Across the country, throughout the year, community foundations sponsor giving days to raise money for local nonprofits. Ellen Lehman, president of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, shares the results of Middle Tennessee’s May 2 giving day, The Big Payback.
EVERY person in Middle Tennessee has been touched by a nonprofit. Their lives are better for it.
Maybe they were born in a nonprofit hospital.
They were certainly educated in a nonprofit school.
Every time they go to their church, synagogue or mosque ... they reap the benefits.
When they take out a book from the library or go to the theater or rescue an animal. ...
Wednesday, May 2, 2018—for 24 hours—it was again time for Middle Tennessee to come together to pay back these nonprofits for the life-changing work they do.
I mean, would any of us want to live in a community without schools, hospitals, religious institutions, animal shelters, art museums, and the rest?
More than 900 local nonprofits from 35 counties opted to participate in The Big Payback this year which became the most collaborative and inclusive giving event ever held in Middle Tennessee.
People often think that The Big Payback is all about a 24-hour online giving event to pay back Middle Tennessee nonprofits which have decided to participate. And, it is.
The fact is, however, that The Big Payback is much larger than simply that metaphoric “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”
In preparation for The Big Payback of 2018 and during the years that preceded it, thanks to our generous sponsors—especially the Kharis Foundation and the Frist Foundation—Middle Tennessee’s nonprofits are now conversant in engaging donors using digital tools they formerly feared—or at least about which they were skeptical.
Thanks to The Big Payback sponsors—every nonprofit in Middle Tennessee had access to training in how to engage donors through their websites, social media, newsletters, direct mail, and the like. These are tools they can use each and every day to improve their communications and to help them help others.
Ultimately, the goal of The Big Payback is to help the LOCAL nonprofits we love get the tools, the support, and the awareness they need to help more and help better.
We needed EVERYONE to pitch in during the 24 hours of May 2!!! And to invest in their favorite nonprofits and causes—the ones that touched their hearts and their lives. But also to invest in some new ones they’ve been meaning to help but haven’t ever taken the opportunity. Gifts as small as $10 can really add up and make an impact.
At The BigPayback.org they could search by the name of the organization, the county they serve, or the work that they do. They could invest in a cause—like making sports and team membership available to at-risk kids or in a specific geographic area such as Wilson, Dickson, Cheatham, or Rutherford Counties.
Bottom line: My favorite statistic from The Big Payback is that, from our first foray in 2014 through 2018, 24,516 donors have self-reported making a gift through The Big Payback to a nonprofit they’d not previously supported. Some 24,516 donations from new donors in five 24-hour days is transformative, and it is safe to say that although it is a 24-hour event, the effects of The Big Payback last 365 days a year.
On May 2nd, we needed each and every Middle Tennessean to STEP UP, GO to TheBigPayback.org, AND make a difference by giving to local charities! AND IT WORKED.
What Nonprofits Are Saying about The Big Payback
At the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, we love The Big Payback because it allows us to raise critical unrestricted funds to support our work throughout the year. The Big Payback is especially important to our organization because we don't host a fundraising breakfast or banquet, so the giving day serves as our annual donor recruitment event. In a moment where the climate for our work is tense, The Big Payback gives us a reason to celebrate and honestly does put the fun in fundraising. The Big Payback also gives Tennesseans the opportunity to send a strong message that refugees and immigrants are welcome in Tennessee. For the past 3 years, we've received more donations than any other organization that is not focused on animal welfare. In a challenging political climate, The Big Payback is a win for refugee and immigrant communities across the state.
“We use our strengths as an organization—our ability to mobilize people take action on an issue—for The Big Payback. We coordinate a plan and recruit supporters just like we would for any other campaign. We also leverage our organizational personality—creativity, bold ideas, and playful humor to address a heavy topic in an approachable way.
“Every year TIRRC is so successful during The Big Payback because we engage all staff in the event. If we just utilized development staff in planning and executing the Big Payback, we would fail to reach our goal. We engage staff across all internal teams—advocacy, organizing, services, as well as operations, to ask contacts within their networks to donate. We even incentive staff to help us reach our goal by creating an internal competition, and we had staff members from all teams on the top of the leaderboard. Finally—one of our most successful strategies is to strike early. In all of our communications and messaging, we ask donors to donate between 6-9 AM. By racking up donations early in the day, we secure our spot on the leaderboard, which brings more awareness to our work and ultimately more money throughout the day.”
Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition
The Big Payback has been the perfect platform to broaden the base of support for our start-up operation through the massive boost in visibility fueled by The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee’s tireless efforts to promote local nonprofits. We get to ride on the wings of their vast marketing infrastructure and credibility within our region. The prize money we compete for is at a level of impact that we just can’t afford to ignore, making participation a key strategic decision for us over the last four years.
“What inspires our campaign each year is the utter dedication of our staff, board, and army of volunteers and supporters to DO IT FOR HER ... the Survivors we serve. They don’t want to let HER down. They want to WIN BIG for Her. They want Her to know SHE’s worth it! So they will burn the midnight oil to keep us on the Leader Board. They enlist their family and friends to do the same. It has become an exciting tradition for us ... part of our cultural DNA. The first year we participated we hadn’t even opened the doors of our safe home; the winnings from The Big Payback helped us make our goal to purchase the property. We’ve kind of grown up with The Big Payback, so we really don’t know any other way to operate.
“Experiencing the multiplying synergy of The Big Payback has taught us to trust our community to come through for us. It has taught us to value the power of 100 people giving $10 as much or more than the single $1,000 gift because we choose to compete in the category of Most Unique Donors, not Most Dollars Raised. Therefore, our matching-funds challenges depend on engaging more people and that forces us to stretch our reach and touch more people with the message of our mission. Which is part of the point after all. We cannot stop the horrific criminal oppression of human trafficking if we are not educating the masses. Beyond that, The Big Payback is just plain fun for us Competitive types. We are grateful to have this incredible opportunity each year.”
Rest Stop Ministries
The Bryan Symphony participated in its fourth-annual ‘Beers for Brahms’ fundraiser this year and it was a huge success! Beers for Brahms is in participation with The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee's The Big Payback event, and the matching prize money and competitive fundraising makes for a great time for the Cookeville community to support its symphony! The Bryan Symphony has had a fantastic time since it began participating in The Big Payback event. Since 2014, the Symphony has raised over $90,000 through this fundraising event alone.
“The Bryan Symphony partners with the local Father Tom's Pub for the event where patrons come to hang out, donate money, drink free beer, enjoy live music, and take pictures with the famed Johannes Brahms. Community members in Cookeville have come to expect Beers for Brahms. ‘The fundraiser has really developed into more of a community event and a time to enjoy being together, as well as supporting our symphony orchestra,’ says symphony executive director Rachel Salter. The event has grown to have nearly 200 participants every year and almost 10 percent of the symphony's annual budget is raised at Beers for Brahms. The county and pop-up prizes of The Big Payback really help the competitive nature of our donors, who love to give money when they know it is eligible for additional prizes for the symphony.
“The Big Payback has helped turn the basic fundraising idea of ‘Beers for Brahms’ into a major benefactor for the symphony that requires almost no funds to pull off the event, and very little staff effort on the part of the Bryan Symphony. The event's success would not be possible without the great support of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, the fantastic members of the Cookeville community, and the support of Father Tom's Pub!”
Bryan Symphony Orchestra
Ellen Lehman has served The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee as president since it began in 1991, and has seen it grow to become a philanthropic force in a 40-county area in Middle Tennessee. With a background in sociology and business, Ellen directs The Foundation’s efforts to promote and facilitate charitable giving and endowment building, thereby giving donors choices, convenience, cost-effectiveness and security, as they make their charitable dreams a reality.