Eagle County Gives ramps up in preparation for Colorado Gives Day on Tuesday
Local collaborative aims to raise $1.75 million for 67 Eagle County nonprofits
With snow falling, December upon us and the holidays around the corner, nonprofits across the state are gearing up for their annual 24-hour giving event: Colorado Gives Day. This day offers an opportunity for community members to give back and support the year-round mission of organizations across the state.
Locally, nearly 70 nonprofits from Eagle County are ramping up as part of the Eagle County Gives collaborative for this critical day on Tuesday, Dec. 6.
“Colorado Gives Day, it’s more than just a day; it’s a movement that inspires and unites thousands of donors to give where they live and support Colorado nonprofits. It’s also one of the largest and most successful gives days in the nation,” said Brooke Skjonsby, the president of the Eagle County Gives coalition and executive director of the Vail Valley Charitable Fund. “These continue to be extraordinary times as we adapt to a new normal during an unprecedented period in our shared history. The needs of our community here in Eagle County are unrelenting and supporting our nonprofits so they in turn can provide essential support to those who need it most is more important now than ever before.”
Eagle County Gives started in 2010 to provide a platform and collaboration for local nonprofits to garner support, raise funds and bring awareness to their missions.
Last year, on Colorado Gives Day, the local group received 4,000 donations, totaling just over $2 million in donations for 50 local nonprofits, adding to the nearly $9 million it has raised for local nonprofits since 2010.
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In 2022, the coalition grew to include 67 total nonprofits — with 15 new organizations this year — and is targeting to raise $1.75 million.
In addition to the funds donated by community members, Colorado Gives Day has a $1.4 million incentive fund, of which every nonprofit that receives a donation on Tuesday, Dec. 6 will receive a portion.
Strength in numbers
According to Skjonsby, in working collaboratively, Eagle County Gives is “dedicated to strengthening the collaboration, fundraising capacity and awareness of the nonprofit sector that enhances the quality of life in Eagle County in collaboration with the Colorado Gives Day statewide initiative.”
This strength in numbers is something that is felt acutely by the many organizations that participate, especially those with smaller teams and budgets.
Carrie Benway, executive director of Your Hope Center, said that this collaborative element is what makes the group unique. Your Hope Center launched as a new nonprofit in January 2021 and so has only been involved in Eagle County Gives for the past two years.
“(The Eagle County Gives) executive committee works tirelessly year-round to set us all up and we all benefit from their hard work, from marketing to fundraising, they make it very simple for a nonprofit like (Your Hope Center),” Benway said. “We have 33 employees and I’m the only one who’s really working on marketing, so they really just add a lot of value to organizations like ours that are really focused on clinical support, not fundraising.”
This support, as Benway mentioned, is not just on Colorado Gives Day, but year-round as the group offers professional development training, opportunities to network and connect with other nonprofits and their resources, and providing a platform for local organizations to support each other.
“We have so many nonprofits in our community that we can get siloed as we’re all focused on our day-to-day operations, but this collaborative helps us and just gives us information about what we’re all accomplishing,” Benway said.
One example of this, she added, was that this year she was introduced to Heads Up for Hope — one of the organizations participating in Eagle County Gives for the first year — which provides support for individuals suffering from brain injuries. Through the collaborative, the two organizations will now be partnering, with Heads Up for Hope providing training to Your Hope Center’s crisis team so they can improve the services they offer.
Elyse Howard, the director of development for Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley referred to the partnerships and collaboration between nonprofits as an “obvious power” that “enhances all our work.”
For the Eagle River Watershed Council, this power is in the ability to share resources and perspectives and develop relationships.
“We love the cohesive marketing and branding that is able to increase the impact of each organization’s efforts,” said Melanie Smith, the communications and development manager for the Eagle River Watershed Council. “Colorado Gives Day is such a powerful giving opportunity for the whole state, and the Watershed Council is proud to belong to the effort.”
The Museum at Dinosaur Junction is one of the 15 new organizations this year, having just opened earlier this year. As a new nonprofit, the collaborative has helped founder Billy Doran grow and build his organization.
“Beyond the obvious financial aspects that will allow us to grow and expand our efforts, being part of this really special adventure has introduced me to so many other people and organizations doing like-minded work. I have lived in this unique and wonderful community for 33 years and the list of things it has given me is endless. What I am doing, building The Museum at Dinosaur Junction, has allowed me to give something back in return and Eagle County Gives has created an avenue to do so,” Doran said.
Another newly-formed nonprofit that joined the coalition this year is Mountain Pride. Madison Partridge, who serves as executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy organization, said that being a part of the group is “astronomically impactful for our organization.”
“Beyond philanthropy, being a part of the collaborative has offered Mountain Pride professional development and partnership opportunities. For example, we were able to offer professional development to all members about our which sparked a lot of interest in conversation in our work. We look forward to getting more involved in years to come,” Partridge said. “As a smaller organization, there is a huge benefit in the collective marketing efforts that the collaborative does, allowing us to gain brand recognition as a new organization.”
In addition to the Museum, Mountain Pride and Heads up for Hope, the other new organizations to Eagle County Gives this year are: Cassia, Colorado Film Institute, Students Shoulder-to-Shoulder, Buddy Werner League (Vail and Beaver Creek), Vail Christian High School, Vail Christian Academy, VFW Minturn Post 10721, Mr. Anonymous Philanthropic Society, Inc., Hardscrabble Trails Coalition, Vail Mountain School, Children’s Global Alliance, and Zealous Schools.
Supporting year-round missions
For all the participating organizations, Colorado Gives Day offers unique fundraising to support the work they do year-round.
This year, Your Hope Center is hoping to raise $20,000 on Colorado Gives Day, an amount that will go directly to support its school-based programs. This year, the program was introduced into five new elementary schools, completing its goal to get school-based clinicians in every Eagle County school.
According to Benway, Your Hope Center’s greatest challenge is housing as well as trying to recruit and retain employees.
“Every dollar that we raise on Colorado Gives Day will support our school-based clinicians. Having and securing funding to support our school-based programs is just one more step closer to our future sustainability,” Benway said. “Every dollar we raise is going toward salaries.”
In addition to the financial support, Benway is hoping that this giving day will spread the word about the resources Your Hope Center provides. In addition to its school-based program, it also supports a 24/7 mobile crisis response line (970-306-4673) and a community stabilization program — all of which are free of charge for the community.
“One of the biggest ways people can support us is by letting their friends and neighbors and network know about the services we provide,” Benway said. “As people continue to struggle in our community, letting people know that Your Hope Center is a resource to anyone in our community is a way to support us, and a way to support the community as a whole because not everyone is connected to services.”
For Mountain Youth, the day is unique in that it’s one of the only days it reaches out to local individuals and corporations to give.
“Most of our revenue is recognized via grants, which can be restrictive and less flexible in responding to the ever-changing needs that local youth and families face,” said Michelle Stecher, the organization’s executive director. “Gifts through Colorado Gives Day enable Mountain Youth to swiftly and nimbly provide the most critical supports to boost youth health and safety.”
This financial support allows it to continue providing youth advocacy, family education and school-based skills-building to the community.
“Many young people and parents lack critical skills to support them in life, such as resiliency, problem-solving and healthy relationships. Mountain Youth programs build life skills, link students with positive adult role models early on, and offer healthy and free community opportunities,” Stecher said. “Through education, advocacy, outreach and policy work, Mountain Youth strives for a community with less substance use and more mental health supports.”
Doran hopes that the results of this funding will become tangible for those who attend The Museum at Dinosaur Junction, with donations supporting its collections including “getting massive dinosaur skeletons” and other fossils as well as its operating overhead.
All of which, Doran added, support his mission of allowing the community to “peek into the looking glass, so-to-speak, and see our world as it was hundreds of millions of years ago, the animals that lived here, and as such, to appreciate the fantasy-meets-reality of the incredible natural wonders our county has is beyond rewarding.”
As another new organization, the donations to Mountain Pride will help ensure its programs and resources remain free in order to “remove barriers from economic and other marginalizations,” Partridge said.
This past year, Mountain Pride has made over 5,000 touchpoints through its programming, which includes LGBTQ trainings for businesses and organizations, events and speakers, community support groups and more. However, the work is just beginning.
“The tragedy in Colorado Springs and the anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric that fills our country and community is a humble reminder of the importance of our mission. We need to continue and increase our programming around the community, education, advocacy and resource navigation and we can’t do it without the generosity of our community,” Partridge said. “The funds donated by our community will allow us to continue to meet the growing need in our community.”
As part of Colorado Gives Day, Mountain Pride’s board of directors is matching donations up to $8,000, so it hopes to raise over $16,000 with that matching amount. Additionally, any donations made before the end of the year will allow community members an opportunity to become a founding donor of Mountain Pride, a group that Partridge said will “lay a critical role in helping to establish a sustainable general fund for Mountain Pride.”
“We have a steadfast commitment to embracing, strengthening and celebrating the diversity of our LGBTQIA+ communities across the mountains of Colorado by building community, providing opportunities for education, advocating for issues affecting queer people and providing access to resources; and we need our communities help to get there,” Partridge added.
In just a few weeks, on Dec. 18, the local Habitat for Humanity organization is preparing to dedicate its 100th home in Eagle County. In the next year, it is on target to “double its impact,” Howard said.
“These funds are imperative in helping us reach our ambitious building goals,” she said. “We will go from the on-average annual eight housing starts to 24. By the end of 2023, we hope to have 40 new homeowners in Habitat homes. This can’t be done alone — we rely on private donations in addition to grant funding, materials donations, volunteer labor and governmental partnerships.”
In the next year, the organization is also planning to expand its family services department, which Howard said will “help 300 families on their path to housing stability and work in partnership with other local nonprofits to help families find and use all the amazing resources available in this community.”
The platform and opportunity of Colorado Gives Day and the collaborative, she added, are critical as it looks to hit these goals.
“Eagle County Gives Day allows us to potentially get in front of more donors — whether they make a significant donation or a smaller one, every dollar counts in building strong foundations,” she said.
For the Vail Valley Trails Alliance, Colorado Gives Day is its biggest fundraising event of the year, according to its Executive Director Ernest Saeger.
“It provides a necessary source of funding to execute our programs such as Adopt A Trail, Trail Conservation Crew, Wildlife Trail Ambassadors, and Soul Dirt,” he said.
This year, the organization is aiming to raise $25,000, an amount which will “provide the resources needed to maintain, educate, build and advocate for single-track trails to connect our community with the outdoors,” Saeger said.
This year, for the Eagle River Watershed Council, rising threats of drought, pollution, urban runoff and warming water temperatures, make donations even more critical. At the start of the year, it set a goal to raise $90,000 by the end of the year.
“These funds support our mission to advocate for the Eagle and Upper Colorado rivers through education, monitoring and restoration projects. With a full slate of projects and programs and ways to get the community involved with us, we are hopeful that we will meet and exceed this goal,” Smith said.
To learn more about Eagle County Gives and the participating 67 nonprofit organizations serving the valley, visit EagleCountyColoradoGives.org. While Colorado Gives Day is Tuesday, Dec. 6, you can schedule your donation today.