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RAISING THE BAR: Omaha Gives

Another year of exceeding expectations is anticipated as OCF initiates the third edition of Omaha Gives!

After phenomenal first-year results were followed by an even more amazing second year and an incredible level of ongoing engagement from the community, they’ve transitioned from merely hopeful to completely assured and are expecting the best year yet with the third annual Omaha Gives! taking place for 24 hours starting at midnight on Wednesday, May 20. 

“It’s a heavy lift for our team but it’s a great opportunity for this group to take pride in what they can help the community accomplish,” Sara Boyd, president and CEO of the Omaha Community Foundation, said. “We’re excited because we believe Omaha is special and we want to see another big showing, first and foremost because we care about this community and want to see it thrive. Secondly, there’s this sense of pride we all take from what we can all accomplish together and how we can put Omaha on the map as one of the most—if not the most— generous community in this country.” 

Easier than ever to give

The 2015 Omaha Gives! fundamentals are the same: participants visit the website at omahagives24.org, use the search feature to find their favorite nonprofits, and make a donation of $10 or more using a credit card, Boyd said. What’s new is that a different technology partner, CiviCore, is offering expanded capability including a simplified shopping cart and the option of saving donor profiles. Donors can even schedule donations ahead of time.  

“It’s more cost-effective, more flexible, and it will also be more enduring,” Boyd said.  “This will increase the benefit for everybody.” 

Last year, 569 nonprofits participated in Omaha Gives!, but this year’s final number is expected to reach 700. 

“I’m really pleased to see not only the social service organizations participating, but so many schools have done a really great job connecting to alumni, parents and supporters,” American National Bank executive chairman John Kotouc said. American National Bank is this year’s presenting sponsor. “But also there’s a whole category of animal-affiliated organizations that people love to be able to support…they’re an important part of the community, too. And there are also some charities of faith that are participating, and that’s really great to see.”

Maximizing the day

Todd Simon, Omaha Community Foundation board chair and Omaha Steaks senior vice president, said he was pleased that Steaks for Good from Omaha Steaks is the returning hourly prize sponsor for 2015.  

“We saw the first two years of Omaha Gives! were great for the community and the project continues to grow, and we felt like we wanted to keep the momentum going,” he explained.
“The event has built its own brand, and I think for the foreseeable future, each year it’s going to attract more nonprofits and more donors. People like the energy that the day creates and from what I know, the nonprofits have learned a lot about how to maximize the day. They’ve figured out they can raise additional matching money from their own donors, they’ve learned how to market the event better. So I expect that, for the next several years, we’re going to continue to see year-over-year growth in the number of participants and the amount of dollars raised.”

Some new elements to this year’s event were inspired by ideas from the nonprofits themselves, Boyd said. 

“One of the great advantages of an event like Omaha Gives! is that it is so flexible. If somebody has an idea, there’s likely a way to incorporate it. And part of keeping the energy around the event is keeping it fresh and continuing to demonstrate the value behind the day,” she said. 

“This year we have something called extra bonus dollars. In the past, some of the organizations have raised their own match. This year we will be able to include that as extra bonus dollars those organizations will get credit for.”

A few changes have been made to enhance the competitive spirit of the day, Boyd said. 

“There will be more participation prizes this year…those are the prizes which go to nonprofit organizations that have the most donors participate. It’s really important to emphasize participation even if those organizations are not always the ones that raise the most money.  This is about planting seeds of generosity that will pay off for the Omaha area long into the future,” she said. “We have three different time periods throughout the day and we’ve structured the event so that we can have new winners each time period.”

“The participation prizes are based on the number of individuals you can get to donate to your organization and it’s further divided into tiers so you’re competing with like-size organizations,” Simon added. “We try to do a lot make it fair and make it fun, because at the end of the day it should be fun.”

Year-round impact

The Omaha Gives! experience also has a longstanding effect on nonprofits, Simon said. 

“And the nonprofits that participate, they’re learning new skills about marketing and fundraising, and they’re using social media and learning how to build a database, how to build an email file,” he said. “All of these things are useful skills for any organization to have, no matter the size.”

Although organizers hope to attract new donors every year, the loyal core of returning participants is key to Omaha Gives! ongoing success. 

“The issues and opportunities aren’t going away,” Boyd said. “So when donors opt to participate, whether it’s Omaha Gives! or engaging in some other fashion at some other time, they’re demonstrating their ownership of the future of this community.”

“The idea is to show them that it’s easy to give and it’s easy to become a supporter, and there is that wise saying that it’s more blessed to give than receive,” Kotouc said.

“It is one of those things that feeds on itself; the more people that participate, the more that want to participate. It’s a positive feedback loop. And there’s leverage on the money; all the dollars that are donated that day are going to get some sort of increase to them   through either the hourly prizes or the participation prizes, and then there’s the bonus money pool. So there’s lots of different ways for additional funds to be raised that are not going to be raised on other days of the year,” Simon added. “So if you care about an organization and only give once during the year, you might as well give during Omaha Gives!.” 

 

“It is one of those things that feeds on itself; the more people that participate, the more that want to participate.”
“We’re excited because we believe Omaha is special and we want to see another big showing.”
“There is that wise saying that it’s more blessed to give than receive.”

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