Give!Local raises $37,000-plus for nonprofits

By midnight on Thursday, Dec. 31, the Mountain Xpress Give!Local campaign brought in $37,679 in donations for 30 local nonprofits.

All donations will go directly to the nonprofit of the donor’s choice, from environmental organizations to animal rescues — theater groups to crisis centers.

Give!Local began on Oct. 30, celebrated with a kickoff party at The Orange Peel, in which one of the chosen nonprofits, The Asheville Music School, sent three ensembles to perform for the large crowd.

“Our mission, in three words, is: Promote local activism,” said Xpress publisher Jeff Fobes at the kickoff party. “We want our readers to get civically involved, because a more active community is a healthier, wiser, better community.”

The donation spree ran for two months before ending on New Year’s Eve, with some “Big Give” days sprinkled throughout to offer donors some special incentives.

Coming out on top of the campaign was The Lord’s Acre, a relatively new nonprofit that raised $5,922 in the two-month time period. The Lord’s Acre is sited on a 1-acre property in Fairview and produces 9.5 tons of fresh produce annually, which is then donated to local food banks, aiming to end hunger holistically.

The nonprofit brought in two donations amounting to $500, one donation of $600 and another for a whopping $1,000, and still surpassed other nonprofits in number of individual donors — amassing 64 donations over the course of Give!Local.

“We got some great news from one of the nonprofits, The POP Project,” said Susan Hutchinson, who coordinated the Give!Local campaign. “This project raised a third of their budget for 2016. For a very small nonprofit, that’s huge. That makes a significant impact to them.”

In all, 340 people donated to the campaign, making 980 donations (just under three per person), with each person averaging $111 each.

Give!Local began not in Asheville but 14 years ago in Portland, Ore., at the Willamette Week. After 14 years of promoting the Give!Guide’s brand, the Willamette Week raised more than $3 million in nonprofit donations in 2015.

But, Hutchinson says, “I think we’re totally on track” for the campaign’s goals after the first year. “It was a new project; we didn’t know what was going to happen. But we’re hoping to increase the participating nonprofits next year, and I anticipate maybe doubling the donations coming in.

“Now that people are familiar with it, it’ll be easier to explain,” she says, laughing. “It’s hard explaining to someone why they should give away 400 cups of coffee [for an incentive package]. They say, ‘Yeah right! Dream on!’ But now we have this real campaign with a real voucher book to show you: This is why you should participate.”

Another popular nonprofit on the Asheville list was Charlie’s Angels Animal Rescue in Fletcher. Sixty-two people donated to the animal rescue’s Give!Local campaign, averaging nearly $22 per person — for a total of $1,353.

Charlie’s Angels brings in dogs and cats whose times are up at kill-shelters across Western North Carolina, often shipping potential pets up north to fill out shelters in need of animals, giving them a heightened chance at forever homes.

Along with The Lord’s Acre and Charlie’s Angels, the Give!Local campaign raised funds for 28 other nonprofits: Homeward Bound, The Magnetic Theatre, Loving Food Resources, Asheville Humane Society, Helpmate, CarePartners, The NC Arboretum Society, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, Sleep Tight Kids, the POP Project, MountainTrue, Muddy Sneakers, Helios Warriors, Our VOICE, Friends of the WNC Nature Center, Heart Songs, Wild South, Asheville Music School, LEAF, Arts for Life, Asheville Design Center, Heart of Horse Sense, Irene Wortham Center, Montford Park Players, Organic Growers School, Friends of Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Center for Craft, Creativity and Design and Mountain Bizworks.

“We tried to keep a balance of size and categories,” Hutchinson says of the nonprofits picked for the campaign. “Health, environment, animals, arts. We wanted to grab a broad selection of categories, and a broad selection of million-dollar organizations versus $2,000 nonprofits.”

The strongest day of the campaign was Dec. 1, a “Big Give Day,” which raised $9,791 for the local organizations. On these incentive days, a few lucky donors were chosen to receive a number or prizes; the Dec. 1 offerings were a $50 gift certificate to Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., dinner for two at Chestnut, $125 Downton Abbey Vintage Banquet Experience at Lex 18, a deluxe package to the Montford Park Players and a reiki session at EMERGE Asheville.

Missed the Give!Local campaign this year? It’ll be back.

“I had no idea what to expect for our first year,” Hutchinson says. “First donations came in really fast, and then they got slow — and then they came in fast, and then they came in slow again. It was a nailbiter. But in the end, 11 people gave over $1,000, and that’s great. That’s amazing. And it really varied too: Some people gave $1,000 to their favorite organization, and some people gave $1,000 and divided it among 10. What’s great about this campaign is that it allowed people the flexibility to do what they will with their money — all in one spot.”

Xpress plans to run the Give!Local campaign every year in November and December, just in time for the holiday giving season, and make sure to check back with Xpress midyear to nominate candidates for The Julian Award, another aspect of Give!Local.

This year, Western Carolina Medical Society Project Access Coordinator Shaneka Simmons won The Julian, designed to reward young locals for their excellence in nonprofit work (with a $1,000 cash prize). Simmons, through Project Access, works with low-income patients, helping connect them with medical assistance they might not otherwise be able to afford.

To qualify for the Julian Award, a nominee must be doing exceptional, creative work in the nonprofit sector, work at least 30 hours per week for a nonprofit in Buncombe, Henderson, Haywood or Madison counties, be 35 or younger by November, and earn no more than $35,000 per year.

See you next year, WNC!

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About Hayley Benton
Current freelance journalist and artist. Former culture/entertainment reporter at the Asheville Citizen-Times and former news reporter at Mountain Xpress. Also a coffee drinker, bad photographer, teller of stupid jokes and maker-upper of words. I can be reached at hayleyebenton [at] gmail.com. Follow me @HayleyTweeet

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