Nonprofits inspire generosity during The Great Give® 2016

Nonprofits around the region gained donors and exposure through the The Great Give® 2016.

Nonprofits across Greater New Haven inspired a spirit of giving last week during The Great Give® 2016. Nearly $1.4 million was raised by the online giving event to support a broad range of organizations working in the arts, basic needs, education, environment, and other sectors that, taken together, strengthen the entire Greater New Haven community.

"It's a great way for us to spread our mission throughout the community," said John Noonan, director of development for Christian Community Action, which raised $9,500 in support of its work to aid, shelter and advocate for poor families in New Haven. "We had a record number of donors and we're very happy with enthusiasm the that this was able to generate."

Despite technology issues with the national software platform during much of the first day, nonprofits were able to jumpstart momentum with donors when the system was restored the next morning.

"We had many board and staff members and volunteers working the computers and their phones," said Justin Elicker, executive director of the New Haven Land Trust, which earned the grand prize for attracting the most donors. "There was so much excitement about the possibility that we would win and I think that energy was felt by the donors."

Varick Memorial AME Zion Church and Booker T. Washington School, which raised $6,300, was one of several organizations participating in its first Great Give. The event also marked the first time Varick used an online tool for donations.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for people to get to know more about the nonprofits in the community and for the nonprofits to see a new way of fundraising that some of us might not have thought about," said Reverend Eldren Morrison.

Best Video and Cultural Center was another first-time organization in The Great Give. The long-time Hamden video rental store converted to a nonprofit last year as a way to save the business and its massive collection of DVDs in the face of competition from online streaming services.

"I thought that was extraordinary," co-manager Richard Brown said of the $6,300 Best raised during the event. "Through donations like these, we're able to deepen our inventory. We're trying to enrich the community. If we were only able to use the money earned in the store, we wouldn't be able to keep the quality up."

The New Haven Independent and the Valley Independent Sentinel each held live-streamed broadcasts and were visited by a constant stream of nonprofit representatives.

"Talking to the nonprofits was like going to a master class. The common theme was that they are helping people that need help the most. And they're doing it all under tough circumstances with not enough funding," said Valley Independent Sentinel Editor Eugene Driscoll. The online news organization serving Ansonia, Derby, Shelton and Seymour met its goal of raising more than $10,000, more than $1,000 of which came in the waning hours.

Shelton's Center Stage Theater, a perennial top fundraiser during the Great Give, did well once again with gifts and prizes totaling more than $50,000.

"It's very generous. I don't know how we would keep our doors open if we didn't have this. Ticket sales and tuition don't cover the cost of day-to-day operation, so we really count the money from The Great Give as our annual appeal," said Executive Director Fran Scarpa. "We got a lot of twenty-five dollar gifts in there. So the whole community can feel empowered."

Did you know?

More than 11,600 donations were made to The Great Give 2016, a 17-percent increase over 2015.