GiveBig event helps dozens of local nonprofits

— Created April 28, 2021 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

For anyone wondering how they can discover or lend a financial hand to Island County nonprofit organizations, it’s not too late to consider GiveBig Washington.

This online fundraising event, which kicked off April 20 and culminates with a two-day GiveBig event May 4 and 5, is one option for those looking to donate to worthwhile organizations close to home. Local organizations can still register for the event by the end of business today (April 29).

While much of the current focus is on the GiveBig event coming up next week, this online tool can actually help organizations raise money all year long.

“Participating organizations stay in the system and pay an annual participation fee to be on the platform and re-register each year for GiveBig,” explained Nancy Long, executive director for 501 Commons, the organization that oversees Washington Gives and the GiveBig Washington fundraiser.

“We went to a year-round platform because it is more consistent,” she continued. “A lot of donations come in at the end. People focus on giving days, culmination days, and that is when the vast majority of donations come in. But it’s nice to have this buffer time, when organizations can start fundraising early, get donations from board members and staff. Then when the day comes, they are already set up and they look successful. That sets them up for greater success.”

Long said as nonprofit organizations participate in the process of doing GiveBig, they learn a lot about fundraising, how to set up an organization’s profile or fundraising campaign. Their participation also earns them ongoing support from 501 Commons.

“An organization gets access to several training opportunities – specialized pieces like videos, emails from me about what to do in the next two weeks and fundraising principles, techniques and tips to help them make the most of GiveBig,” she said. “There are longform and short form guides; a nonprofit doesn’t have to know a lot about fundraising to get started.”

Many nonprofits have had to cancel normal fundraising events since COVID struck more than a year ago. It prevented organizations from making new contacts, which makes fundraising difficult. Long said another benefit to the GiveBig platform is that organizations of all sizes can participate and can be discovered by people in their area looking for an opportunity to help.

“Money is flooding into some types of organizations because of strong public awareness and desire to give at whatever level they can give,” she said. “Anything really directly related to the pandemic has had a lot of donor interest, but it’s been very tough for other nonprofits. A big part of that is having those relationships cut off during COVID.”

As of press time, there were 27 Island County nonprofits registered to participate in GiveBig next week. Some have been participating for several years, some are new. All the organizations we spoke to said they are grateful for the fundraising opportunity GiveBig provides them.

“We’ve participated over the past few years,” said Saratoga Orchestra Executive Director Larry Heidel. “Each year the event becomes more visible and an important spoke in our fundraising wheel. It’s a great way to share information about our orchestra with residents that may be new to the island. Hopefully we’ll see them sitting in the audience at one of our future concerts and events.”

“We normally host our annual GALA fundraiser in the same timeframe as GiveBig, however COVID has forced us to cancel the event for the second year, so we’re partnering with GiveBig this year to reach and ignite our donor base,” said Gloria Wildeman, a marketing representative for WhidbeyHealth, a first-time participant. “The financial impact of COVID has been tremendous. The combination of unanticipated expenses and reduced insurance revenue currently represent $15 million in losses.”

Giraffe Heroes International, based in Langley, has participated in GiveBig from the beginning. The organization honors people all over the world who are “sticking their necks out for the common good,” according to its founder and creative director, Ann Medlock. The project tells their stories via social media, articles, talks, materials for schools and in books. Medlock said they first tried the platform out to see if it would work.

“It seems to get people thinking about making gifts to nonprofits, so it’s good to slipstream into that large river of giving action,” she said. “People are giving to groups that help those who are hardest hit by the shutdown, but they haven’t turned away from wanting our powerful stories to be moving out into the world. Our gifts of under $100 have actually increased so we’ve gotten new donors as well as kept our longstanding ones.”

Carol Squire, executive director of Good Cheer Food Bank and Thrift Stores, which has participated in GiveBig the past few years, said the organization has received phenomenal support from the local community and urges supporters to continue to donate to Good Cheer directly, because of the processing fees involved in the online donation platform. But GiveBig has helped it expand its reach.

“Events like GiveBig are a great opportunity to attract new donors,” Squire said. “But our community here on Whidbey has been and continues to be awesome. It’s almost as if we haven’t had to ask.”

The artistic community has been hit particularly hard by the COVID shutdowns. Whidbey’s Island Shakespeare Festival was forced to cancel its season last year. The loss of its season was a big financial blow, so the company hooked up with GiveBig last year.

“Traditionally, we hold our major fundraiser in May to prepare for summer expenses, and with that being impossible two years in a row, GiveBig is the perfect opportunity to connect with donors and supporters at this crucial moment,” said Olena Hodges, ISF artistic director.  “This platform is fantastic because it helps us all really celebrate philanthropy as a community. Lots of Whidbey nonprofits participate and it brings us all joy to celebrate this campaign together and with our donors, many of whom support lots of our organizations.”

Whidbey Weekly has also joined the GiveBig effort by becoming a media sponsor. Publisher Eric Marshall hopes the effort will help those organizations who have been struggling in the wake of the pandemic.

“Some venues were shuttered for months and now only operate at limited capacity. Numerous nonprofits were unable to hold their annual fundraisers. Major events, such as the Music Festival and the Coupeville Arts and Crafts Festival, which make money for the nonprofit (which then donates much of the money) and draw crowds for local businesses, were all canceled,” he said. “My hope is to bring top-of-mind awareness to our local nonprofits and that those with the means to give will kick in a little bit of money to help sustain them.”

“I think the main thing I want people to know is that they don’t have to be big donors to make a difference,” said Long. “By everybody gathering together, finding causes they care about, organizations they value and that match their interests, they can give at whatever level they can. This crisis is affecting every nonprofit. Now more than ever is the time to give.”

For more information about GiveBig and to find the latest participating local nonprofit organizations, visit

“I encourage folks to participate in GiveBig because it’s a celebration,” Hodges said. “It’s a really fun way to get involved and to show support of all our amazing community has to offer.”

“It’s easy, it supports all the great nonprofit work that makes Whidbey an amazing place to live and ultimately, it just makes you feel good,” said Heidel.