Nonprofit representatives pose for a picture during a Long Beach Gives working session. Courtesy of Long Beach Gives.

Long Beach Gives is back.

The annual day of giving returns to the city officially on Sept. 22—but Long Beach Gives Campaign Manager Matt Guardabascio works well beyond that single day to ensure that the participating organizations are given the tools they need for a successful campaign.

This year, 233 nonprofit organizations are being featured in the Long Beach Gives event, which continues a steady increase after having 204 organizations last year.

“We are providing people and businesses with the opportunity to really do the research,” Guardabascio said, “and determine which organization or cause speaks to them.”

The event started as a project for Julie Meenan as she pursued a master’s degree in social work at Cal State Long Beach. Meenan—who serves as the executive director of the Josephine S. Gumbiner Foundation—was told about a similar fundraising program in Monterey County back in December of 2017, and she began doing research to try and figure out how to bring an online fundraising event to Long Beach.

Its first iteration was held in 2019, with 93 nonprofits listed on the Long Beach Gives website. That year, the event raised over $800,000 for those organizations.

This year, the goal for Long Beach Gives is to raise $2.2 million—a number that was chosen based on data from previous years while accounting for the larger number of organizations this year. Guardabascio admitted that he had hoped to set a higher goal but was not comfortable going higher given the precarious state of the economy right now.

“I would love to be at over [$2.5 million] this year, truthfully,” Guardabascio said.

Still, the goal and the number of participating organizations continues a trend of growth for the event.

“Long Beach Gives is really the best nonprofit directory for the city of Long Beach,” Guardabascio said.

Last year, Long Beach Gives not only met its $2 million goal but slightly exceeded it, with $2.05 million raised.

For Guardabascio and Long Beach Gives, though, the fundraising is not just limited to a day. Early giving starts on Sept. 15, and the fundraising continues through 10 a.m. Sept. 23.

And the work itself goes far beyond that; applications opened in March.

The event has yet to reject an organization, unless it does not fall under the basic set of criteria that Long Beach Gives requires. All nonprofits need to do to qualify is:

  • Be a 501(c)(3) or working under the umbrella of one;
  • Have been in service for at least three years; and
  • Contribute directly to the Long Beach community.

“We have some organizations that are based outside of Long Beach,” Guardabascio said, “but they are actively serving residents, so we’re allowing them to participate and benefit from this because they’re helping the city.”

Once the participating nonprofits are officially announced in May, Long Beach Gives offers resources to help them fundraise, including professional development training sessions that focus on topics like peer fundraising and social media campaigning.

On the peer fundraising front, Long Beach Gives provides extra assistance through a system that allows individuals to set up their own pages on the campaign’s website. The feature allows individuals to go beyond simply donating to a business by letting them create a page and share personal stories about what the work of a particular organization means to them.

“Tichenor Clinic contributed tremendously to my older brother becoming the independent adult he has become today,” a peer fundraising page to support the Tichenor Clinic for Children reads. “Thanks to Tichenor, I found my passion for water safety…I want to give back a little of everything our family has received from this unique nonprofit organization.”

Another page looking to raise $500 for the Long Beach Chorale & Chamber Orchestra says, “The Long Beach Chorale is an organization close to my heart—in my 7 years with the group I have met friends, found colleagues, and developed myself as a musician.”

Long Beach Gives offers financial support, as well, in the form of small cash prizes—a total of over $16,000 that’s divided up mostly into $500 chunks—that recognize achievements like bringing in the most money or attracting the most donors.

“They’re just kind of a way to gamify and just make it a little bit fun,” Guardabascio said of the prizes. “Give them some goals that they can shoot for to try and get a little extra into their campaign.”

These prizes—which are doled out for achievements but also via random drawing—are given in three categories based on size to encourage fairness and highlight nonprofits both large and small.

And once the campaign wraps up, Long Beach Gives will host yet another training session in October, which Guardabascio said will focus on stewardship and thanking donors. He is also planning to implement a new session in January, but the details of that have yet to be finalized.

Moving forward, Guardabascio hopes that this steady growth will continue for Long Beach Gives. The organization is currently looking for even more ways to get the message out and encourage more donations.

“We have billboards up in the city for the first time ever,” Guardabascio said.

Long Beach Gives has also improved the website to make donating even easier. One of the new features is a shopping cart that allows people to make donations to multiple organizations at once. Donations can also be made through Google Pay and Apple Pay this year, and plans are underway to add other convenient methods in the future, such as donating via text.

“As we move forward, there continues to be a need for digital fundraising,” Guardabascio said. “We are looking at what the next steps are, and how we move beyond where we are at.”

Christian May-Suzuki

Christian May-Suzuki is a reporter at the Long Beach Business Journal.