As I begin writing this month’s column my deadline is just one day away, but I’m spending the evening in CityPlace at the headquarters of United Way of Palm Beach County. Its offices – above Revolutions bowling alley – are home to 40-plus employees who spend most days quietly working toward their mission of partnering with nonprofits who work in the health and human services sector.
Today, however, the office is buzzing with excitement. There are pizza boxes, cups of coffee and laptops everywhere as United Way is the war room in Hour 18 of the annual 24-hour Great Give event.
The Great Give is put on each year by a partnership of nonprofit organizations with the goal of raising as much money as possible for local nonprofits in a single day. This year, the organizing groups are United Way of Palm Beach County, Achieve, Nonprofits First and United Way of Martin County, and the combined efforts will benefit 415 area charities.
On the wall of the office is a screen which tracks the money raised. With six hours to go, over $1.6 million has been donated from 6,000 donors.
The process starts several months before the big day. Local nonprofits sign up and United Way works with them by offering training and giving them the tools they need to get the word out about the event.
“Every day United Way helps fund 80 local nonprofit programs around Palm Beach County which help meet the community’s basic needs,” says Lexi Savage, United Way’s senior vice president of communications. “I love the Great Give as it enables us to help organizations which are outside of who we usually work with.”
Savage continues, “Digital Vibez is one of our success stories. They’re a nonprofit that teaches computer skills, deejaying and breakdancing to at-risk youth. Its annual Jam-a-thon will be held this summer at the South Florida Fairgrounds and there will be five thousand campers there. In 2014, before the first Great Give, Digital Vibez had no operating budget. Now, it’s $150,000 and they attribute that greatly to the connections they’ve made from the Great Give.”
In previous years, nonprofits organized events throughout the area. Last year, I worked with Junior Achievement and Subculture Coffee, who sponsored a morning coffee where people could come and learn more about JA and get a free cup of coffee.
This year, however, the Great Give is focused on CityPlace. Throughout the day, more than 50 nonprofits set up booths in the main plaza around the fountains. Not only were the nonprofits able to speak to locals who came to the event, but they were able to network and share ideas and fund-raising tips with each other.
“Hunger is a big issue in Palm Beach County, almost a quarter of a million people are food-insecure and one out of six have no idea where their next meal will come from,” says Britnye Underwood, the overseer of programs and volunteers for the Palm Beach County Food Bank.
“Over 62 percent of school-aged children in Palm Beach County are on free or reduced lunch,” she added. “United Way is a strong supporter of Palm Beach County Food Bank. This year, having a booth in CityPlace and doing other events throughout the day was so much fun and enabled us to raise over $6,000.”
To energize the nonprofits throughout the event, a prize is awarded to organizations every hour that meet certain criteria. At 6 p.m., the biggest “rush hour” prize was awarded to Big Dog Ranch Rescue for having the most “unique donors” between 5-6 p.m. The prize? A $20,000 PR media campaign provided by Alpha Media.
As the evening went on, more prizes were given out and the energy was high as donations kept coming in until the very end. By the end of what was an exhausting day for everyone involved, more than $2 million had been raised from 8,717 donors, bringing the total up to $10 million raised by the Great Give in the last four years.
Even though the Great Give is over, you can still browse through all the nonprofits that were involved at GreatGiveFlorida.org and give to them directly. If you’d like to participate in next year’s Great Give as a nonprofit, I’m sure you’ll find it a very rewarding experience.