By Design created a living room in a bus stop to raise awareness that public transportation can be a part of everyday life. Last year, they did a disco bus. Also the first year, the executive director of the Union for Contemporary Art made a donation to another nonprofit every hour and she posted that she did it and why she chose to support that particular nonprofit. That really speaks to the essence of Omaha Gives!. While it is a friendly competition between nonprofits, it’s also meant to foster the spirit of community support.