May 1 will be final Valley Gives Day as organizers shift to year-round strategy

Valley Gives Day, the day in which Pioneer Valley residents are encouraged to support local nonprofit organizations, will likely be happening for the last time on Tuesday, May 1.

Springfield-based nonprofit Community Foundation of Western Mass has run the event since 2012, and announced recently that after this year’s event, the focus would be on a year-round support model for local nonprofit organizations rather than a single big day of giving.

“We actually accomplished our goals of helping nonprofits with online and digital giving,” said Janet Daisley, vice president for programs and strategy for the Community Foundation.

“Back years ago, there were few nonprofits who knew how to run a digital campaign.”

Valley Gives Day also worked as a way to increase the number of local donors in the Valley, Daisley said.

What Daisley and the rest of the Community Foundation hopes is that by shifting from a single day of giving, which can be resource intensive, the organization can better support organizations and actually do more to increase local giving.

“We’re looking for a way for nonprofits to manage their donors more effectively,” said Daisley, who added that details of how the organization will support this have not been fully ironed out. “We want to really think about how we can encourage donors to not just think about one day, but all year long how to identify causes that speak to them.”

Part of the change has to do with the shifting demographics of who is giving. Those who are younger than 40 tend to do most of their giving online rather than writing checks to organizations they want to support, Daisley said.

Clem Clay, executive director of Grow Food Northampton, which runs the Northampton Tuesday Market, said he is looking forward to the change.

“We’ll miss some aspects of Valley Gives Day, but I’m sure the Foundation has good reasons,” Clay said. “The time and energy and resources being put into it could be better spent in other places.”

Clay hopes the Community Foundation will put more resources into helping nonprofits with technology. While Valley Gives has engaged people in online giving, a lot of that goes through the Community Foundation’s own platform.

“What most of us need to get better at is having online giving more integrated with our systems,” he said. “That is the spirit of what Valley Gives Day was established for, to get us all in that mode.”

Grow Food Northampton is classified by Valley Gives as a medium-sized nonprofit. Their yearly operating budget is about $250,000, according to Clay. That’s compared to small nonprofits, who have less than $100,000 as an operating budget, or large ones, like the Dakin Humane Society, which has a $1.5 million operating budget.

For nonprofits of Grow Food Northampton’s size, Valley Gives Day has represented a significant portion of individual donations. Clay said they took in $9,000 on Valley Gives Day last year, and then won about $2,000 more in prizes associated with the day. That $11,000 consisted of between 10 and 15 percent of the individual donations the organization received that year.

This won’t be the first time Valley Gives has made a change. When it began in 2012, Valley Gives Day was on the same day as Giving Tuesday, a national end-of-year giving day. Valley Gives Day shifted to May in 2016 so people would be more focused on local charities.

Stacey Price, director of development and marketing for Dakin Humane Society, liked the change.

“In the holiday times, everybody is looking to give because of the holidays and end-of-year giving, and also the popularity behind Giving Tuesday,” Price said. “[After the move], we saw a positive repsonse. People maintained the holiday giving, but also gave additional gifts because of Valley Gives. It helped us immensely.”

For Dakin, the spring is also a good time because that is when many people put animals up for adoption.

Dakin consistently receives among the most of all the nonprofits that participate in Valley Gives Day, and last year it took in about $30,000, which covered food and supplies for the spring and summer influx of animals, according to Price.

This year, 425 nonprofit organizations will be participating, the highest number yet, according to Daisley. That’s up from 264 in 2012. The number of donors has also increased, from about 6,600 in 2012 to nearly 10,000 in 2017.

“The nonprofits are getting more sophisticated with their social media strategy,” Daisley said.

Valley Gives Day is Tuesday, May 1. For more information, visit https://www.valley-gives.org.

Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at deisen@valleyadvocate.com.

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