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Santa Cruz Gives Raises Over $1 Million for Nonprofits

The most successful Santa Cruz Gives campaign yet can be attributed to an increased presence throughout the community and on social media

Robin Lynn is joined by Reggie recently in Watsonville. The pair is a product of UnChained, a nonprofit that gives youth and animals a second chance at success. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

The seventh annual Santa Cruz Gives holiday crowdfunding campaign raised more than $1 million for local nonprofit organizations in 2021.

The milestone was reached after the campaign doubled in size, featuring 80 nonprofits on its online platform. Individual donors, matching funds, challenge gifts and more contributed to its success.

“We are overjoyed,” said Gives organizer Jeanne Howard. “This community’s generosity has been incredible.”

The decision to take on twice as many organizations largely came after The Human Race, an annual walk/run event that had been held for more than 40 years, was officially retired in 2021. Gives saw a gap forming in nonprofit support.

“It’s been a lot more work, having twice as many groups,” Howard admitted. “And it’s been challenging for the donors. It forces them to narrow down their focus, make tough decisions on who to support. Each page provides compelling work, so it can be hard to choose. But it has also expanded our network. More nonprofits, and their supporters are now involved.”

Because of its rapid growth, Gives increased its publicity, going to radio stations, newspapers, distributing posters and more to garner interest. Howard said that the organizations also “stepped up” in their outreach.

“We are a platform, and they have to work the platform,” she said. “It’s like we are a wave and they are the surfer; they’ve got to work it.”

As for donors, Howard said they saw more people than usual donating to different organizations. Usually, donors tend to give to similar groups, but this year was different.

“We still see people giving to like-minded organizations, however, this year people also chose random, unrelated groups,” she said. “Maybe they saw something that moved them, or had personal connections. It was interesting.”

The Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter was the leader in donations, raising $101,226. Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries followed with $60,350, and Dientes Community Dental came in third with $49,520.

Howard said there were some “wonderful” surprises, including the small nonprofit Live Like Coco, which aims to provide local children with various educational opportunities, raising $20,300.

Howard said that supporting nonprofits is “vital” for a community.

“People know about government, they know businesses,” Howard said. “But there’s a nonprofit sector people don’t know anything about. We hope to reach more people to understand how the sector helps our community. New donors are the lifeblood of nonprofits, like new customers are to businesses.”

Looking ahead, Gives organizers hope to secure more matching funds, which greatly help nonprofits during the campaign. They also want to hear from donors about how they are using the website and any suggestions they have.

“We want Santa Cruz Gives to become so well-known that it takes the burden off the nonprofits entirely,” Howard said. “We want to make it a household name in this community.”

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