Cover Photo by Scott C. Wood
Earlier this year, the NWA Gives team helped nearly 200 nonprofits and the NW Arkansas community come together for 12 hours of "epic giving" and raise a little over $715,000. However, the ultimate goal is to see the region become the most generous community on Earth. Why are they doing it? How are they doing it? Who is benefitting and in what ways are these funds being utilized? And lastly, what's next? These are the questions we had in mind as we approached the NWA Gives team and some of the local nonprofits that participated in this year's campaign, below we present some excerpts from our interviews with them.
The "WHY" by NWA Gives Co-Founder, Chris Haas
"The whole hope behind NWA Gives is that we would inspire generosity. Our vision statement is that Northwest Arkansas will become the most generous community on earth. And we really believe that that's possible. Already, the two counties of Northwest Arkansas [Benton county and Washington county] are the number one and three [respectively] most generous [counties] in Arkansas, and Arkansas ranks fifth nationally in terms of giving per capita. What that means is that Arkansas already ranks up there pretty high in terms of the way people give to the things they care about. We don't think it's a goal we can't reach or a vision we can't reach—that we truly can become the most generous region in Arkansas and also in the nation.
The "HOW" by NWA Gives Steering Member, Jesse Lane
Photo by Scott C. Wood
"The success of NWA Gives 2019 can be attributed to training, collaboration and community engagement. The NWA Gives team hosted monthly training events and published several resources to help nonprofits optimize the big day on April 4th. The training content equipped nonprofits to effectively invite board member participation, communicate with existing donors, and spread the word to the broader community. The event would not have been possible without collaboration across the community, including businesses, chambers, creatives and local influencers. NWA Gives partnered with dozens of local social media influencers to amplify the reach of their message and the impact of the day. But, ultimately, it was the generosity of this community that was so impressive."
The "WHO" and "WHAT" by Ability Tree, Prism Education Center, and Freedom 5:One
For this next section, we spent some time interviewing a few of the nonprofits that successfully raised money during NWA Gives. We wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the work they do for the community, how they went about leveraging the platform, and what the funds they raised are being used for.
Editor's note: Serve NWA raised $325,115, which was the highest amount raised during NWA Gives 2019. The money went toward the New Beginnings Bridge Housing Community for area homeless, a project we covered in a previous post which can be found HERE."
Ability Tree: $79,922 Raised During NWA Gives
Ability Tree on Facebook
NWA Gives really wants to make Northwest Arkansas the most generous place on the planet. I think it was very successful and impactful [...] We're still at the elementary age, so it was great to get that awareness out,"—Joe Butler, Founder and CEO of Ability Tree.
Ability Tree is a non-profit organization that provides support to families impacted by disabilities. Joe Butler, Founder and CEO of Ability Tree, explains that this organization is "like a boys and girls club for families with kids with special needs in the sense that we provide essential aftercare services, after school, and on weekends." Ability Tree is focused on recreational events and programs for kids with special needs so that everyone can participate and feel included in activities such as sports leagues. During these activities, kids get to interact with their peers who have special needs and connect with someone who understands what they are going through. Ability Tree also offers support to parents, caregivers, and siblings of children with special needs, so they can "get some rest, go shopping, take a nap, go to dinner and a movie."
There is also a "training and awareness component" to Ability Tree's programs: "[w]e do training and awareness—how to interact with participants" with special needs. This training is available all across the board: from businesses to non-profits, to churches, to high schools. Their purpose in these training sessions is to enforce "the value that people with disabilities are people first." Ability Tree has also partnered with Arkansas Support Network to talk to families with kids with special needs about the Medicaid waiver, empowering families with as many resources as possible so that they can become the best caregivers that they can be.
Ability Tree on Facebook
With the help of NWA Gives, Ability Tree was able to raise money to expand their infrastructure: "We've outgrown our current facility [...] [so] we started building a new facility. Our goal with NWA Gives was to raise $100,000 towards our new Rest and Recreation Center. It's going to be a one of a kind, state-of-the-art facility," says Butler. And they were extremely successful: Ability Tree was able to raise $79,922, all of which has gone towards building the new facility.
None of this would have be possible without people who deeply care about this cause and want to chip in with whatever they can to improve the lives of people with special needs in their community. Butler underlines that the support of generous donors is what has made Ability Tree's efforts a success: "One of our families has a teenage son with down-syndrome. The father came in and wrote out a check. It was for $1,000. It was a lot for that family; this is the family that pays $50 per month for our services (about $600 a year). It was very inspiring to see. They weren't the only family that did that; but to see a family step up and to give above and beyond…The generosity from families, people, churches, businesses, local state farm agents... It was really neat to see the community come together to be so involved and follow along throughout the [NWA Gives] day."
However, the work is not done yet! Ability Tree is still missing $40,000 to finish their new facility, so you have time to add your impact! If you'd like to contribute to their 'Building Campaign', you can make a donation HERE.
Prism Education Center: $13,726 Raised During NWA Gives
Prism on Facebook
"We are committed to helping kids have access to this program and we are going to do what it takes."—Misty Newcomb, Executive Director of Prism Education Center
Prism Education Center is a private school and educational non-profit serving pre-K to 12th grade students. They also offer after-school, summer, and teacher-licensing programs for the state of Arkansas. Misty Newcomb, Executive Director of Prism Education Center, says that what makes this school unique is that, "although we are a private school, about half of our students receive some financial assistance. We work hard to make sure that our programs accept everyone regardless of their ability to pay." Newcomb explains that Prism "was founded by a Christian church, so the school is based on these values. Every single aspect of our education [...] is done through the lens of a set of Christian and universal values. We are focused on helping build leaders in our society, and we want to make sure that they are leading from a place of values [...] It's important not just to equip [students] with mathematical skills and literacy knowledge but also [to ensure] that they are able to apply values on a day-to-day basis to whatever they are doing."
Prism was very strategic with their campaign on NWA Gives day, as they won over $4k in prize money. With these funds, they'll be able to continue supporting families who cannot pay tuition: "We have a large number of students coming that cannot afford full tuition, and so it was our hope that we could raise funds to help provide scholarships to work with kids all day long." Since Prism doesn't count on any one person or institution to fund the school, their strategy was to contact a large number of people who supported the school strongly enough to give a relatively small amount of money: "we thought that the best strategy for us was to reach large families and say: 'Hey, there's prize money for the most number of givers', and thought that everybody could give a little bit as the first thing in the morning [of the NWA Gives day], so we would be eligible for that first hour of prize money. And they did. Everybody was passionate and willing to support. They might not have a lot of money, but what they do, they'll give, so we were grateful for that." With these funds, Prism will also be able to accommodate a large number of incoming students by moving to a larger facility.
Newcomb says that the key to their success was the parents that got behind their initiative: "I would say that the parents worked as hard as anyone in our staff did—just getting the word out. Several parents texted other parents to give the funds in the morning [of the NWA Gives day]. Our key to success were the partnerships as well as the community that support us. It really was the generosity of the families that are here with their time and energy to get other people to give that made it a success to us. That's truly what NWA Gives was all about: being generous. We have lot of people here who worked their heart to get the word out and to do what it takes to keep this place accessible to students."
To build on the success from the NWA Gives campaign, Prism will be launching a scholarship contribution program next month through which folks will be able to commit to giving a small donation every month: "we are just looking for 50 people to give $25 a month. That would go a long way for us. We are committed to helping kids have access to this program and we are going to do what it takes." If you'd like to help provide a values-based education to students at the Prism Education Center, you can make a donation HERE.
Freedom 5:One: $15,934 Raised During NWA Gives
Freedom 5:One on Facebook
We believe that generosity is just part of who we are as an organization. We are trying to inspire generosity."— Chris Haas, Executive Director at Freedom 5:one
Freedom 5:one is an education and coaching ministry focused on helping families learn how to successfully manage their personal finances. Chris Haas, Executive Director at Freedom 5:one, explains that the ministry typically meets individually with families to create a budget or "spending plan" to get their finances going in the right direction. Freedom 5:one mostly works with young couples who are just getting started in life and need a plan, as they help them straighten out their finances: "our premise is that, if you have a plan that you are following, you're going get much more out of personal finances. When it comes to your personal, financial goals, knowing what those are—what destination you're trying to reach—and then putting a plan to get there is going to help you be more successful."
There's also an educational aspect to these activities: "[w]e also have our clients read a number of books to help them become financially educated. [...] We speak in various businesses around Northwest Arkansas. We spoke at DaySpring, which is a business in Siloam Springs. Basically, we provide education to employees, speaking in the community, educating it about financial literacy and what it looks like to have a [...] financial plan that's going to work."
Freedom 5:One on Facebook
Freedom 5:one is a faith-based financial non-profit, so faith plays a huge role in their core values. Haas says that the "relationships of the people" they serve are also a core value of the organization: "you really get to know people deeply. We get to know their dreams. If they're married, we get to know how their marriage is going and whether or not there's different issues they're trying to work through as a married couple or as a family." The folks at Freedom 5:one feel particularly passionate about helping families deal with money issues because being on the same page on finances is one of the cornerstones of any happy relationship: "[p]art of the heart and soul of this group is that we want to help families," says Hass. "We want to strengthen marriages, want to have great families in the community, and one of the reasons why that's so important in this area is that the number one cause of the breakup of the family is conflict over finances. It is the number one reason why couples get divorced—about 58% of families getting a divorce say that trouble in finances was the reason for the breakup. So knowing that, we want to make that change."
NWA Gives has been an incredible help for Freedom 5:one in reaching their goals. Through the money they raised on NWA Gives day, Freedom 5:one will be able to improve their coaching and training infrastructure, allowing this ministry to help many more families: "[a]t this point we charge a minimal fee when people come in, but the rest of the cost of meeting with that family is money that we raised." Haas believes that a key to their success that day was the nonprofits' outreach "to their people and sphere of influence," inviting them to be part of NWA Gives. Freedom 5:one has also been able to inspire great generosity in the community, which is what has helped this organization reach more couples, and serve more community members.
Giving back to the community and the causes that we want to see through can be highly rewarding. Everyone could use a helping hand in managing their finances if they are just starting out and raising a family, so the work of Freedom 5:one is going to continue to leave a positive impact on countless people who might otherwise feel lost in bills and unexpected expenses. If you would like to be a part of the solution, you can contribute to Freedom 5:one by donating HERE or by helping them pay their coaching fees HERE.
"What's Next?" by NWA Gives Co-Founder, Chris Haas
We took about a month off and celebrated, and come June we'll get back to work. In terms of planning for next year's event, we'll launch a series of trainings that will start in August and September to begin building towards next year's event. We are gathering key people, influencers, social media influencers, business leaders, and others who will be part of next year's effort to make it a success. We feel like the momentum will pick up back again and it'll grow from there. But we would invite anybody, any of your readers who want to be a part of seeing this thing become even more successful, we would love anybody that wants to volunteer their time, their influence, their resources to be able to make that happen.
If you are interested in attending the trainings or connecting with NWA Gives, you can email Jesse Lane at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow NWA Gives online here: nwagives.org / instagram.com/nwagives / or facebook.com/nwagives