Foon Rhee

Let’s spread the wealth on Big Day of Giving

Members of the Sacramento Ballet perform an impromptu dance during the Big Day of Giving in 2014. The 24-hour online giving event has broadened beyond the arts to almost every cause you might want to support.
Members of the Sacramento Ballet perform an impromptu dance during the Big Day of Giving in 2014. The 24-hour online giving event has broadened beyond the arts to almost every cause you might want to support. Sacramento Bee file

If you work or volunteer with a local nonprofit, Tuesday is a red-letter day on your calendar.

It’s the third annual Big Day of Giving, a 24-hour online fundraising blitz that is putting the Sacramento region on the map for its generosity. Nearly two-thirds of donations are between $25 and $50, so it really is philanthropy from the grass roots.

And the Big Day keeps getting bigger. This year, the goal is $6 million and 30,000 donors. Some 570 different groups all over the region could benefit.

The event attracts thousands of new donors, so here’s some friendly advice: Look beyond the best-known groups and obvious issues and go deeper into the list of charities.

The Big Day of Giving website makes it easy, providing links to each nonprofit’s profile, including mission, management and financial reports. There’s a group for almost any conceivable cause you might want to support – in the arts, human services, youth development, community improvement, education, health, environment, food, animals and more.

Your dollars will go further at a newer or smaller group on a shoestring budget, rather than at an established group with a large fundraising base already.

If you want to help at-risk kids, there are groups such as Sisters of Nia in Elk Grove, which provides cultural and educational programs to disadvantaged adolescent girls. It raised nearly $4,800 last year on the Big Day of Giving and hopes to hit $10,000 this year so it can expand programs that include a summer performing arts camp, a youth leadership conference and parent workshops. Its entire budget last year was $28,000, so any donations mean a lot.

They also mean a ton to Teen Center USA, also in Elk Grove, which offers physical fitness but also teaches life skills. It brought in $5,300 last year but is hoping to make a big leap to $25,000 this year. If the center reaches that goal, it plans to refurbish a donated motor home into a mobile teen center and put some into a fund for its long-term vision to have centers near all nine high schools and all nine middle schools in the city.

Girls on the Run of Greater Sacramento, which uses running to encourage a healthy lifestyle among third- to eighth-grade girls, is trying to boost its donations from $1,000 last year to $10,000 so it can reach out to more girls, train more volunteer coaches and buy shoes for girls who can’t afford them.

Connections for Youth, which brought in nearly $2,500 last year and aims for $6,000 this year, wants to offer overnight camping trips and day hikes to more foster children in Sacramento and Yolo counties.

If you’re big into the environment, Tuleyome, based in Woodland, preserves habitat and educates on conservation. If it adds $10,000 to its $15,000 haul from last year, it plans to restore trails and habitat burned in last summer’s terrible wildfires.

This is the first year in the event for Twin Lakes Food Bank in Folsom, which hopes to bring in $20,000 to help feed the hungry.

And there are many, many more worthy groups. Who knows? You could be the savior who helps keep the doors open for a struggling nonprofit.

This day is crucial for small groups in particular because the less money and time they have to spend fundraising, the more they can focus on their mission. Leading up to the big day, their staffers get free training in marketing and social media. The publicity also helps them recruit more volunteers.

Picking lesser-known groups also would help continue expanding the Big Day beyond the arts, which is how it started here in 2013, raising $500,000 for 78 arts nonprofits.

It has broadened significantly – to $3 million for 294 nonprofits (one-third of them in the arts) in 2014, and to $5.6 million for 529 groups (24 percent in the arts) last year. Arts groups make up 22 percent this year.

The halftime celebration also has diversified. While the Camellia Symphony Orchestra and Davis Shakespeare Ensemble will perform, and Crocker Art Museum will offer a hands-on activity, a wide variety of other groups will have booths at Cesar Chavez Park in Sacramento.

It’s all well and good to support arts, culture and the finer things in life. But many in our communities are struggling just for life’s basics. Government programs can provide a basic safety net, but charities can fill a lot of holes through their good works.

And by spreading the wealth just a little, the Big Day of Giving can have an even bigger impact.