Raise the Region initiative passes $1 million mark

When donations for Raise the Region 2014 closed at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, there were a million reasons to celebrate – literally.

The online-only fundraising effort raised $1,002,673 for registered nonprofits from Lycoming, Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union counties in just 30 hours.

“This event speaks a lot to the public confidence in the nonprofits in our communities,” said Jennifer Wilson, president and CEO of the First Community Foundation Partnership, which organized the event for the second year in a row.

Raise the Region, which launched at 6 p.m. Wednesday, expanded from 24 to 30 hours this year and had 212 registered nonprofits, an increase over last year’s 160.

Glenn Smith II, director of strategic philanthropy for the partnership, said that word spread about the event from previous participants.

“A lot of the nonprofits that took part last year knew how it worked and that it could raise a lot of awareness about their organization,” he said.

Wilson agreed, noting that there was “a lot of excitement around the event.”

More money also made a difference, when Blaise Alexander Family Dealership unexpectedly increased their donation of $125,000 in matching funds to $150,000 at Wednesday evening’s kick-off event.

Participating nonprofits also had the opportunity to qualify for cash prizes – like the Breakfast Prize, an additional $2,000 awarded to the nonprofit with the most donations between 6 and 8 a.m., and the Founder’s Prize, an extra $1,000 added to the amount made by the 1,916th donor, in a nod to the year the partnership was founded.

Wilson said that the incentives were a big part of generating interest among donors and supporters of the nonprofits, so the partnership was “more thoughtful” this year about their distribution throughout the event.

“We thought more about how to spread them out over 30 hours and make it more exciting,” she said.

The event’s website was viewed more than 20,000 times, Smith said, which he attributed to the community aspect of the fundraiser.

“People kept checking the website, wanting to know the totals, wanting to know how their favorite nonprofit was doing,” he said. “That’s what this is about.”

The totals will become official after the partnership finishes a verification process that ensures the numbers are accurate and that all of the donations that were made have been counted, Smith said.

That process is expected to take several days, but the partnership confirmed that several gifts of $10,000 – the maximum amount that would be matched – were made.

Smith said that the average amount of donations still was being calculated as well, which worked out to roughly $140 per donation last year.

While the numbers are impressive, what they mean to nonprofits and communities across the region is more important, Smith said.

“A million dollars, that’s a fun amount to think of,” he said, “but it was more fun to think about the impact that money will have on these organizations.”

Wilson agreed.

“This event epitomizes what we see as our role in the community: encouraging philanthropy at all levels,” she said. “What a wonderful way to spend our time and staff resources.”