Lori Larson, Senior Director of DonorEdge, GuideStar USA, will visit our community for the 36-Hour Giving Challenge

Whether you believe the meaning of life is love, family, the newest phrase on coffee mugs at Elysian Fields, or just mastering the art of making it from one day to the next, the overall point of your existence may cross your mind every once in a while.

“Meaning of life” questions put things into perspective, don’t they?

Deep in the midst of Giving Challenge details, there are plenty of things that could be keeping you up at night: your final e-mail reminder to supporters, the backup plan for alarm malfunctions on the morning of March 5, and your Giving Partner profile page online at www.thegivingpartner.org vs. the donation site online at www.givingpartnerchallenge.org.

We don’t want the overall meaning of this opportunity to get lost.

Let’s go back to the beginning of this story.

GuideStar is a national nonprofit organization revolutionizing philanthropy by providing information that advances transparency in the charitable sector.  (This is the site where you can pull up the IRS Form 990s and other information about millions of nonprofits across the country.)

The Giving Partner is a GuideStar tool fitted just right for our community. It currently includes profiles for nearly 300 local organizations, enabling donors, foundations, businesses, interested citizens and others to learn more about the causes they care about in Southwest Florida and to make more informed choices about their philanthropy.

It is nonprofits that have taken the time to develop these in-depth profiles detailing their management, governance, impact, finances and needs in The Giving Partner that are eligible to participate in the 36-Hour Giving Challenge.

Six funders in our region—Community Foundation of Sarasota County in partnership with The Patterson Foundation, along with sponsors Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Manatee Community Foundation, Charlotte Community Foundation and the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation—have come together to support this online fundraising campaign for three main reasons:

  1. To engage our entire community in giving.
  2. To inspire philanthropy on all levels.
  3. To elevate The Giving Partner as tool to empower informed charitable giving.

Many people think of GuideStar as a website. But it is an organization powered by great minds. We want you to meet one of them next week.

Lori Larson, GuideStar’s senior director of DonorEdge, will be in Sarasota for the 36-Hour Giving Challenge. You can find her with us in the “Donor Lounge” at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, 2635 Fruitville Road, on March 5 and 6.

We invite you to come by, meet her and learn more about GuideStar’s role in revolutionizing philanthropy. Lori would love to say hello, chat with you and see your organization’s profile.

The Giving Challenge is an opportunity to increase your visibility in the community, raise funds, engage your donors in a fun and exciting way to give, and showcase your transparency. The transparency piece may not sound like the sexiest thing in the world, but it’s so important to donors. Way to go for making it possible.


-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County



givingchallengeOne week from today, at the time this blog post is published, the 36-Hour Giving Challenge will begin. We hope you’re ready!

Once the Giving Challenge starts next Tuesday, March 5 at 7:00 a.m., your nonprofit will want to engage in these three action items:

  1. Thank your donors.
    Use the link we will be sending you later this week to acknowledge the generous donors who have entrusted you with their contributions. Share your appreciation. Update them on your progress to keep them abreast of the good news. Let them know how their donations will help your nonprofit carry out its important work.
  2. Watch the Leaderboard and adjust your strategy accordingly.
    Monitor the number of gifts and total number of dollars you receive. Use this information to share your gratitude and motivate your supporters in real-time via social media and e-mail. Deploy your social media ambassadors–staff and volunteers who can pass along your messages on their personal Facebook and Twitter accounts–to increase your reach. Everyone likes to share in the moment, be part of the excitement. You can get them there!
  3. Watch The Giving Partner on Facebook to check for special announcements and reminders about grant incentives.
    This is our way of communicating with you during the Challenge. You will miss some things if you do not tune in.

Finally, enjoy it! Whether it is your goal to raise $100,000 or to receive gifts from a few new supporters, know that you are part of a truly exciting moment for our community.


We live in a community of writers, photographers, dancers, singers and big thinkers.  They are our nonprofits’ patrons, staff members, board members, volunteers and business partners.

Tapping into these cultural and creative assets is something we know how to do, and dozens of nonprofits are bringing it all together for increased visibility and success in the 36-Hour Giving Challenge.

We thank them for their guts, resourcefulness and willingness to go “out there” for their cause. We are loving it!

Be sure to follow these organizations online–you will find links to their Facebook pages and websites on their profiles in The Giving Partner.

Let’s hear it for those going for the $5,000 grant for the “Best Overall Campaign.”

Carrie Rasmussen, Herald-Tribune Media Group’s marketing manager, and Bryan Kelly, Clear Channel’s director of sales, are judging the “Best Overall Campaign” for us. We should mention that both of them are tremendous media partners for the 36-Hour Giving Challenge as well.

The Herald-Tribune is the premier media sponsor of the 36-Hour Giving Challenge, providing very generous promotional space (full run) to share this opportunity with our community. With ads leading up to the Challenge and during the Challenge, both print and online, it will be hard to stay in the dark about this event. Clear Channel’s generosity will span five radio stations and provide incredible coverage in our local market and beyond. We are so grateful for such community-minded media partners that share a commitment to charitable organizations.



Tick tock, tick tock. There’s a week left to finish our preparations for the 36-Hour Giving Challenge.

We are getting more excited every day  as we see more of your promotions on social media and hear more of your plans to engage your supporters and recruit new ones.

As time creeps up on us, I have received a few panicked e-mails from staff at participating nonprofits with last-minute questions and concerns, just wanting to get it right.The kind of stress an event like this inspires is the good kind, excitement, but we know it can also make you a little anxious with the great unknown of how things will shake out.

Earlier this month, Manatee Glens accepted an invitation from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to lead a one-hour presentation on Stress Management for us.  Cathy Wilson, LMHC reviewed the three key stages of stress: stress arousal, energy conservation, and exhaustion. What a coincidence! Exactly what I experienced in last year’s 36-Hour Giving Challenge.

It was supercharged, super fun, and super big for our community, but goodness–it was a ride that kept me on edge.

On Facebook last Thursday at around 10 p.m., we asked how many of you were still up working. About 19 people “liked” our post within the next couple of hours.  Your days probably started early in the morning, and there you were, still plugging away. Science hasn’t been able to generate 28 hours in a single day, and the prospects aren’t looking too good.

We know that time management is an important part of stress management, as is eating healthy and exercising, but what else can you do?

Here are some ideas from Cathy that are at your disposal for this week and next:

  • Show gratitude to your staff and team. They will respond positively.
  • Laugh. Your sense of humor is a great way to combat stress by helping you relax.
  • See the glass half-full and encourage others to do the same.
  • Make time for the things enjoy.
  • Host a staff potluck where you can gather and connect with your colleagues, minus an “official” agenda.

Finally, model the behavior of taking good care of yourself. (As I type it, I remind you that these are Cathy Wilson’s words–I’m not the best role model!)

Enjoy your week, friends.

WE appreciate you!  And many thanks to the staff of Manatee Glens for being there for us.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

Most organizations have set financial goals for the 36-Hour Giving Challenge. It is wise to do so to better match the resources you contribute to the effort with the ultimate results you hope to see.

Don’t forget about the incredible “awareness” opportunity you have before you.

While the world is watching, tell us what you do so well and how! Shine the light on yourself.  Inform your existing stakeholders about little known services and programs you offer to the community and educate the rest of us about why your organization is so vital.

The city-owned Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall hosts thousands of people for concerts and other performances throughout the year. How many of these visitors are familiar with the programs for school children, teachers and the community made possible through The Van Wezel Foundation, a 501(c)(3) with a profile in The Giving Partner?

The two are partnering for greater impact during the Challenge. Through joint marketing, they hope to increase awareness about the millions of dollars of support over the years that have made the following possible:

  • Integrative arts education programs for teacher workshops
  • School-time Performance Program
  • Bus services for school students to attend performances
  • Master classes and artist workshops
  • Community Outreach program
  • Total Access Program
  • Any Given Child Program

As Van Wezel Foundation’s director of development Michele Strauss shares, “We are two separate organizations working towards a common goal which is to enrich lives through the performing arts.”

“Our partnership as a united front serves to make us stronger. Working directly with the Hall on the 36 Hour Giving Challenge solidifies and deepens that relationship. It makes us aware that we can accomplish anything by working together.”

It will also help bring the public up to speed about the enriching programs our educators, children and community receive with generous donor support.

Every nonprofit participating in the 36-Hour Giving Challenge has an important story to share.  It’s told in your profile in The Giving Partner, a GuideStar tool that helps donors make more informed decisions about their philanthropy. Now share your story and soak up the spotlight!

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

achieving moreIntegrating our local business community into the mix of the 36-Hour Giving Challenge was one of our goals this year.

To get the juices flowing with possibilities, we placed a $5,000 grant on the table for the nonprofit with the “best” partnership with a business. We are seeing some really special relationships emerging.

Some of the ways businesses are helping their nonprofit partners achieve more than they could alone:  designing creative materials and videos pro bono, promoting organizations to their customers during the 36-hour period, donating a percentage of net income from sales during the Challenge, and hosting video contests related to the organization’s mission.

And although funding is a major goal for most nonprofits in the Challenge, building awareness and support for important causes comes in many forms and is just as meaningful in the long-term.

Nothing can top the way relationships are being built and solidified between nonprofits and the generous businesses involved.

Here are the nonprofits and their business partners:

When we think of how generous our community is, let’s give full credit to the business owners who are willing to step up for their favorite causes. Way to go!

A few members of the editorial team at Sarasota Magazine’s Biz941, lead by Susan Burns, are judging. We thank them in advance for their time and effort. Stay tuned post-Challenge; the competition is tight! Let’s see how the results shake out in the end.

dancingWe didn’t know what to expect when we put a $5,000 grant on the table for the best nonprofit partnership in the upcoming 36-Hour Giving Challenge.

Yesterday our in-box populated with some really interesting, fun and innovative pairings:

Each will submit the results they achieved after the campaign.

Together with a small team, Sandy Hughes, one of the brightest nonprofit governance consultants in the country, will make the determination about the winning partnership post-Challenge.

We want to extend our thanks and gratitude to Sandy and to all of the organizations that moved forward to take a risk, put themselves “out there,” and explore creative ways to share the stage with another nonprofit during the Challenge.

Wish we could give a $5,000 grant to each organization. In our book, you are superstars for doing this. We believe the benefits of working together can be just as powerful as the dollars.