Though nonprofit administrators often cite the "economic climate" and a "shrinking donor base" as the cause of fundraising difficulties, a record number of million dollar galas took place during Houston's 2011-12 social season — with a major chunk of change going to major arts groups.
But just as big spenders are letting go of cash, there's a growing trend of modest benefactors who are willing to give between $50 and $130 as long as they can be witness to the impact of their pledge — and they are prepared to donate online, according to the Arts & Science Council of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, a North Carolina arts organization that tapped into that market.
When the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) learned about these facts and figures — and took into consideration the city's network of 500 nonprofit arts and cultural organizations — it embarked on an eight-month search for a hyper-local crowdfunding platform to support its constituents.
The search is over.
"We see power2give.org as a tremendous tool to engage new donors by allowing them to support very specific projects across disciplines easily."
Sponsored by HAA with funding by Bank of America and the Anchorage Foundation of Texas, the Houston site of power2give.org launched on Thursday.
Power2give.org is available for companies with an IRS 501(c)3 determination that operate in Houston's 12-county region, an extension of HAA's current service area of Harris County.
"We are delighted to provide a new region-wide platform to help augment public funding and encourage individual arts philanthropy," HAA CEO Jonathon Glus said in a statement. "We see power2give.org as a tremendous tool to engage new donors by allowing them to support very specific projects across disciplines easily."
Among the first 19 projects from 14 organizations to sign on are Musiqa for two classical music commissions; ArtBridge Houston for art supplies for homeless children; Houston Arts & Media to develop a website dedicated to history about the birth of Texas; Houston Institute for Culture for a mentoring program for young women; and the Bay Area Houston Ballet & Theatre for a program that melds arts, science and technology.
The web-based program was first designed by Charlotte-Mecklenburg's council in response to changes in philanthropic behavior. The commitee scrutinized popular national platforms like Indiegogo, Kickstarter, GoFundMe, RocketHub, Fondomat, Rock The Post, Peerbackers and Sponsume and took successful elements from each.
Moreover, when another of its studies revealed that 85 to 90 percent of arts patrons weren't donors, power2give.org sought to capitalize on the shift in giving to those who are interested in the arts already.
"Basically, what we are trying to do is to encourage organizations to post projects that need funding on power2give.org," Richard Graber, director of programs and services, tells CultureMap. "HAA will then try to secure other funders to match every dollar you or I would contribute toward a project, and funders will have the option to choose which projects appeal to them. Donations will go an additional mile."
"HAA will try to secure other funders to match every dollar you or I would contribute toward a project, and funders will have the option to choose which projects appeal to them."
Power2give.org is not available for individual artists or those working through fiscal sponsorship.
"Individual artists have been very successful at using the larger, national sites," Graber says. "Right now, we are not offering that option, but we are definitely open to that possibility in the future."
The cost to participating groups is 12 percent of the monies raised. Those fees are needed to subsidize HAA's administrative costs and dues levied by the Arts & Science Council of Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
"Nonprofit companies are very comfortable sending grant proposals to foundations and granting organizations," Graber says. "But this pitch has to be clever, attractive, fun and light. Part of our services include an application review to help organizations navigate through this learning curve."
Other markets that have already adopted power2give.org include Dane County, Wisc.; Greensboro, N.C.; Kentucky and Southern Indiana; Miami, Fla.; and Winston-Salem, N.C. Graber says the site is gaining momentum.