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How 5 philanthropic organizations transformed communities

Let these five community-based philanthropic organizations spark creative ideas for making lasting contributions to your surrounding community.

Kylie Davis
November 16, 2021
Nerd Mr Butter

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A small group of people has the potential to make lasting change within their communities. It's a superpower we see time and time again within Givebutter campaigns, and it's what we continue to love about the nonprofit sector and philanthropic organizations.

When it comes to highlighting the work of philanthropists around the globe, you tend to see the same names circulated repeatedly. Here are the stories you've (probably) heard before: 

In 2020, The Ford Foundation in New York poured $1 billion into supporting the social justice sector, while the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation approved $4.7 billion in grantmaking to support patient care, the environment, and the advancement of science. Recently the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation made headlines for awarding $17 million to support 30 San Francisco–area nonprofits, while the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $120 million to accelerate access to the COVID-19 vaccine in developing countries. Since inception, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has distributed $6.8 billion to grantees in 40 countries around the world, while the Rockefeller Foundation has given away more than $17 billion to support thousands of organizations. 

This isn't to negate the power or impact of these family philanthropies. But rather than continue to share the same stories, we thought we would take this opportunity to highlight incredible stories from organizations you've never heard of. Below, we share campaigns from some of our favorite philanthropic organizations that are doing grassroots work in their communities—yet will never make your headlines.

5 incredible campaigns from philanthropic organizations you've never heard of 

Philanthropic organizations: Jennifer Robertson Schitt's Creek GIF
Small and mid-sized nonprofits and philanthropic organizations have the potential to advocate for human rights, support art and culture, and offer emotional and financial assistance to people in their community.

Here are some of the most creative, jaw-dropping, and impactful campaigns we witnessed in the past year—all from organizations you've never heard of. 

1. The Michigan Mudbowl by the Michigan Mudbowl Club 🏉

The Michigan Mudbowl is one of the quintessential spectacles of the University of Michigan's homecoming festivities. For nearly 90 years, fraternities and other student-led organizations have taken part in this messy tradition, competing against one another in a muddy football tournament. 

In the past decade, the Michigan Mudbowl Club was founded as a philanthropic organization, with all competing teams taking part in a pre-tourney fundraising competition. The 87th annual Michigan Mudbowl raised an impressive $74,375 for the Charles Woodson Clinical Research Fund at the Michigan Medicine C.S.S. Mott Children's Hospital. 

To hit their campaign target, the Michigan Mudbowl Club embedded a donation form directly into their website, making it easy for supporters to donate. The initiative was active across Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, even developing a custom Facebook photo filter for the event. But the bulk of the organization's success can be credited to their use of multi-team fundraising, with the first-, second-, and third-place teams raising $16k, $12k, and $10k for the nonprofit organization, respectively. 

2. Copitas del Sol by the National Museum of Mexican Art 🎨

The National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, Illinois, features art and culture from Mexico, Chile, and other countries in Latin America. In 2021, the organization put on Copitas del Sol: A Spirited Mixer, a 21+ and fully vaccinated in-person event that collectively raised over $16k for the museum. 

The mixer featured cocktails made with agave spirits including mezcal, tequila, and raicilla. Supporters listened to music while sampling bites from Chicago's most popular restaurants, entering a raffle, and sipping craft brews on the deck. 

To help promote the event, the National Museum of Mexican Art sold tickets on Givebutter, taking advantage of a "Can't attend? Donate!" button for those who couldn't attend. The event fundraising page included an "Add to Calendar" button to help supporters block off the timeslot. Finally, the museum took part in peer-to-peer fundraising, with each team funder using unique social links to invite friends and family to the donation page. 

3. Apple Pie for Angels by the Flexware Foundation 🍎

The Flexware Foundation is a community foundation based in Indiana. For three consecutive years, this private foundation organized to purchase holiday gifts for children in need through the Salvation Army Angel Tree program. Their strategy? Baking apple pies. 

Their plan was simple: The philanthropic organization baked homemade apple pies and sold them at Thanksgiving, using all proceeds to purchase Christmas gifts. The first year, Apple Pies for Angels sold 117 apple pies, and by 2021 the charitable organization raised $18,491 to purchase gifts—surpassing their goal by over $6k. 

The foundation flew past their fundraising goal by taking advantage of multi-team fundraising, with the winning team raising over $6k alone. They also maintained an active supporter feed, with community members leaving notes of encouragement and GIFs. Finally, the organization leveraged multiple ticket types to encourage various donation levels, using ticket names such as "$10: New Book to Entertain a Child" or "$50: New Winter Coat to Keep a Child Warm." 

4. Cheers Jen Cheers by Go Jen Go 🍔

For seven years, Jen—the founder of Go Jen Go Foundation—battled breast cancer. Moved by the physical, financial, and emotional support she received by friends and family during that time, she vowed to help other families fighting the same illness. Today, her philanthropic foundation provides over $130k in financial support to women fighting breast cancer in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area. 

Each year, the Go Jen Go family foundation puts on two annual fundraisers—a 5K run in the spring and a tailgate party in the fall. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, event organizers decided an in-person tailgate might not be the safest option. Like so many others in the nonprofit sector, they switched to a hybrid model with a "takeaway tailgate."

Cheers Jen Cheers used tickets on Givebutter to sell each tailgate meal, filled with smoked chicken, banana pudding, cornbread, and mac ’n' cheese for a family of four. The charitable foundation embedded a donation form on their website for those who couldn't attend and took advantage of both team fundraising and corporate philanthropy to hit their goal. The philanthropic organization found corporate sponsors to cover all expenditures, partnering with TrinityPoint Wealth and Smiley's 4 C's for the event. 

5. Addressing the Digital Divide by the Big Shoulders Fund 💻

The Big Shoulders Fund is a philanthropic organization that works with 20,000 students across 72 schools in the Chicago area, ensuring each student has equal access to a high-quality education. Through their social justice and advocacy work, they've been able to provide scholarships, camps, and curriculums for children—66% of whom come from low-income areas.

In their most recent fundraiser, the Big Shoulders Fund worked to tackle the digital divide. With so many children going without access to high-speed internet or needed hardware/software (particularly during COVID-19), the Big Shoulders Fund raised $87k to ensure each child had the tools necessary to do their schoolwork. 

Throughout the lifecycle of the campaign, the Big Shoulders Fund was able to attract a younger supporter base by accepting a number of payment methods, including PayPal, Apple Pay, and Venmo. In addition, the peer-to-peer fundraising campaign took advantage of individual team pages, making it feel more personal. Lastly, the campaign maintained an active supporter feed, with all donors working toward one common goal

Use Givebutter to make lasting change in your community 

Philanthropic organizations: Let's Do This Tina Fey GIF
Philanthropic organizations have the power to combat climate change, influence public policy, and offer assistance to families in need. Plus, you don't need to be a multi-billion-dollar foundation or charitable trust to spark lasting change. 

At Givebutter, we've had the privilege of watching small, grassroots organizations do incredible things within their community. By leveraging Givebutter's all-in-one platform (and 130+ features) combined with a little passion and creativity, they've been able to raise a collective $150 million across 37k campaigns. 

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Ready to see how Givebutter can help ignite your philanthropic campaign from start to finish? Launch your free account to get started. 

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