Warren gives

Annual event to support county’s non-profits set for Wednesday

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton Warren Gives, a day of online giving to non-profits in Warren County, is set for May 15. That date has been highlighted by this sign along the banks of the Allegheny River on the city’s south side. The sign is made from letters and parts of letters typically part of the City of Warren’s Christmas sign.

The match dollars are growing.

The number of organizations involved is increasing.

The amount of money donated has increased from $140,000 in the first year to $802,199 last year.

To some degree, the sky’s the limit for Warren Gives.

The 12th edition of the annual community giving event is set for Wednesday, May 15 with a total of 107 organizations participating.

“The goal of Warren Gives is twofold,” Mark King, executive director of the Community Foundation of Warren County, said. “One, to raise awareness of all the fantastic non-profits serving Warren County and, two, to encourage new giving. We really want people to connect beyond their traditional donor base.”

Those looking to give via check can do so through Monday. Giving on the day at warrengives.com will open at 6 a.m. and run through 10 p.m.

“We’ve had people every day now walking in the door” with checks, King said. Those looking to give by check are asked to make it out to the Community Foundation of Warren County and complete a check form, which allows people to give to more than one organization.

“100 percent of every dollar they donate goes to the organization,” King said. The Community Foundation sponsors and underwrites the cost of the event, credit card fees included.

The match pool takes donations to each organization and amplifies them as the match dollars are awarded proportionally to each organization.

“Everyone’s donations grow,” King said, adding that four organizations – the Second Street Food Pantry of Youngsville, the Blue Star Mothers of Kinzua, Eisenhower’s Ike Pride Boosters and the Northern Allegheny Conservation Association – will be participating for the first time.

“We’re happy to have those four new organizations join this year.” King said.

In addition to the new organizations, the marketing for the event has a new tool – a riverfront sign in downtown Warren using pieces and parts of the city’s Christmas sign.

King said the “city very kindly and generously” volunteered the use of the sign to promote the event.

It required turning a “C” into a “G” (there’s no “G” in the Christmas sign), taking the outside legs off of an “M” to create a “V”, among other creative solutions, including the color of the bulbs and the blue part of the sign.

“I thought it was really nice,” King said. “Everyone loves that holiday sign. It’s something people look forward to. I thought it was an opportunity to create a little buzz. It looks beautiful on the river at night.”

In its 12 years, Warren Gives has certainly raised funds for projects that wouldn’t have happened without it.”

“We’ve been conversing and communicating with organizations for about three months at this point,” King said, explaining that one of the “first directions we give them” is to define their mission and critical needs for the Warren Gives webpage.

He explained that one specific critical need is an effort to raise funds for EMT training.

The Community Foundation promotes the event but part of the burden falls on the individuals organizations to develop and grow their own donor bases.

King said the organizations are getting “better and better” and making those contacts and have seen “tremendous results.”

A 16-hour event makes for a long day for the staff and volunteers who will be monitoring the security of the system, processing gifts and posting updates.

But King said the time window is what it is because in the event’s early years they would hear from donors on the west coast who logged on to contribute and found that the event was already over. That 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. hour is the busiest of the event.

Conversely, King said that the 6 a.m. hour is also one of the busiest.

King has been involved in the event from the early years, well before he moved into his current role.

Has it grown larger than he thought it might?

He explained he ran some projections about five years ago, observing growth in the event.

“Typically it takes seven years for a recurring annual event to hit what it’s going to be,” King said. “I thought we’d max out around $750,000. We’ve surpassed (that) for a couple years now. We’ll see what happens this year.”

While the nuts-and-bolts of the event are the same each year – a day of online giving with a match pool – organizers have tweaked various incentives to try to continue to grow the event.

This year, King said, the organization with the highest percentage in year-over-year new donors will receive a $300 prize.

Other competitions have included the organization with the most out of state donors and out of state dollars.

“The organizations have had a lot of fun with grabbing money from outside the community and bringing it back to the community,” King said. “There are more people with ties to Warren County that don’t live here than do.”

Updates will be posted throughout the day on Wednesday on the Warren Gives website and social media.

“People can go hour by hour,” King said. “We think that’s important. Organizers set themselves a goal” and can work with the data throughout the day.


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