Community Shares of Wisconsin Hosted Online Giving Day, First in Area

MADISON – Community Shares of Wisconsin (CSW) today announced that the area’s first online giving day, The Big Share(tm), raised over $232,000, surpassing the goal of $180,000, to benefit 70 local nonprofits. The nonprofits reached out to potential donors, primarily by social media and electronic means, to make online gifts on Tuesday, March 3.

According to Crystel Anders, Community Shares’ Executive Director, “We are thrilled to see this response from the community-and from donors as far away as New York City, California-even Ghana!

“We were deeply touched that Wisconsin came out to support us,” Anders said. “People want to invest in the future, and to build community around social and environmental justice. That is what all of our groups work for. We expect this to be the first annual such event.”

The Big Share’s success relies on the viral nature of social media to build momentum and to engage new donors.

The total of more than $232,000 is in addition to $55,000 in grants from Madison Community Foundation, the partnering sponsor of The Big Share. Other early grants not tallied in the online total include $10,000 from the Kailo Fund and $15,000 from the Evjue Foundation.

Bob Sorge, President of Madison Community Foundation, said, “We want to congratulate Community Shares and all the nonprofits that took part in the first Big Share. MCF’s work is centered around helping good people do good-and this was a great opportunity to do just that.”

Sorge, who attended a number of Big Share events during the day, added, “What a fun way to raise awareness of important causes, raise money to support those causes, and strengthen our sense of community while doing so. Well done!”

Cheri Dubiel Buckner, CSW Associate Director, explained that “hosting the area’s first online giving day was a perfect next step for us. It supports our model of encouraging donors to direct gifts to the nonprofits of their choice, and thereby connecting donors to the issues they care about.

“It is also a wonderful way to connect with the next generation of leaders and donors.  Younger donors get their news and information online. With cell phones and the internet democratizing information and technology, even small nonprofits have the ability to effectively increase their visibility through online and social media efforts. The Big Share, and the extensive training we offered, provided that opportunity.”

Lori Werbeckes, Fund Development Director of CSW member group Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired, noted that “Throughout the planning and up to the big day, CSW staff was responsive, enthusiastic, and so hard working. They deserve the highest praise for all they did to make The Big Share a day of giving, awareness, and community participation.”

Emily Winecke, Membership Coordinator with CSW, also pointed to the capacity building aspect. “When our groups responded as to what they hoped to gain from The Big Share, fundraising wasn’t even first on the list for some of the groups, they prioritized intensive, 1:1 technical training.”

Community Shares of Wisconsin provided that, offering 12 in-depth trainings attended by an average of 16 nonprofit staff. “It’s a primary reason that this was a huge effort on our part, requiring about 2500 hours of staff time on the part of CSW staff and interns. We didn’t offer one-size-fits-all training, we tailored training to each nonprofit as needed,” said Winecke.

The importance of capacity building was echoed by member groups, such as Wisconsin Women’s Network’s Peggy Rynearson. “For our small, single-staff nonprofit, it was incredibly helpful for my interns and me to participate in the quantity and quality of Community Shares’ trainings. This was a highly professionally developed and executed campaign. Aside from the money we raised, this CSW-group-wide effort offered intangibles too: building our technical skills that are invaluable to our future growth.”

Interns were available thanks to CSW’s long-time partnership with the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Professor Lew Friedland.

Louisa Lincoln, a sophomore journalism major and intern who worked 1:1 with Community Shares’ nonprofits, said “It was gratifying seeing the groups take their technical skills to the next level.” Lincoln also created much Facebook content, did extensive testing and analysis, and created new social media strategies based on the data. “By discovering what messaging was most resonant, we could see how the audience spiked-meaning that more people can learn about what these important groups accomplish.”

Buckner said that this year’s successful effort sets the stage for The Big Share to be an annual event. “We surpassed our expectations, and will continue working to build a fair and just community and protect our environment.”