Grassroots generosity

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Sacramento staff pose for the 2020 Big Day of Giving, when 275 donors pledged $56,343 (beating the group's $40,000 goal), plus more than 150 volunteer hours. (Photo courtesy of Sacramento Community Region Foundation)

Editor’s note: Sacramento’s Big Day of Giving sets a record during the pandemic, and residents donate time as well as money

The Sacramento region’s annual Big Day of Giving set a record this year, in the middle of a pandemic no less.

But what may be just as impressive—and encouraging—is how many people pledged to donate their time as well as their money.

It would be understandable if grassroots generosity had been lacking in this year’s Big Day. Lots of arts groups, nonprofits and others had already been asking for help ever since the COVID-19 outbreak forced them to shut down or limit operations in March. Money is tight for many families given all the layoffs and business closings. And the Sacramento Region Community Foundation and its partners could not hold the usual promotional events due to the stay-at-home orders.

Yet the online fund-raiser on May 7 brought in nearly $12 million, far surpassing the $8.4 million in 2019 and bringing the grand total since starting in 2013 to nearly $52 million.

Nearly 33,000 donors gave 65,000 gifts, both numbers up 40% from last year. Some 615 nonprofits will benefit. This year’s top recipients: Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, the Salvation Army, Yolo Food Bank, Placer Land Trust and Sacramento SPCA.

The cash is a lifeline to many other nonprofits, especially those struggling during the pandemic. For example, the community foundation cites the Pamela Trokanski Dance Theatre in Davis, which offers classes for seniors, people with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers. The theatre recently lost a major funder and had lowered its Big Day goal from $10,000 to $3,000 due to the coronavirus crisis. It received $10,850 in pledges.

“Amid a global pandemic that has caused so much uncertainty and hardship, tens of thousands of generous people in our community rallied behind the organizations that make our region healthier, stronger, and more vibrant.”

Linda Beech Cutler, CEO, Sacramento Region Community Foundation

This year, nonprofits will also benefit in another way. For the first time, Big Day of Giving asked contributors to also donate their time. The response is remarkable: 1,501 people pledged 68,643 volunteer hours to 417 organizations.

The most popular categories, according to numbers the community foundation provided this week: Nearly 18,500 hours to 42 animal-related charities, more than 11,200 hours to 111 arts and culture groups, 10,000 hours to 99 human services nonprofits and 7,300 hours to 64 youth development groups.

Independent Sector, a coalition of nonprofits and foundations, estimates that an hour of volunteer time is worth about $30 in California, so that’s a total value of more than $2 million. The foundation says that 20% of nonprofits listed volunteer help as one of their top two needs, and that need has only increased during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Amid a global pandemic that has caused so much uncertainty and hardship, tens of thousands of generous people in our community rallied behind the organizations that make our region healthier, stronger, and more vibrant,” Linda Beech Cutler, the community foundation’s CEO, said in a statement. “They sent a clear message that the work of nonprofits matters.”

And that work is even more important now. By being so generous with both time and money, the Sacramento region will get through the pandemic in far better shape.


As part of the Big Day of Giving, the Sacramento Region Community Foundation holds orientations for nonprofit staffers.
(Photo courtesy of Sacramento Community Region Foundation)

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