BRADENTON -- Jean G. Farmer loves Village of the Arts, a downtown Bradenton district where artists like herself live and work while creating a harmonious environment.
But designing the community as it expands into the future, beautifying its 275 homes, erecting signs that lead people to the Village and getting the word out about the 50 artists, their businesses and community events -- all takes money.
Although grant support from Realize Bradenton has been crucial, Village of the Arts is also excited about its debut in the 2015 Giving Challenge, the 24-hour online charitable fundraiser that has raised about $8 million for local nonprofits in the last three years and could put thousands of extra dollars in the Village's coffers.
Village of the Arts, and its nonprofit arm the Artists Guild of Manatee Inc., has an annual budget of about $15,000 and is among nearly 450 nonprofit organizations participating in this year's Challenge, where people give to causes they feel strongly about, says Susie Bowie, vice president of philanthropic education and marketing at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, the event administrator.
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The 2015 Challenge will start at noon Tuesday and will run until 11:59 a.m. Wednesday , Bowie said.
"No matter where you
are, in your car or in China, you can follow the Giving Challenge on your phone or computer," Bowie said. "We have a list of how many gifts each organization has received and how many dollars have been raised and this is updated every 60 seconds."
Out of the 450 organizations, Manatee organizations total about 306, said Marilyn Howard, executive director of Manatee Community Foundation which also supports the Community Foundation of Sarasota.
To give, donors can go to givingpartnerchallenge.org beginning at noon Tuesday through noon Wednesday, search for organizations important to them and make a tax-deductible gift of $25 or more with their credit or debit card, Bowie said.
In Manatee, Anna Maria Island Community Center, Turning Points, We Care Manatee, Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County, Bradenton Christian School, Care Net, Children's Guardian Fund, Easter Seals of Southwest Florida, Elks Feeding Empty Little Tummies, Family Partnership Center, Humane Society of Manatee County, Just For Girls, Meals on Wheels Plus and many others are also competing for attention, Howard said.
The Challenge is made possible by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Patterson Foundation with support from the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Manatee Community Foundation., Bowie said.
"This year is the record for number of organizations," Bowie said. "A lot of people ask me if a small gift matters. I tell them it does. During last year's campaign people gave $3.12 million in 24 hours and 69 percent of those donations were $50 or less."
The Community Foundation of Sarasota County offers the Giving Challenge to organizations that have updated profiles in The Giving Partner, a tool available to the community at www.thegivingpartner.org, helping donors and funders make more informed decisions about giving.
"We do not assess nonprofits on The Giving Partner as 'good' or 'bad.' Rather, each has shared in-depth information about its operations, leadership, programmatic impact, and financial picture," Bowie said.
Something else exciting this year is The Patterson Foundation's unusual offer.
"The Patterson Foundation is encouraging donors to give to organizations they have not supported in the past," Bowie said.
A $25,000 grant given to MCF by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation allows Corporate Ambassadors for the Manatee Community Foundation to direct challenge grants to charities of their choice. Challenge grants are either $2,500 or $1,000. To qualify for the grant each nonprofit must raise funds to match it.
Mott & Associates is splitting its challenge grant between Women's Resource Center and Youth for Christ. The firm is actively rallying its clients and friends to help these two nonprofits meet the matching challenge. Mosaic has directed $2,500 to the Audubon Society of Manatee County, Verizon is supporting The Pops Orchestra, Dex Imaging is supporting Goodwill Manasota.
MCF has a total of fourteen local businesses supporting sixteen different charities.
Any new donations will be matched up to $250 by The Patterson Foundation this year, said Debra Jacobs, president and chief executive officer of the Patterson Foundation.
"If you didn't give to that organization during last year's Giving Challenge, then you would be considered a new donor," Howard said.
There is also buzz about the United Way of Manatee County, which has decided to give all the funds it gets during the challenge to the grade-level reading campaign in Manatee.
"One of the things that we are encouraging people to do is to give to a favorite cause but also to give one more, and that one more would be to support the campaign for grade-level reading," Howard said.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.