Give4Marion raises more than $500,000 for nonprofits

Ambleside School 7th graders are shown in Carli Phillips class at the Ocala private school. The school was part of the Community Foundation of Ocala/Marion County’s Give4Marion fundraiser on Sept. 21. [Alan Youngblood/Special to the Ocala Gazette]
Following the leaderboard on give4marion.com was a bit like a horse race: On the night of Sept. 21, Transitions Life Center & Community was in the lead … then next morning Project Hope of Marion County had squeezed by and was at the head of the field. By the time it was over, Interfaith Emergency Services was in first place.

But in this race, everyone was a winner.

Give4Marion, held Sept. 21-22, was the Community Foundation Ocala/Marion County’s second online day of giving. This year, 2,265 donors contributed more than $531,000 to 75 nonprofit agencies that serve our community in many ways, from helping the homeless to improving the lives of children, senior citizens and those with disabilities to sharing the arts with all of us.

“Wow. I am just blown away at the generosity in this community,” remarked Lauren Deiorio, Community Foundation president and executive director. “All our nonprofits in our community will be the winners. We helped them raise over half a million dollars in a 24-hour period. I’m so excited about it.”

Lauren Deiorio, left, grabs a quick interview with Renee Arnett during the Community Foundation of Ocala’Marion County’s Give4Marion fundraiser. [Alan Youngblood/Special to the Ocala Gazette]
R.J. Jenkins, president of the board of directors of the Marion County Literacy Council, got emotional sharing his heartfelt remarks on Facebook.

“If you ever need proof that the world isn’t totally broken, if you ever need proof that there are still people who care, this is the work that you do,” Jenkins said. “More than 200 people gave something of themselves to help people who are less fortunate than them build themselves up. More than 200 people gave something of themselves to help people who want to help themselves build a better life for themselves and their children. And that’s incredible. To the members of this incredible community who came together around us, thank you so, so much.”

Although they were listed fourth on the list of 75 agencies, Marion County Literacy Council had the largest number of donors – 256 – of any participating organization. They raised, $29,377, far exceeded their expectations, Jenkins said, after they raised just under $15,000 last year.

That’s just the type of increase the fundraiser was designed to facilitate, Deiorio noted.

“We knew that we were going to grow every year,” she said. “In every year we should see growth in giving as the word gets out.”

Last year, Give4Marion brought in $310,784 from 1,154 donors.

Although the virtual campaign took place over 24 hours, it was the culmination of months of planning and training, Deiorio explained.

“We started early, back in April, working with those nonprofits that were interested in getting involved,” she said. “We provided professional development courses on things like how to have a digital presence, how to use social media and how to create a communication plan for the entire organization for an event.”

Putting on a virtual fundraiser is a skill that organizations were forced to learn and embrace after the pandemic caused many in-person fundraising events to be cancelled.

“Regardless of what anyone says, virtual fundraising is going to be here,” Deiorio said. “There’s no doubt about it. The biggest thing for nonprofits’ fundraising is you have to learn how to do virtual fundraising and put that in your fund development plan when you’re raising money, along with everything else you do.”

Deiorio said the Community Foundation would like Give4Marion to be an annual event.

“The idea would be that the community embraces this as an annual event, their own community giving day, that focuses on our nonprofits in the community.”

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