On September 19, 2019, nonprofits in Long Beach have the chance to crowdfund donations and earn matching dollars donated from philanthropic foundations and businesses via a new annual initiative: Long Beach Gives Day. Donors will have 24 hours to make a difference with double the impact, using a single online platform for numerous charities.

Gathered around an oceanfront table at the Hotel Maya overlooking the city skyline, the project’s steering committee shared the story behind Long Beach Gives Day, how it will unfold, and what they hope to accomplish.

The project sprung from the efforts of the Josephine S. Gumbiner Foundation (JSGF), a Long Beach nonprofit dedicated to supporting organizations that enrich the lives of local women and children. According to Boardmember Alex Norman, the board asked Executive Director Julie Meenan to conduct a feasibility study for launching a crowdfunding event in Long Beach to benefit local nonprofits similar to those held in other regions.

“I studied the existing gives model throughout the United States, including Giving Tuesday, which is probably the best-known gives day, to see what might work best here in Long Beach,” Meenan said, referring to the Tuesday following Thanksgiving in which nonprofits across the nation fundraise online. “Some campaigns are six weeks long, like ‘Monterey County Gives’ and ‘Santa Cruz Gives.’ ‘Amplify Austin’ is 36 hours. One up in Sacramento is seven days. So just taking all the models and figuring out what would work the best here in Long Beach.”

Members of the steering committee for a new initiative meant to help local nonprofits bring in donations, Long Beach Gives Day, intend to instill participating nonprofit leaders with skills to carry beyond the 24-hour fundraising campaign. Pictured, from left: Griselda Suarez, executive director of the Arts Council for Long Beach; Justin Wheeler, CEO and co-founder of Funraise; Angelina Pavone, director of customer success for Funraise; Michelle Byerly, executive director of The Nonprofit Partnership; Gisele Fong, program manager for The California Endowment; Alex Norman, boardmember for the Josephine S. Gumbiner Foundation (JSGF); Christina Kreachbaum, program manager for The Nonprofit Partnership; and Julie Meenan, executive director of JSGF. (Photograph by the Business Journal’s Brandon Richardson)

Meenan interviewed more than 30 stakeholders about what they thought would be an appropriate way to collaborate and any concerns they might have. In general, the nonprofit community was willing to participate in a crowdfunding campaign but asked that the event not coincide with holiday fundraising campaigns. “That’s when we selected September as the time. September 19, 2019,” she said.

Meenan also studied providers of online platforms to host an online giving day, and found that there was a company in Downtown Long Beach that specialized in exactly that. Founded five years ago by Justin Wheeler, Funraise moved to Long Beach’s WeWork office three years ago, where it employs 62 people, most of whom, Meenan noted, are Millennials.

“Funraise is a technology platform that’s basically the back-office support to nonprofit organizations, from helping manage their business to raising funds and stewarding their donors,” Wheeler said. JSGF is covering the costs associated with hiring Funraise and providing prep services, including workshops, to local nonprofits in anticipation of Long Beach Gives Day.

“One of the most advantageous aspects of giving days is, when an organization is looking at raising funds, giving days actually inspire donors to give again, like a second time, a third time and maybe a fourth time,” Wheeler said. “It creates this really strong cycle of repetitive donations that keeps donors engaged, so that’s one of the things you see as a really solid outcome of giving days.”

JSGF and The California Endowment, a statewide foundation dedicated to making California a healthier place, are providing matching dollars to donations raised on Long Beach Gives Day. Three other local foundations have verbally consented to doing the same, Meenan said. “Part of the incentive to encourage people to give is to have matching dollars,” she explained.

“Our particular interest is looking out for smaller grass roots organizations within Long Beach, and really particularly serving parts of our community that are often underserved,” Gisele Fong, program manager for The California Endowment, said. “When we think about the nonprofit sector within Long Beach, certainly there are the really foundational and largescale nonprofits, but we also have so many grass roots organizations and individuals who are doing such amazing work within our communities that are really serving the populations that are most in need.”

Steering committee member Griselda Suarez, executive director of the Arts Council for Long Beach, said that she felt similarly about the local arts community. “It’s very similar with our artists and small group organizations that are doing arts in neighborhoods and in the communities,” she said of local arts nonprofits. “They do not have the infrastructure, nor the advocacy network set up yet to do this kind of fundraising. . . . In many ways, it was just a perfect match.”

Suarez said that Long Beach Gives Day will benefit smaller nonprofits that don’t have the built-in capacity to hold major fundraising events on their own. “This initiative provides a different model, a different way of doing giving,” she said. “Many of our smaller organizations don’t have the capacity to put on a lunch and a gala, a big fundraiser event for thousands of people. So this initiative is more accessible and provides some equity within the playing field of philanthropy in Long Beach that hasn’t necessarily been tapped into.”

Norman noted that raising funds online appeals more to the Millennial generation, the largest living generational cohort in American history. “When you look at the problems we are leaving them, they are going to have to solve a hell of a lot of problems. So, something like this gets them involved in their own future,” he said.

Nonprofits will be able to create their own campaigns associated with Long Beach Gives Day, and Meenan hopes that 60 or more will participate. “There will be the picture of the organization, there will be their case statement, and you will be able to click through and make a donation,” Meenan said of how the platform will look. “Over 50% of the individuals that give to one organization generally give to more than one,” she noted.

Those that sign up are required to assign a “team captain” to represent their organization. That captain must attend training sessions and workshops that will not only prepare them for the giving day event, but also train them in useful skills to carry beyond the event, according to Wheeler. “The training that is provided, what’s so valuable about it is it’s not just for this giving day. It’s going to exceed far past this day,” he said. “Nonprofits are not just learning ways to make this campaign successful. They are actually taking away best practices and techniques that are going to allow them to make this happen on a more regular basis.”

The Nonprofit Partnership (TNP), a steering committee member for Long Beach Gives Day, is providing some of this training. “Our role as The Nonprofit Partnership, we do capacity building for nonprofits already in the community and the region,” Michelle Byerly, TNP executive director, said. “We are putting together a series of workshops, and Funraise will also be contributing to those workshops with their expertise in the area. We’ll be supporting them along the way to get them ready to participate in the campaign in September.”

Funraise isn’t just providing the online platform for Long Beach Gives Day – the company is going to be involved throughout the ramp-up phase. “We’re providing the platform. We are also on the strategy side with branding, and also the support side – as nonprofits are signing up, providing them with best practices around how to utilize the giving day and other channels outside of our platform to drive donors to make it successful,” Wheeler explained. “It’s not just about how to finance. But it’s like, how do you like conceptualize your story and make it appealing to donors? Because that’s a big part of raising funds.”

In the 24-hour period on Long Beach Gives Day, Meenan hopes to raise a total of $120,000 for local nonprofits. Byerly suggested that local businesses could partner with their favorite local charities to match any funds they raise on Long Beach Gives Day.

Asked about the challenges nonprofits face in fundraising, Jeff Wilcox, president and CEO of The Third Sector Company – an organization that helps nonprofit organizations with leadership continuity – said that nonprofits are competing against many other voices trying to get their messages out to the public. Collaboration among nonprofit groups is one solution. “When many voices come together and talk about what can be done for a community as a whole, you really are going back to a very simple but well-established fact that the sum is greater than any of its parts,” he said.

Wheeler reflected, “I think a lot of times people have this perception that nonprofits are competing against each other and competing against a limited amount of funding. But when you bring nonprofits together and you create something like this giving day, it actually opens up the organization to more opportunities.”

Nonprofits interested in participating – and businesses interested in partnering with them – may visit the dedicated Funraise webpage for Long Beach Gives Day, longbeachgivesapplication.funraise.org.