Nonprofits seeking annual holiday gifts

Colorado charities raise $15 billion in 2007 thus far

‘Tis the season for giving—and who better to give to than local nonprofits. Although area nonprofits experienced a great deal of generosity in 2007, many still need donations to help with operating costs and capital projects in the new year, according to the Community Foundation of the Gunnison Valley executive director Pam Montgomery.




Area nonprofits have fared relatively well this year as far as fundraising is considered, according to Montgomery, who notes several nonprofits completed successful capital campaigns in 2007 to raise money for infrastructure and special projects. Although Montgomery could not give a specific amount raised, she says donors have been extremely generous, and giving should continue through the holiday season.
“Giving has been good,” Montgomery says, “and we’re not seeing a slow-down.”
From January to September 2007, more than $15 billion in revenue and more than $33 billion in assets has been raised for Colorado’s 19,240 registered charities, foundations and service organizations, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS).
That figure is expected to increase, as many charities will receive 50 percent of their annual contributions in the last quarter of the calendar year, October through December.
The NCCS says almost 40 percent of the increase will come in December alone—a phenomena not unusual for the nonprofit world, Montgomery says.
“Americans are used to giving now because it’s traditionally the giving season. It has somewhat to do with our generosity, but it also has tax consequences,” Montgomery says, noting many donors who wish to receive tax credits for their donations have to have them on the books before December 31. “It also tends to be when most nonprofits ask,” Montgomery adds.
There are approximately 50 nonprofits serving the Gunnison Valley, according to the Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commence.
Center for the Arts executive director Pat Crow agrees with Montgomery that giving is spurred by tax benefits, but also believes donors, especially in Crested Butte, support the role nonprofits fill in the community and feel compelled to give.
“People do give because of the holiday spirit of generosity and caring for others,” Crow says.
Crow says 2007 has been a banner year for fundraising, noting the Center raised just under $100,000 with its major gifts campaign. Crow says the Center is planning to extend the program for another year, with an additional $30,000 goal because of its success. “We are very pleased with the program’s success and the generosity of our donors,” Crow says.
However, Crow says, appealing to donors at the end of the year is an important fundraising tactic for nonprofits. The Center sends out an annual end-of-the-year mailer to donors during November and/or December.   
“We send it out at the end of the year because we don’t want to miss any opportunities, and we want to be on everyone’s radar for next year,” Crow says.
The Adaptive Sports Center also sends out December mailers to appeal for donations for programs and operating costs. According to ASC’s development director Allison Kuhne, the nonprofit will collect almost 46 percent of its annual donations between December and February. Kuhne agrees donations are strong during this period because of the tax benefits for donors and the holiday giving spirit.
“When you get near the end of the calendar year, you start to understand your financial situation better, and people start to think about those who are less fortunate,” Kuhne says.
Although donations are strong during the holiday season, Kuhne says, ASC also solicits donations throughout the year through various requests and events as a way to diversify its fundraising efforts.
“You never want to put all your eggs in one basket, because if the economy is not doing well around the holidays, then donations will be down. It’s definitely important to diversify your funding resources,” Kuhne says.
Crested Butte Land Trust president Sandy Leinsdorf says the Land Trust always sends out an end-of-the-year letter because of its proven track record. The Land Trust received several bountiful gifts at the end of the year in 2007 and 2006, according to Leinsdorf. “The community has been very generous,” she says. However, funding for several projects planned for 2008 such as the Kikel parcel has yet to materialize, Leinsdorf says. “Protecting open space is becoming more challenging and expensive,” Leinsdorf adds.
Fundraising for operating costs is also of concern for the Crested Butte Mountain Heritage Museum, according to museum director Glo Cunningham. The majority of the museum’s fundraising is collected through members. However, Cunningham says, December is the museum’s biggest month for membership renewals, noting it has become an end-of-the-year task for most members. Cunningham says in addition to the memberships, the museum received grants totaling $17,000, used for a new exhibit and to purchase computers.
Another Crested Butte nonprofit, the Crested Butte Mountain Theatre, also depends on December for fundraising. CBMT raises money during December with its annual holiday play and through its December membership meeting. The theatre is kicking off its first-ever capital campaign this holiday season in hopes of raising $25,000 for lighting and renovations of the Mallardi Cabaret Theatre, in addition to memberships. CBMT board member Larry Tanning hopes the spirit of the holidays will encourage the community to donate to the project. 
Tanning says, “The list is long of the people the theatre has changed.” He hopes people will reflect upon that experience and give to the cause. 
Montgomery says campaigns like CBMT’s capital campaign are successful not only during the holidays, but year-round. She says donations in general are up because Americans have a great deal of discretionary money to donate to nonprofits. “It’s an interesting time in the giving cycle right now because we have so many baby boomers with money to give,” Montgomery says. “Plus, it is a good time of year to ask.”

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