Juanita James op-ed: Giving Day sparks success stories

Mar 30, 2016

Originally Published by Stamford Advocate on Thursday, March 17, 2016

Juanita James FCCF President
Juanita James, president and CEO of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, at her offices in Norwalk. Photo: Matthew Brown / Hearst Connecticut Media

Three years ago, a staff member came to me with an idea. Community Foundations across the country were raising money for their nonprofit partners by sponsoring “Giving Days” — on line, time-limited events to raise money and awareness for their local communities. As an organization, we decided to embark on a mission to unite philanthropic efforts across all of Fairfield County. A daunting concept for a geographic spread of 23 towns and cities, urban and rural.

Joining talents; raising awareness for needed funding for nonprofits; amplifying leverage for local philanthropy; boosting nonprofit marketing skills through training and creating a website filled with resources to empower all community members to join together and give, because we know “Together We Thrive.

Thus we launched our own Giving Day — 24 Hours to “give where you live” building on the successes of our peer community foundations.

The first year was a challenge and we learned so much. Despite many complications, we saw firsthand how generous the Fairfield County community truly is. The second year we faced an unanticipated obstacle, an ice storm, but yet again proved our belief that “Together We Thrive” and the number of unique donors and the amount of money raised significantly increased, as did the number of nonprofits participating.

We love hearing the success stories. After the second Giving Day, one of the participating all volunteer nonprofit organizations, Wildlife In Crisis, increased Facebook supporters by 10 percent. Another participating nonprofit, Curtain Call used their prize money from the first and second Giving Days to help renovate the interior of the Dressing Room Theatre and update a sound system, two projects that had been put on hold due to a lack of funds. Ben’s Lighthouse had 100 new donors and used a matching grant to encourage even more donations on Giving Day. Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust leveraged Giving Day to build relationships with local businesses. Family and Children’s Agency in Norwalk was honored with 63 new donors and recaptured donors who had disappeared from their cause.

Nonprofits utilize every dollar donated. Fairfield County nonprofits help feed 1-in-10 Fairfield County families that struggle to find their next meal, and 35,000 children living in food insecure households. They help bolster cultural programs, strengthen our schools, shelter the homeless, treat the ill, train the unemployed, protect our environment — and so much more.

Because ‘Together We Thrive’ this year’s Giving Day has proven to been nothing short of amazing. Bank of America chose to be our lead sponsor for the third year in a row. Other champion sponsors have joined this community-wide effort including Whole Foods Market; Wiggin and Dana; Moffly Media; Deloitte; Neuberger Berman; Blum Shapiro; Newmark Grubb Knight Frank; TFI envision, Inc.; First County Bank; Cummings & Lockwood; Day Pitney; and media sponsors News 12 Connecticut; Star 99.9 and 95.9 FOX. Media throughout Fairfield County were incredibly helpful in spreading the word and telling the Giving Day story.

The biggest thank you goes to each and every one of our donors who combined their 15,311 donations to total $1,246,964.09 for our 417 Fairfield County nonprofits. You have amazed us yet again! You followed your passions, and truly made a difference right here. Every contribution will make Fairfield County a better place to work and call home.

It is my privilege and an honor to live and work in Fairfield County. On behalf of my colleagues, board and committee members, staff, sponsors, volunteers and those who will benefit from your generosity, I humbly thank you.

Juanita James is president and CEO of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation.