Colorado nonprofits benefit from philanthropic culture

Thousands of nonprofits raise funds and awareness at Colorado Gives Day


Every year, Colorado Gives Day inspires residents to reach new philanthropic heights in the name of good causes and state pride.

“It’s always a really big day for us,” said Lindsay Moery, development and donor relations manager at High Line Canal Conservancy, a nonprofit based in Washington Park that provides maintenance and renovations along the High Line Canal.

“We spend the day celebrating the wonderful generosity of Colorado,” she said.

There are nearly 20,000 501(c)(3) nonprofits in Colorado, according to 2013 data from the National Center for Charitable Statistics. This means the state has 38.4 registered nonprofits for every 10,000 people. Nationally, that number is 33.9.

More than 2,400 of these nonprofits chose to participate in this year’s Colorado Gives Day, which takes place Dec. 4. Organized by Community First Foundation, the event brings Coloradans together to make online donations to the nonprofits listed on the event website,

The program also has a site called Kids for Colorado Gives designed to engage young people in the philanthropic community.

In 2017, Colorado Gives Day raised $38 million for nonprofits — tens of millions more than the $8 million in donations raised at its debut in 2010.

Dana Rinderknecht, director of online giving at Community First Foundation, said Gives Day events in other states have seen similar spikes in popularity. For Colorado specifically, this popularity is the result of many factors, she said.

“The nonprofits really embraced it,” she said, “and then donors love it, because they can go on and give to 10 or 20 different nonprofits all in the same transaction.”

To participate, nonprofits start with the application process, which begins on March 1 every year. A nonprofit must meet a set of eligibility requirements to be accepted: It must be registered as a 501(c)(3), serve the state of Colorado and bring in $50,000 in annual revenues or $25,000 in net assets.

“These are nonprofits that have done the work and have gotten on with the government,” Rinderknecht said. “You know they really want to do the best and be transparent.”

Getting the word out

For many nonprofits local to Denver, the annual giving event is about much more than raising funds. It’s also one of the primary ways these organizations spread the word about their efforts in the community.

According to Rinderknecht, donors can easily find new nonprofits to give to by narrowing their online search to nonprofits that work in a specific field or serve a specific zip code.

“It’s a way to reach new people who maybe aren’t familiar with our work or haven’t given in the past,” Moery of the High Line Canal Conservancy said. “We’re only a few years old, and we’re really looking to get the word out.”

The funds raised by Moery’s organization at this year’s Gives Day will go toward the High Line Canal Tree Canopy Care Project. Launched in 2016, the project aims to preserve the beauty of the trail’s tree canopy by trimming and pruning the trees.

“We’re the only organization whose mission is to preserve and protect the entire High Line Canal,” Moery said. “We’re really on our own in this area.”

Likewise, many nonprofits acoss the city are singlehandedly supporting the causes and populations they serve. One such nonprofit is El Centro Humanitario in Five Points. The organization aids day laborers and domestic workers by providing them with education about their rights, helping them recover wages withheld by employers and connecting them with potential jobs.

The nonprofit is the only of its kind in the area, which makes Colorado Gives Day all the more impactful, Executive Director Sarah Shikes said.

“For this particular population, knowing that people are supportive of them is really inspiring and builds self-esteem,” she said.

The nonprofit reaches about 400 people per year, Shikes said, but she is hoping to expand the initiative to other neighborhoods in Denver. She believes that awareness raised by Colorado Gives Day will be a vital stepping stone in this process, as the event has previously recruited new donors for the organization.

“I would say about a quarter of those who give on Colorado Gives Day are brand new,” she said.

The event also allows El Centro Humanitario to raise awareness among potential employers of the center’s temporary laborers.

“Anyone can call us and hire a worker for things like yard cleanup, landscaping and cleaning,” she said.

Additionally, Shikes estimated that about 5 percent of the center’s budget is comprised of donations received on Colorado Gives Day.

“You’ll see a lot of nonprofits incorporate the donations into their annual campaign,” Rinderknecht said. “I always tell people, `That’s when I knew we made it — when nonprofits started including us in their planning process.’ ”

While Gives Day only occurs once a year, residents can use the ColoradoGives website to make donations all year long.

“Any kind of nonprofit you want to (support),” Rinderknecht said, “you’ll find one on Colorado Gives that you’ll be excited to give to.”


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