Colorado Gives Day supports local nonprofits in a big way: Here’s where your donation goes
Bright lights, sparkling trees and oversized snowflakes line the towns’ streets signaling that the holidays are in full-swing, which also means it’s the season of giving.
With so many ways to give back to the community, it can be hard to decide where or how to donate. One statewide initiative, Colorado Gives Day, is trying to make donating to local nonprofits easier and more profitable.
Colorado Gives is nonprofit that runs an online giving website where patrons can donate to state or local nonprofits. Colorado Gives Day, which took place Dec. 4 this year, is one of the largest single-day giving movements in the country.
“It goes without saying that it’s a tremendous opportunity for Grand County and state of Colorado nonprofits to have Colorado Gives Day,” said Megan Ledin, executive director of the Grand Foundation, which serves as the regional champion for the day under the name Grand County Gives.
Using the Colorado Gives website allows donors to see how their money impacts local nonprofits transparently. Aside from the 2 percent credit card or electronic check processing fees, Colorado Gives doesn’t charge nonprofits any other fees to receive the donation or host its information.
“What we’ve done with our platform at the Grand Foundation is that if a donor wants to donate a large sum of money and have us allocate it out to various nonprofits, we absorb that fee,” Ledin said. “That’s what the whole Grand County Gives umbrella is, that’s what we’re trying to do is be that umbrella to help the nonprofits so that the merchant fees don’t hurt them.”
Typically, Ledin said it can take around a month to receive donations from the Colorado Gives website, but for Colorado Gives Day the process is sped up so that nonprofits can receive the donations before the end of the year, around a week after the donations are made.
Other than donating through Colorado Gives Day or the year-round website, patrons can also donate directly to any of the dozens of local nonprofits, such as the Grand Foundation or Mountain Family Center, which can help eliminate some fees or be specifically designated.
For example, a donation to the Grand Foundation can be directed to a certain fund or program or can be a general donation. In that case, Ledin said it is generally used for annual grants or emergency grants.
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“Our goal is 91 percent of all of our dollars we want to give back out to the community, with the exception of the endowment fund,” she explained. “We already have our general operating expenses covered by other avenues, so we don’t take donations and put that toward our general operating.”
Once the donation is in the correct fund, the Grand Foundation will disperse it through an application process and selection committee.
Like the Grand Foundation, donations to Mountain Family Center can be designated for a certain project or resource or just to the general fund. Executive director of Mountain Family Center Helen Sedlar said only a small portion of non-designated donations is used for administrative or operating costs.
“We track our administrative time versus our program time, so what that means is out of every dollar, .88 cents goes to programs and services and only .12 cents of every dollar goes to administrative fees,” she said.
Sedlar said nonprofits often average around a 20 percent operating cost.
General donations typically go into the general fund and if the donation has a specific designation then the full amount will go to that project or resource, she said.
“General operating dollars are the hardest to come by, but they’re also the greatest need because you have to have your employees to operate the organization and the programs and services,” she explained. “A lot of times the programs may run at a loss negatively on the income and of course the expenses, but then if you can get more and more dollars donated to general operating, your general operating is going to cover those shortages.”
The only fee associated with either a general or designated donation is a credit card or check processing fee if it’s made online. Once the donation is in the correct budget then it can be used instantly to pay for the project’s associated costs, according to Sedlar.
“I like to say that there is return on (the community’s) investment,” she said. “So there’s a high return on the investment for a donor because we are supporting our community and helping lower-income households who are our workers in the community.”
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