The first gift came in just after midnight Tuesday: $10 to the Omaha Street School.
Within five minutes, donations reached $5,000. By the end of the first hour, the tally was almost $20,000.
And it just kept getting bigger.
By the time Omaha Gives! ended at midnight Wednesday, the 24-hour online fundraiser, organized by the Omaha Community Foundation, gathered $3,075,643.57 for about 320 nonprofit groups. See the totals for each group.
“This is far beyond our expectations,” said Kali Baker, communications director for the foundation, which is providing $500,000 in matching funds.
It was certainly a day unlike any other for Omaha philanthropy, as organizations of all shapes and sizes rallied their supporters to contribute gifts of $10 or more. More than 50 organizations raised at least $10,000. A dozen groups netted $40,000. The day's biggest winner, the Kaneko arts and cultural center, brought in more than $250,000.
“This magnitude of giving exceeded our expectations but is not surprising given the nature of the people who live in Omaha,” said Kaneko board Chairman Jim Linder.
Not bad for a day's work — though in truth, many organizations had been planning for weeks in order to take full advantage of a fundraising opportunity outside their usual efforts.
“Every organization has a budget, and we spend the whole year raising funds to meet those budgets,” said Brigitte McQueen, executive director of the Union for Contemporary Art. “This is really helping us make those ends meet.”
Like many others, McQueen didn't know what to expect heading into the day. She thought her organization, a relatively new nonprofit in north Omaha, might raise $1,000 overall.
She woke up to a pleasant surprise. Not only had the group raised $500 in the first 15 minutes alone, it also received the first $1,000 prize awarded hourly to a random organization.
“It was huge,” McQueen said. “That really helped us build momentum.”
By 4 p.m. Wednesday, online contributions to Omaha Gives! reached $1 million. At that point, the Omaha Community Foundation added funds contributed through its donor accounts, bringing the total to more than $2 million with several hours to go.
One of the early success stories was the Abide Network, a community development organization that raised more than $75,000.
The group, run by Ron Dotzler and his son, former Creighton University basketball player Josh Dotzler, received the day's biggest social media boost when fellow Bluejay and NBA veteran Kyle Korver endorsed the group on Facebook and Twitter.
In addition to the funds raised online and the $500,000 in matching funds, the Omaha Community Foundation will distribute an additional $65,000 in prize money to the organizations that attracted the greatest number of donors.
In all likelihood, that will bring several thousand dollars more to the Nebraska Humane Society, which drew more than 500 individual gifts and more than $45,000 overall.
“We didn't know what to expect,” said Elizabeth Hilpipre, communications specialist for the Humane Society. “We had a number in mind, but it wasn't anywhere near what we've currently raised.”
While the group certainly relied on existing supporters, Hilpipre said, Omaha Gives! provided an opportunity to build new relationships.
“To have a first-time event like this, it helps us get our mission out to people we might not have reached otherwise,” she said. “It also helps us reach a younger audience of donors.”
At Love's Jazz & Arts Center, where a 12-hour marathon of live music was underway to celebrate the day, Executive Director Tim Clark and board member Ernest White agreed that the opportunity to engage new supporters, regardless of how much money they gave, was the real benefit.
“That's more important than one person who donates $1,000 and we never hear from again,” White said.
Clark was one of several nonprofit leaders who expressed gratitude to the Omaha Community Foundation for providing a new fundraising platform.
“It means a whole lot to have that infrastructure piece taken care of so we can do what we do best,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Amanda Brewer, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Omaha, presided over the demolition of a condemned house — a longtime eyesore in a north Omaha neighborhood. She, too, didn't know what to expect from the day, but she hoped her organization might collect enough funds, about $6,000, to put down a new foundation.
It raised more than four times that much.
“It's rallying the whole community,” she said of the Omaha Gives! event. “Everyone can be a change agent.”
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