Nearly 8,000 neighbors donated to a variety of North Texas charities last year during North Texas Giving Day. The event, held this year on Sept. 22, is a huge fundraising opportunity for the area’s nonprofits. As you might expect, much of the attention is given to the local behemoths: places like the Dallas Arboretum, Promising Youth Alliance and the Dallas Leadership Foundation. These three groups combined brought in more than $455,000 last year.
But several East Dallas groups — ones without PR firms sending out press releases — manage to wrangle a large number of donors, sometimes grossing more individual donations than the big nonprofits.
A DUCK TEAM FOR DOGS
Odds are you’ve probably never heard of Duck Team 6 Street Dog Rescue, but you know why its cause is important. Loose dogs have become a huge issue in Dallas, and it showed when it came time to donate last year. Duck Team 6 received 434 donations — the most of any East Dallas nonprofit (St. John’s Episcopal School came in second with 337). The last two years Duck Team 6 has been on top of the list of individual donors during North Texas Giving Day (NTGD).
“We have a really engaged supporter base. They are definitely following us, so they know when this is coming up,” Ybarra says. “The majority of our donors are our current followers and supporters and they spread the word to their friends and family.”
The key to nailing a social media-driven fundraiser is timing, Ybarra says. You don’t want to begin too early. “Then people tend to tune us out.” But a few weeks ahead of time you need to start reminding people. And then when the big day actually arrives, you hit them hard.
“It’s kind of like all hands on deck on the day. We take shifts to make sure someone’s always on social media.”
It also helps when you can form a friendly rivalry. The first year Duck Team 6 participated in the NTGD, it was neck and neck with a bat sanctuary the entire day. Both groups started having fun with each other online and it earned them more attention.
“We were just feeding off each other. We both raised so much more money because of it,” she says.
That money helps the group with its core mission — rescuing dogs from the street and finding permanent homes for them — but it also helps with outreach and a spay and neuter program. Ybarra says education has become a huge part of what Duck Team 6 does.
“We’re trying to give the people all of the knowledge that we can to help this problem,” she says. “We don’t have as many capture attempts as we once did because, at the time, we were trying to handle everything ourselves. Now we’re trying to spread things out by doing more outreach. And our outreach requests have gone through the roof.”
A DO-GOODER COFFEE SHOP
Duck Team 6 wasn’t the only group to have a big day last year. Union Coffee, located off Dyer and Greenville, received 155 donations, sixth most in East Dallas.
The Rev. Mike Baughman, community curator for the neighborhood coffee shop, says much of the support his group receives is from coffee shop regulars, people Baughman calls “do-gooders.”
Baughman gave the customers the nickname because 10 percent of sales from Union go to other nonprofits and charities around the city. Every year the coffee shop selects three causes to donate money to, and filters through them every four months.
“That’s long enough so that we can really get some of our customers to really fall in love with that cause and work with it once we’ve moved on to another one.”
The coffee shop has donated money to the Junior Players, Project Transformation, Capes 4 Kids, Cafe Momentum, North Texas Tornado Relief and United Methodist Disaster Relief, to name a few.
“When we adopt a cause, we do more than just raise money for them. We intentionally raise awareness and engagement for them. Every time a person makes a purchase at Union, they are told about the cause they’re supporting,” Baughman says.
So, why donate to a coffee shop that filters money to other nonprofits? Well, that’s not all Union does.
It schedules events around each cause. When Union donated money to tornado relief, it organized volunteers to clean up and do roofing work on damaged homes. When it supported Junior Players — a group that brings children from all over Dallas together to work in the arts — Union hosted a get together so the young performing artists could talk to local artists who are making a living in the art world.
One of the other things Union does is kind of intangible, Baughman says, but it involves creating connections. A few years ago Union launched Capes 4 Kids.
“Once a month Union turns into a cape-making factory. [Volunteers] create as many kid sized capes as possible and then they are delivered to children with chronic illnesses by volunteers dressed as superheroes.” That idea started with a customer who didn’t know how to get it off the ground, he says. “We were able to connect them to resources and people … to make it a reality.”
Baughman says one of Union’s core values is apostleship — the coffee shop is connected to the United Methodist church — which is “kind of a ‘churchy’ way of saying entrepreneurship.”
Because of that, Union reaches out to the community in a variety of different ways. It started the Spoken Language Arts Movement, or S.L.A.M., the second Saturday of every month. The night features high school and middle school students performing spoken word poetry. Union also recently launched Flow, an organization that works for gender equity in the city.
It has opened the coffee shop space up to LGBTQ-friendly church services, an open storytelling night called The Naked Stage and monthly talks about race called The Conversation.
NTGD helps Union do all of that, Baughman says, because the donations help the shop cover operational costs. Most coffee shops aren’t normally as large as Union is. But most coffee shops don’t also turn into cape assembly lines every month.
A CREATIVE SPACE FOR WRITERS
Unlike the previous nonprofits, The Writer’s Garret isn’t one of the new kids on the block. The literary learning center located in East Dallas recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. The group helps foster the love of writing and reading, especially in school districts where students don’t always get one-on-one attention, according to Audrey Turner, assistant program specialist.
The Writer’s Garret has always had a variety of programs to offer. The Word of Mouth Reading Series was established in 1995 and has brought a number of authors to the metroplex. The Writers Community and Mentor Program (C.A.M.P) offers college and graduate school-level training to those whose financial or time restraints prevent their pursuit of a traditional university degree.Turner says that the garret recently set up a scholarship program for people affected by cancer and have started special programs for veterans and their families.
Those programs have been successful for the nonprofit and they largely depends on donations.
“It’s huge,” Turner says of NTGD. “It’s one of our biggest days, definitely.” Last year the group received 119 donations, which was the ninth most on the day.
Like Duck Team 6, Turner does a social media push and email blasts leading up to the event, and makes sure she and volunteers go all out on the day of the event. But they also have an old-school form of outreach. Much of the work done by The Writer’s Garret is done at schools and libraries, and that creates good word of mouth for the group. “We are fairly small in size, but we do reach a big audience.”
The dual outreach worked last year — that was Turner’s first year with the nonprofit.
The group hopes to go bigger this year. Turner has received more volunteers to help ask for donations and spread the word when the big days comes. “We started to get ready for this in June,” she says.
Her team has even discussed attending the event in person, which can lead to more funds.
If they do, Turner says her group will have some tough competition to deal with.
“Who can compete with puppies?”
Charities all over East Dallas and beyond will be raising funds during this year’s North Texas Giving Day, set for Sept. 22. Head over to NorthPark Center to see the fundraising madness in live action, or donate online at northtexsgivingday.org.
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