Manatee nonprofits vying for $501,000 Giving Challenge funding

vmannix@bradenton.comMarch 21, 2012 

Valerie Nelson has been calling regular donors to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County.

Kristen Theisen has been reaching out to supporters of Meals on Wheels Plus of Manatee.

Ashley Brown, though, is trying a different strategy to attract donors to the Women's Resource Center of Manatee for The Giving Partner 36-Hour Giving Challenge running from 6 a.m. March 27 to 6 p.m. March 28.

The WRC will be serving coffee and pastry at 7 a.m., and wine and cheese at 4 p.m. at the Manatee Avenue nonprofit.

"We'll have somebody standing outside waving at motorists," said Brown, WRC executive director. "It may be cheesy, but this is a great opportunity to take advantage of a brand-new tool for our community, maximize donors and gain additional funding."

Supported by four area foundations, the Giving Challenge is an initiative where $501,000 in matching funds and special grants will be awarded during the 36-hour period.

"It's first-come, first-served," said Susie Bowie, director for The Giving Partner at Community Foundation of Sarasota County that's partnering with the Manatee Community Foundation, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and Patterson Foundation.

Donors can go online at and contribute to their favorite nonprofit with the chance to have their donations doubled or more.

They can also check out profiles of the more than 100 participating nonprofits for

potential donations.

"What we want to do is inspire giving on all levels and encourage organizations to build their donor base and attract new donors," Bowie said. "Smaller organizations are able to get the same recognition as larger organizations by getting people looking at their profiles."

That works for Valerie Nelson, vice president of development for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County, who is trying to drum up needed funding for summer scholarships.

"This is a unique tool because we're pitted against over 100 nonprofits," she said. "It's driving people to see our profile, our whole picture, and you've got foundations reviewing it to see we are a valuable, reliable dependable nonprofit."

At Meals on Wheels Plus, Kristen Theisen hopes the initiative will help generate funding to help feed more seniors.

"It's a great opportunity to ease people into online giving," said Nelson. "Once people get more accustomed to it, it will open more doors."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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