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Valley nonprofits hope 12-12-12 adds up to donation windfall

The daylong donation event kicks off at midnight on Dec. 12 and continues for 24 hours.

Participating organizations are listed on the event’s website and people can choose to donate to any of them during the donation window.

Donations will go directly to the organization but random awards, multipliers and “prizes” that will be awarded throughout the 24 hours could add up to much more for any of the participants.

“People seem to love it,” said Wendy Payson, director of communications and community relations for mental health and human service agency ServiceNet Inc.

Payson said people have taken to the concept and have begun promoting both the event and their own personal favorite organization on Facebook pages and Twitter feeds in advance of the big day.

Payson dismissed concerns that putting so many groups together all vying for donations during the same brief period made the event a competition.

“It’s a competition anyway,” Payson said, noting that there is always a struggle for area nonprofits to survive from a finite pool of willing donors with finite amounts of money to donate.

Payson said the Pioneer Valley contradicts conventional wisdom when it comes to people still donating, even as recovery from the recession continues.

She said there hasn’t been significant drop in donations, especially to homeless programs and shelters.

Payson attributes that to people being more aware of the economic hard times and their toll on people who may have been forced out of their homes because of them.

“More and more people are living paycheck to paycheck,” Payson said.

She said increased awareness of the participating groups, especially the smaller ones, will pay benefits above and beyond whatever donations are brought in.

One of those smaller groups, the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences in Amherst, which introduces Massachusetts elementary school students to science in a hands-on, interactive approach, has signed on for the event.

Jenna Farrell, the executive director and lone full-time employee of the academy, said the campaign is a good way for nonprofits without advertising budgets or the means to do outreach on their own to get their name out in the public consciousness.

“We’re a small organization with big goals,” Farrell said. “I think it’s admirable that we do so much with so little.”

It still would be nice to snare a few new donors and perhaps receive some of the bonus money that will be doled out, Farrell said.

Nisa Zalta, director of community relations for Riverside Industries, which serves the needs of adults with developmental disabilities, said making donating simpler should increase participation.

“It’s always been best practice to be as easy as possible,” Zalta said. “The threshold for giving is now, literally, hitting a button.”

Zalta said reducing the amount of time people have to make their donations will likely increase the likelihood of them doing so, instead of allowing them time to put it off and never get around to it.

The event is being organized by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts and is receiving its technical support from Razoo, a funding website in Washington.

Kristin Leutz, vice president of philanthropic services for the foundation, said the donation model is based on other, successful “give days” around the country.

Leutz said the 12-12-12 date was chosen due to its position in the midst of the holiday season, and the ease with which it can be remembered.

She said Razoo has a lot of experience running events even larger than this one and there shouldn’t be any problems with the site crashing due to sudden influxes of traffic, and that all transactions will be secure.

Leutz said members of some of the participating organizations have been receiving training from Razoo on how to promote their organization through social media.

That training, she said, will benefit those organizations beyond the donation window, in getting information about their organization out among people year-round.

The nonprofits will be split into two categories based on annual budgets and additional prizes will be awarded to the top three finishers in total donors and amount raised in each category.

Those who finish 12th from each category will each receive $1,200 on top of whatever other donations they bring in.

Prizes of $1,000 will be randomly awarded from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and one nonprofit will be randomly selected to receive the “golden ticket” donation of $10,000, according to the donation website.

The money for those bonus prizes was donated to the foundation and is separate from donations for specific organizations collected that day, which go directly to those organizations, less a 2.9 percent transaction fee, Leutz said.

While donations for the event will only be accepted during the 24-hour window, people can schedule their donations now if they choose, Leutz said.

For information about the event, a complete list of the participating agencies, and to make or schedule a donation, visit www.valleygivesday.org.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com

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