Amy Little sees great similarity between hosting a wedding and hosting Idaho Gives, the Gem State give-a-thon slated for Thursday, May 3.
"You go to a wedding: It's beautiful, it's wonderful, right? But you don't see how stressed out the bride was in the nine months getting ready for the big day. That's a lot like Idaho Gives," said Little, president and CEO of the Idaho Nonprofit Center. "But then the big day comes and it's amazingly fun. We love it. I think I ugly cried a half-dozen times last year, every time we saw a big jump in donations. It's a wedding. Who doesn't want to spend a day like that? It's the best day ever."
There is plenty of preparation before the "nuptials," but Little said she's surrounded by colleagues with unending commitment.
"It wouldn't happen without all these folks," she said, pointing to a group of nonprofit representatives who had gathered just a few days before the big event. "They're more excited about it than we are."
It's true that Idaho Gives may be Idaho's finest hours—24 of them to be exact. At the stroke of midnight, donations big and small begin pouring in to support hundreds of nonprofits via idahogives.org. As a long day's journey becomes night, many of those nonprofits get bonuses, or "golden tickets," to sweeten the pot and keep their missions alive.
"It is, without a doubt, the most concentrated level of caring that you'll ever see," said Little.
The Nature of Giving
Although Idaho Gives will fall in the midst of an expensive, contentious and often ugly political season this year, when it comes to supporting the good works of hundreds of charities, Idaho sees no political boundaries.
"We happen to live in a very interesting area where nonprofits are embraced," said Lisa Duplessie, executive director of Boise Urban Garden School. "We've seen firsthand how the community really embraces an organization it loves."
BUGS began in 2002 as a modest effort to interest youth in gardening. It has since expanded to include four summer camps and multiple year-round programs through partnerships with the City of Boise and the Boise School District.
"We're reaching close to 10,000 kids in a year. It's a big challenge for us," said Duplessie. "Idaho Gives is a huge opportunity for us to tell our story about having meaningful impacts on people's lives."
Duplessie looked across the table and flashed a smile as she pointed to Ashley Davis, project manager with Global Talent Idaho.
"Sometimes you're impacting the life of a kid in a garden. And sometimes you're impacting the life of a refugee, which is what the folks at Global Talent Idaho do every day," said Duplessie.
GTI is another small Idaho nonprofit—there are only two workers on staff—but its task is huge. The duo breaks down the individual and systemic barriers faced by refugees. Hundreds of immigrants and refugees with college degrees from their home countries have been resettled in Idaho over the past several years, and although they are authorized to work, most need a hand up from GTI when it comes to resume writing and job interviews.
"Most importantly, we'll partner with Idaho employers to match these talented jobseekers with meaningful work," said Davis. "It just so happens that Idaho Gives Day on May 3 will also be our annual Careers for Change event at Albertsons corporate headquarters in Boise. Our guests will hear some amazing stories about our work."
Slobodanka Hodzic, program director at Agency for New Americans, also looks forward to Idaho Gives Day as a rare opportunity to tell her nonprofit's story.
"It just so happens that we'll be hosting an Agency for New Americans movie night at The Flicks on Idaho Gives Day. We'll feature the film Sonita, which won two awards at the Sundance Film Festival. Plus, we'll be able to share our stories," said Hodzic. "These are critical times for our agency. The time for giving couldn't be more important. We're finding people housing, helping with medical appointments, enrolling children into school, assisting them with citizenship and everything in between."
Yoga at Sunrise, Pop-up Performances and a 'Snuggle Bus'
Nearly 600 Idaho nonprofits in every corner of the Gem State will be participating in Idaho Gives Day this year. While each has its own individual goals, the Idaho Nonprofit Center has an impressive statewide goal of $1.5 million in donations.
"That would be a record," said Little. "Last year, our goal was $1.2 million, and we got to nearly $1.4 million. It will be phenomenal if we hit the $1.5 million mark."
In the Treasure Valley, KTVB-TV has partnered with the Idaho Nonprofit Center to be its exclusive television sponsor. Throughout the big day, Channel 7 personalities will showcase charities at the Boise Basque Block, this year's Idaho Gives headquarters. Yoga at sunrise will kick off the festivities, followed by pop-up appearances of performers from Boise Contemporary Theater and the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.
"Plus, the Idaho Humane Society will roll in its Snuggle Bus," said Little. "And who doesn't love puppies?"
Little and her colleagues might need a hug when Idaho Gives wraps at midnight. While she compared the event to a wedding, but she also likened the planning process to giving birth.
"You're very excited when you first get the news. Then, you're a bit queasy. In the middle stages, as you're building the nursery, you're a bit uncomfortable and you just want to have that baby," she said. "But then Idaho Gives Day happens, it's the best day ever, and you can't wait to do it all over again."