More than a thousand Bay Area non-profits are participating in Silicon Valley Gives (SV Gives), a 24-hour collective online fundraiser. The annual event is organized by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which also lines up additional money and donations from local companies, like Microsoft.
In the past, SV Gives has only offered giving opportunities to Silicon Valley organizations, and San Francisco organizations that substantially serve communities in Silicon Valley. But this year, the Foundation has thrown its doors wide open for San Francisco non-profits of all kinds. "The big social problems that these non-profits are trying to solve don’t respect county borders," says Lisa Barr, a co-lead at SV Gives for planning and outreach.
Since its inception in 2014, SV Gives has raised roughly $8 million each year. But Barr says money is only one of the goals. "It’s not about raising as much money as possible," Barr says. "It’s about capacity building." By that, she means helping non-profits -- especially the small ones -- get better at making effective pitches to potential donors, especially online.
The set up not only creates a big, regional event for individual organizations to piggy back on. SV Gives raises money, $4 million this year alone, from companies to boost the donor haul with matching grants and in-kind donations, like a free laptop from Microsoft.
The non-profits cover every conceivable cause, including the Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose, the Northern California Innocence Project, and Destination Home, which fights homelessness in the South Bay.
For many arts non-profits, like San Jose Jazz, participating for the second time this year, the fundraiser is an opportunity to expand their donor base –- or to reinforce it. "It's always wonderful to see those new names," says San Jose Jazz executive director Brendan Rawson. "Last year, I’d say it brought about 25 percent new supporters into the fold. But having the concerted effort of the campaign and the day, it has been very good sort of reconnecting with the some donors who haven’t been in the fold for a little while."
Audrey Rumsby, who heads San Jose Youth Shakespeare, says SV Gives has been a helpful exercise to move from relying on word of mouth to advertising online. "The last two years, we’ve really embraced social media in our advertising, and seen a real jump in our ticket sales," Rumsby says. Like many participating non-profits, the youth-focused theater company uses SV Gives to highlight a particular program -- in this case, a workshop the non-profit runs for people with disabilities in conjunction with the developmental disabilities support organization Hope Services in San Jose. "We go over there every week and work with seniors and kids." Rumsby says. "That’s been a really inspiring thing."
Other organizations just raise money for their general operating budget, like Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana. Movimiento's executive director, Anjee Helstrup-Alvarez, says they're not focusing too heavily on SV Gives because their big fundraiser, an annual art auction, is slated for May as well. That said, Helstrup-Alvarez feels it's important for the Chicano-focused contemporary arts organization to participate. “It’s about being part of a collective story here in Silicon Valley, that is sometimes too much under the radar -- to help tell that broader story.”