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A Community of Giving

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CoMoGives provides platform for year-end giving with energy from the Community Foundation of Central Missouri.

The Community Foundation of Central Missouri was just over two years old when a local resident first referenced a campaign supported by a Community Foundation in Lexington, Kentucky, and suggested that a similar campaign might work in Columbia. Following a bevy of meetings and multiple conversations, the concept was adapted, and, as all seeds that are planted and nurtured do, it germinated and grew into a robust and successful effort to support nonprofits throughout Central Missouri. 

In 2013, CoMoGives, operated and produced by the Community Foundation of Central Missouri (CFCM), raised $62,400 for 30 nonprofit organizations in its year-end giving campaign. In its second year, the campaign raised $256,000. Last year, the campaign raised more than $1.9 million for 153 organizations.

“We knew we had something after the end of the second year when we had the biggest percentage jump in the history of the campaign,” says Dr. John D. Baker, CFCM executive director. “That’s when we knew we had something that was going to work.” 

What is CoMoGives? 

CoMoGives is a service of the CFCM that is dedicated to bolstering community support for local nonprofit organizations at the end of the year. It is not a standalone organization, and it is fully supported and run by CFCM. In fact, CoMoGives was the first online campaign for multiple nonprofits in Missouri, and the concept has since been replicated in St. Louis and Springfield, Baker says. 

Though the dates change slightly each year, the campaign always runs the full month of December. This year’s campaign begins on November 28, which is known as Giving Tuesday.

“We have chosen the end of the year because it remains the giving season, as people give donations that may impact their taxes in a certain year by the end of the year,” Baker says. “It also capitalizes on the general spirit of giving in December.” 

Prior to the first campaign in 2013, the Community Foundation of Central Missouri contacted a list of nonprofit organizations with the hopes of recruiting their participation. Thirty “brave souls” agreed to take part in the campaign, Baker says. 

“Once people saw it worked, the campaign has been self-feeding ever since and the organizations come to us primarily,” Baker says. “There is a simple vetting procedure, we share what’s expected of them, and we send an official invitation and instructions. The campaign has grown just by word of mouth.” 

In order to take part in CoMoGives, an organization has to be a registered 501 (c)(3) organization and be providing essential services in central Missouri. Organizations are assessed a $350 participation fee, an amount that hasn’t changed since the first campaign. Scholarships are available for organizations that demonstrate that they aren’t able to pay that fee. 

“We spend way more on the campaign that we collect in participation fees,” Baker says. “We assess a participation fee and there are very low credit card processing fees through our processor, Commerce Bank, but we don’t hold anything back. One hundred percent of all gifts go to the organization.” 

Participating organizations are required to attend meetings where they learn about the mechanics of the campaign, and they are encouraged to actively market the campaign to their supporters. Individuals are also able to start peer-to-peer campaigns where they use their social networks to market their campaigns on behalf of a specific nonprofit. 

At the same time, the Community Foundation of Central Missouri conducts a marketing campaign of its own with a year-long social media presence, web presence, and email campaign. 

“We do the essential skeleton marketing of the campaign and the organizations market their participation in the campaign, which is a key granular marketing piece,” Baker says. “They take their networks and contact lists to share the word about their organization being in the campaign.” 

The Facets of Success 

While success looks different for each organization, last year, over 130 organizations received more than $2,000. For smaller organizations, that amount can be a substantial financial boost.

“I tell the organizations that if you’re a smaller organization and you receive $2,000 or $3,000 in the campaign, you can consider your efforts a success,” Baker says. “They’ve gained recognition and surpassed the participation fee.” 

While some organizations build the CoMoGives campaign into their annual funding process, Baker says the campaign has become vital to Columbia’s nonprofit sector as they build an expectation of income into their annual budget. 

In addition to raising key funds, the CoMoGives campaign is also spotlighting the community’s nonprofit assets, and the increased publicity has proven beneficial for many participating organizations. 

“Donors are also exposed to 172 other nonprofits, and some of those will catch that donor’s eye,” Baker says. “They will give to that organization as well even though it may not have been their intent, so CoMoGives is also expanding the donor base for nonprofits.” 

Last year, Baker says, more than 50 percent of CoMoGives donations to Heart of Missouri CASA were from first-time donors. 

“We are trying to educate the community and expose them to the good work that is happening through the nonprofit sector,” he says. “When people are exposed to it, many people want to give to it.” 

Top Ten Donation Recipients from 2022 Campaign 

  • City of Refuge 
  • The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri
  • “We Always Swing”® Jazz Series
  • Central Missouri Humane Society
  • Room at the Inn
  • VAC Voluntary Action Center
  • Second Chance
  • Ragtag Film Society
  • Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture
  • Local Motion

CoMoGives Challenge Grants 

In addition to the CoMoGives campaign, the Community Foundation of central Missouri offers different challenge grants each year. This year, $18,000 will be distributed through 23 different challenge grants in 11 categories. The funding for the challenge grants comes out of the CoMoGives budget. 

Setting Goals 

This year’s campaign includes 173 organizations — 20 more than last year. While the majority are located in Columbia, Baker says that nonprofits in Fulton, Jefferson City, Mexico, and Moberly will also take part in the 2023 campaign. 

This year’s campaign goal is $2 million, which is the same as last year’s goal. While last year’s campaign just missed the mark, Baker says the goal was set before the stock market drastically dipped and inflation rose. 

“We have an aspirational goal out there for how much we think we will get but the donors and organizations might do a great job of marketing and blow past that,” Baker says. 

Looking to the Future

While the hope is that CoMoGives continues to grow each year, in participating nonprofits, in donors, and in dollars raised, Baker says there is plenty of room for growth. 

“Last year donations came from 5,000 individuals, which is 4 percent of the demographic of Columbia residents between the ages of 18 and 75,” he says. “That means there are a lot of people who don’t yet know about the campaign, a lot of people who don’t give to the nonprofit sector, and a lot of headroom in the solicitation of funding and education of the community for the future.” 

By educating residents and introducing them to the organizations and the work that is happening throughout Columbia and central Missouri, Baker says he hopes the donor base will continue to grow. 

“The greatest need right now is hope. Hope that the campaign can inspire more people to be more generous so that more of the life-improving services that the nonprofit sector provides can be implemented in central Missouri,” he says.

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