Community Foundation of Greater New Haven aims higher for 2017 ‘The Great Give’

The Great Give 2017 will take place May 2-3

The Great Give 2017 will take place May 2-3

NEW HAVEN >> Although Will Ginsberg, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, is proud of the more than $5 million raised during the first seven years of the Foundation’s “Great Give” fundraising drive, he argues that recent world events have made the event more urgent.

“If anything, it’s now more than ever,” Ginsberg said. “This is a very divisive, polarized time.”

The Great Give is a 36-hour fundraising drive for community non-profits, held this year on May 2 at 8 a.m. to May 3 at 8 p.m. As an added incentive, the Community Foundation offers prorated matching funds and prizes. In 2017, the Foundation has more than $182,000 with which to award prizes, such as the non-profit that attracts the most individual donors or the organization that has the most individual donors between 2 and 4 a.m.

Ginsberg didn’t mention President Donald Trump by name. Staffers at some of the almost 500 non-profits involved in the drive didn’t hesitate.

“I think if you look at what Trump has been cutting at the national level, simply his proposed cuts to the (Environmental Protection Agency) can have disastrous consequences for the environment,” said Justin Elicker, executive director of the New Haven Land Trust. “Its important for people at the local level, where they know the work that’s going on in their town and see that good work, to support organizations like the Land Trust given the national climate and hostility.”

Barbara Schaffer, development director for the Elm Shakespeare Company, said Trump’s proposed elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities pose a great risk to art.

“More than ever, arts and arts education, as well as all non-profits, need private donor support,” she said. “We need the American public to step up and be supportive if we are challenged with this sort of philosophy, that military spending comes first and the arts don’t matter and that education should be privatized.”

According to Schaffer, funds raised during the Great Give comprise a important line item on Elm Shakespeare Company’s budget; the company, which maintains only two full-time employees throughout the year, ties much of its annual appeal to the fundraising drive.

“We have for the last couple of weeks built the Great Give into anything we do,” she said, making mention of the event at performances and educational programs and linking to the fundraising page on its site.

It is partially through funds raised through the Great Give, Schaffer said, that the company will be able to perform Romeo & Juliet in Edgerton Park from Aug. 17 to Sept. 3 this year.

In the realm of health care, staff at the Milford-based Get In Touch Foundation spent Monday afternoon preparing a strategy for the 36 hours of the drive.

Betsy Nilan, president of the Get In Touch Foundation, said the drive in 2016 helped the organization distribute 800 of its “daisy wheels,” which instruct young people on how to conduct a self breast exam. Nilan said the daisy wheels underscore the work the Get In Touch Foundation does in offering free educational opportunities to students on how to empower young people to become their own health advocates.

“There is no cure for cancer yet, so our greatest asset is education,” Nilan said. “We look to empower girls, not to scare them, but prepare them and inform them to be comfortable with their bodies at a young age, so if something happens they can stand up and not be afraid.”

The New Haven Register Fresh Air Fund, which sends underprivileged area children to camp, is among the non-profits participating in the Great Give.

Aside from coordinating the drive itself, Ginsberg said the foundation is proactive in offering social media training to organizations on how to promote themselves.

“We increasingly devote more time and more effort every year to working with the non-profits, training the non-profits and providing social media training to the non-profits so they increase their efforts and use their sophistication with the tools out there,” he said.

Tricia Caldwell, director of communications for the Foundation, said non-profits received a marketing tool kit as well as an invitation to several seminars.

“They don’t always remember to thank (donors) at the end,” she said. “We make sure they not only thank them at the time, but also throughout the year because now in theory they’ve been able to get new donors in the mix and maybe they’ll become lifetime donors.”

Ginsberg said he believes if the local community is going to thrive, it needs to succeed as an entire community.

“We provide the administrative infrastructure; is our site, and it’s not just a giving site because it also gives profiles of close to 500 non-profits in this community,” he said. “Every year we ask donors if it’s their first time they’ve given to an organization, and somewhere between 30 and 40 percent were first-time donors to that particular organization.”