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Building an Extraordinary Community

People who reside in Lancaster County know that it’s an extraordinary place to live. Nowhere is that more evident than in the work that area nonprofits do on behalf of our community. Lancaster is home to many nonprofits. Supporting so many nonprofits financially is a monumental task. Thanks to the Lancaster County Community Foundation, that task is a lot easier. The foundation’s fourth annual Extraordinary Give will take place on November 15, 2015.

                The Extraordinary Give is a one day giving event that helps area nonprofits raise money with a minimal amount of fundraising cost. This year donors will be able to choose from 365 area nonprofits. Each nonprofit is listed on the www.extragive.org website. The event begins at midnight and lasts 24 hours. Donations may be made by credit card on the Extra Give website or in person at a number of area giving events taking place that day. To learn more about the event we interviewed Tracy Cutler, Vice President of Communications and Donor Cultivation for the Lancaster County Community Foundation.

360Lancaster: Tell us a little bit about the inspiration for the Extra Give and how it got started. Did you see similar events succeeding in other cities, or is this something that was organic and indigenous to Lancaster?

Tracy Cutler: “Giving days are a growing trend across the country. Community Foundation VP of Operations, Kim Shorter, had introduced the idea to our team several years before we started, but we didn’t feel like we were organizationally ready to deliver a successful event. When we launched the Extraordinary Give in 2012, we were still early adopters of the concept and one of a handful of communities to host one. Our goal was to re-introduce the 90-year-old Lancaster County Community Foundation to the residents of Lancaster County…it was our handshake to the community and a way to say “we care about what you care about.”  The goals of the Extraordinary Give are to raise awareness of the Lancaster County Community Foundation, to celebrate and lift up the powerful work of our local community benefit (nonprofit) sector, and to create a platform that encourages individuals to give a little bit extra to causes they care about.”

360Lancaster: Why do you think Extra Give has struck a chord with donors and explain how and why it is an economical way for nonprofits to raise money?

Tracy Cutler: “At its core, the Extraordinary Give is a 24-hour online giving day. Yet, Lancaster County has embraced this day and created a true community celebration of giving. Several factors help create excitement:  a 24-only event creates an urgency and excitement in addition to the stretch pool of $300,000 and $50,000 worth of prizes that help incentivize organizations and donors to give consistently throughout the day. Our community has also created dozens of extra celebrations across the county that invite people to come together and be a part of giving back in a celebratory environment.”

“The Extraordinary Give is one of the only days that it’s socially acceptable to be checking your phone in order to collectively watch the community’s generosity as the dollar figure increases minute by minute at ExtraGive.org.  It’s also tapping into the important societal norm of our “online-ness.” These days, most of us get news and information online, we “talk” online, we shop online, and the Extraordinary Give is a way for people to give online.  There is no cost to be a part of the Extraordinary Give. The Lancaster County Community Foundation commits more than $160,000 in hard costs, plus staff time and stretch pool dollars to help deliver the Extraordinary Give for the community.”

360Lancaster: Since its inception, the Extra Give has grown exponentially, raising more than $4 million last year. Do you expect that kind of growth to continue?

Tracy Cutler: “At the Community Foundation we have been overwhelmed by the generosity of our community. Since its beginning, our community has increased in number of participating organizations, number of donors and number of dollars. While we don’t expect growth at the same exponential rate, we know that there are still opportunities ahead. For example, in 2014, the $4.5 million was raised by 16,000+ generous donors. We know that there are more than 500,000 residents in Lancaster County alone, so the more that people use their social media channels to talk about the event and share their own passions, the more support can be generated for causes in our community. 

360Lancaster: There are 365 charities signed up this year. With so many charities vying for attention, how do they keep from getting "lost in the crowd”?

Tracy Cutler: “This is a great question for any nonprofit or business to be able to answer. We live in a saturated marketplace that demands every organization to have a very clear voice about its mission and impact. The Extraordinary Give challenges participants to refine their message. While it may seem counterintuitive, the multitude of participating organizations actually drives more attention to all of the organizations. We’ve seen nearly 30% of gifts report as first-time gifts, which means that many organizations are seeing new interest in their cause.  People are finding them because they are part of a larger event that captures peoples' attention.”

360Lancaster: In that vein, you started something called Tech Talks in partnership with the Nonprofit Resource Network at Millersville. Could you tell us more about that and how that has assisted participating nonprofits?

Tracy Cutler: One of the most important opportunities of the Extraordinary Give is to increase the online capacity of the community benefit sector.  Whether organizations are expanding their online strategies or dipping a big toe into the online space, the Extraordinary Give offers a platform to do that.  This year, we partnered with the Nonprofit Resource Network to offer four ExtraGive Tech Talks. The NRN recruited local experts in the fields of website optimization and design, social media content and execution, as well as online donor strategies and offered interactive learning sessions. Tech Talk tips are available online at ExtraGive.org for all organizations to reference. We’ve received positive feedback on the sessions and look forward to seeing how organizations will put their new knowledge to work in this year’s Extraordinary Give. 

We spoke to area nonprofit leaders to learn how their organizations approach and benefit from the Extraordinary Give. James Alton, Director of Development of the North Museum of Science and Nature explains how the Extraordinary Give benefits the museum, “The Extraordinary Give is just that, extraordinary. Through this platform we are able to reach an audience that may not be aware of how the Museum supports science education in the community through both on-site and off-site education. This year, thanks to a sponsorship from Murray Securus, we are extra (pun intended) excited to participate in the Great Giving Gig at Tellus360 where we are adding to the fun with our own Quantum Levitator demonstration.”

VisionCorps has participated in the Extraordinary Give from its beginning. According to Marketing Coordinator Amy Giangiulio, events like the Great Giving Gig give are critical to the events’ success. “VisionCorps is proud to chair the Great Giving Gig for the third consecutive year. The free event, hosted and sponsored by Tellus360, allows us to partner with a variety of local non-profits participating in the Extraordinary Give, and interact with potential donors. This gives us an opportunity to educate the community about the services VisionCorps provides to the blind and vision impaired in Lancaster. This is particularly important as the Extraordinary Give is an online giving day, and the event allows us to have much-needed face time with the community, thanking them for their contributions. We strive to throw an unforgettable party, with the goal of non-stop entertainment and activities led by the non-profits participating, reflective of their talents. We’re very excited for this year’s event and are confident it will be a great day for patrons and hosts, alike!”

Now in its fourth year, local nonprofits have made the Extraordinary Give a part of their strategic plan. Carrie Johnson of Girls on the Run concurs, "Girls on the Run is deeply grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Extra Give!  It has become a strategic initiative for us as we look to engage our great Lancaster community as we envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams. "

The Extraordinary Give has become a tradition that is symbolic of the compassionate nature of Lancaster County. The Lancaster County Community Foundation and the participating nonprofits have worked all year to put the pieces in place. On November 20th it will be up to the rest of us to reveal the character of our community!

Scott Wagner is a Media Consultant with 360 Pa Media Solutions. When not helping 360 customers he is passionate about endurance sports and spending time with his wife Nancy and 6 year old Labrador Cheyenne.

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