Nonprofits to try to raise millions in one day

Washington area nonprofit organizations, hit hard by the economic recession and its lingering aftermath, are planning a 24-hour online fundraising event Nov. 9, in which they hope to attract 10,000 donors and raise at least $3 million.

The effort, called Give to the Max Day, is an effort to raise awareness of the thousands of charitable organizations in the area and to attract new, younger and digitally inclined donors.

“More and more consumers, individual donors, are turning to online giving,” said Bill Hanbury, president and chief executive of the United Way of the National Capital Area. “In some ways, we’ve gotten outmaneuvered by digital applications. This will let us jump over workplace giving . . . and it’s a lot less expensive to do a digital event.”

The economic woes of recent years have taken a toll on charities. Government funding has dropped, and two major donors in the area, the Freddie Mac Foundation and the Fannie Mae Foundation, have announced reductions or redirections in their charitable giving.

Those two groups — endowed by the two housing financing giants — once gave a combined $83.5 million to local groups, although that amount has dropped by tens of millions recently. Other corporate giving has fallen by about $5 million in the past three years.

The Freddie Mac Foundation, which is self-funded, was ordered by its federal regulator to start winding down donations in 2012, four years after the housing bust that helped to trigger the recession. Under the plan, all its assets are to be distributed by early 2015, the foundation announced.

Those changes make it even more important for area charities to find new sources of donations.

“The economic news isn’t getting any better, and the government funding is down,” said Terri Lee Freeman, president of the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region. “We’re the nation’s capital. We ought to be able to do this in grand style.”

Razoo, a D.C.-based Web site that is among the organizers of the Nov. 9 event, helped raise $14 million in one single-day event in Minneapolis and $11 million in a second one-day event. The company, a venture-capital-funded nonprofit, takes 2.9 percent of each donation for credit-card processing and technology costs, which it says are the lowest rates in the industry.

Razoo also provides a free fundraising page for nonprofit groups to make their cases to potential donors, along with free training to help those groups build online communities and run online fundraisers.

Organizers hope that the area’s 20,000-plus nonprofit groups register with the site so they can tap into potential donors who might not have heard of them, and compete with others to win prizes for the largest number of donors as well as the largest amount of donations.

“Eighty percent of giving nationally is from individuals,” said Tamara Lucas Copeland, president of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers, which organizes corporate giving. “So the foundation community is particularly supportive of this concentrated effort to build a larger base of the support for the local nonprofit sector.”

Although the Give to the Max Web site is up and running, people wishing to donate will have to wait until Nov. 9. On that date, starting immediately after midnight, donors will be able to make donations and search for organizations that specialize in particular issues.

 
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