Behind the scenes, Amplify Austin gets stronger

amplify Austin headquarters

Across the country, 24-hour giving days have not always gone smoothly. Giving days are online fundraising blitzes that can be backed by a months-long campaign to rally a community around charities. But in the past 10 years, the technology platforms of major regional giving days have crashed twice. Donors have complained about the fees charged by giving-day hosts. And the giving day in the major market of Silicon Valley fizzled out in three years over donor fatigue.

But in the seven years that I Live Here, I Give Here has been operating Amplify Austin Day, the campaign seems to only be more sure of itself. Since it launched in 2013 with a goal of $1 million, the campaign has increased its goal each year, and met it. This year, Amplify Austin Day, which starts March 5 at 6 p.m. and ends March 6 at 6 p.m., hopes to raise $12 million for more than 750 nonprofits in seven Central Texas counties. That’s $8,333 a minute. 

“If you put an aspirational goal out there you have a greater chance of meeting it,” said Courtney Manuel, executive director of I Live Here, I Give Here. But with matching gifts, a series of prizes and contests, and a number of corporations as sponsors, Amplify Austin doesn’t exactly take chances on meeting its goal. Manuel says that meeting the goal relies heavily on the fundraising efforts of the 750 participating nonprofits. 

I Live Here, I Give Here trains nonprofits on the platform but also in online fundraising in general, giving them strategies for how to set their own goals and attract donors. Laura Furr of Austin Pets Alive said, “I think I Live Here, I Give Here does a really good job of training nonprofits to get them prepared.” Earlier this year, it held an all-day training attended by 150 nonprofits, some seasoned Amplify fundraisers and some rookies. In addition, it hosts meet-ups of nonprofits grouped by issue area so they can share and learn from each other. I Live Here, I Give Here also created an advisory council of nonprofits that meet quarterly to provide feedback on the platform with a goal of constant improvement. About 90 percent of nonprofits that participated in previous years come back to the platform the next year.

The allure of fundraising on the platform is that it provides the type of funding most nonprofits lack the most – unrestricted. Most funding for nonprofits comes from grants, which can have specific requirements for how the money should be used. But the money raised on the Amplify platform can be used however the nonprofit needs it, which can help the nonprofit grow its services and experiment with new programs. 

Over the years, the success of Amplify Austin has made it a reliable source of major funding for a number of nonprofits. Austin Pets Alive, for example, considers it one of its three major fundraisers of the year. Last year, it had more than 1,400 donors pitch in almost $131,000 on Amplify. “We’ve been doing Amplify since the beginning, and we’ve learned from our triumphs and our mistakes,” said Furr of Austin Pets Alive. “We really try to be smart about it and rally our community that day.”

NOTE: This article also appeared in the Austin American-Statesman on March 1, 2020.

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