Colorado Gives Day inspires online giving |

Colorado Gives Day inspires online giving

Recently, we’ve devoted this column to individuals working to effect positive change in the Aspen-to-Parachute region. This week, we’re speaking with Tim Kelly, vice president at FirstBank in Glenwood Springs, and Julie Olson, executive director of Advocate Safehouse Project, a nonprofit organization in Glenwood Springs. Tim and Julie are both on the steering committee for Mountain West Gives, a regional champion of Colorado Gives Day, a statewide effort Dec. 6 to boost philanthropic giving.

Aspen Community Foundation: What was the original idea for Colorado Gives Day, and what has it accomplished for the state’s nonprofits?

Tim Kelly: Colorado Gives Day started seven years ago as a partnership between FirstBank and Community First Foundation. It’s really just a way to boost giving across our state. Colorado was one of the least charitable states in the nation. It ranked 37th in the nation in total contributions to nonprofits. So we started this as a way to inspire that philanthropic giving. Colorado Gives Day has reached in excess of $158.5 million donated over six years. In 2015, we were over $38.5 million for the one day.

Ultimately the idea is a more sustainable way of giving. Having this organized day allows nonprofits to increase their donor base beyond that one company or one individual to cast a wider net.

They also can leverage their donations through our $1 million incentive fund. We use the fund to increase the value of each donation made on Colorado Gives Day. Each organization receives a proportionate share of the money in the Incentive Fund, depending on how much they raise.

ACF: Can you give an example of a particular nonprofit and what Colorado Gives has meant for that organization?

Julie Olson: In 2014, Advocate Safehouse Project started with Colorado Gives Day by itself. There were 17 other nonprofits in Garfield County who participated, but each was working Colorado Gives Day in a silo. However, those 17 nonprofits raised $110,000 with a total of 323 donations that year. In 2015, I reached out to other nonprofits in Garfield County to organize a collaborative marketing effort. Nineteen of them said yes. On the 2015 Colorado Gives Day, we raised over $156,000 with 763 donations.

For Advocate Safehouse Project specifically, in 2014 we had 34 donors and about $7,000 in donations. The next year, we had 78 donors and we received about $14,500. So, as a result of that concerted, collaborative effort, we doubled our donations. And now that collaborative effort is even larger.

TK: In 2016, Aspen Community Foundation came forward as our regional champion, and they’re supporting the group’s efforts on a regional basis. We now call ourselves Mountain West Gives, and Julie and I are two members of the six-member steering committee.

ACF: How many organizations participate in the Roaring Fork/Colorado River region, and how do new donors get involved?

TK: With the help of Aspen Community Foundation, our group is now up to 46 members, and we’re optimistic that we’ll see more positive results in 2016.

JO: To get involved, go to, and you will see all of the 46 participating organizations in the Aspen-to-Parachute region. You can search and identify them by cause, or the community they’re from, or using a keyword or a zip code. If you’re into animals, if you’re into art, if you’re into the environment, it’s all there. You can go to the website on any day of the year, but if you schedule your gift for Dec. 6, then it becomes part of Colorado Gives Day and you can take advantage of the Incentive Fund.

Another thing that’s nice for donors is all the information you can garner from the website. I can’t imagine that there’s anything a donor might want to know about an organization that’s not on there. They do a lot of vetting on these nonprofits, and the information is updated all the time.

It’s really easy for donors, especially if they want to give locally, because all these organizations are there on one site. It’s also really easy for the nonprofits, because they don’t have to handle people’s credit cards and all that.

ACF: Is online giving getting more common, and what might it mean for nonprofits?

TK: Online giving is becoming more widespread, across all demographics but especially among millennials. It’s the way things are going. Colorado Gives Day just provides nonprofits with the ability to keep up with that growing trend. To ensure they’re viable long-term, they need to start harnessing this online giving.

JO: That’s true. And, as a nonprofit director, I don’t have the infrastructure to handle things like recurring, monthly donations. We’re just so small. But this program allows small nonprofits to do this safely and cost effectively.

Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of the Aspen Community Foundation.

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