Casey Weed (left), Asia Ciaravino (middle), and Corina Zars (right), walk through Main Plaza during the 2015 BigGiveSA. Photo by Scott Ball.
(From left) Casey Weed, Asia Ciaravino, and Corina Zars, walk through Main Plaza during The Big Give SA in 2015. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Three years ago, Linda McDavitt, the head of the Genevieve and Ward Orsinger Foundation, had the crazy idea of bringing a 24-hour online give day to the San Antonio nonprofit community.

After a team was assembled from the Nonprofit Council, San Antonio Area Foundation, and other community partners, we took an idea and jumped head first into planning a crowd funding campaign with the goal of raising more than $1 million for 300 nonprofits in the San Antonio community in 24 hours.

That first year was filled with unknowns. Would nonprofits register? Would they find it valuable? Would businesses and foundations support our vision of a fun and creative opportunity to help nonprofits build capacity by attracting new donors? Would a community with rich traditions of philanthropy even embrace such an out-of-the-box event?

On May 6, 2014, after nearly a year of planning, teaching, registering, sweating and hoping our community would join us, San Antonio came together for the Big Give SA and answered all of our questions with a resounding yes. With 467 participating nonprofits, more than $2.1 million raised, and 21,000 donations in a 24-hour period, our city blew us away with their generosity and excitement for the Big Give.

Organizations participating in The Big Give SA pose for a photo at The San Antonio Area Foundation. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Organizations participating in The Big Give SA pose for a photo at The San Antonio Area Foundation ahead of the 2015 event. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Year two came around with new challenges. After a summer of deliberation in which the planning team came out determined to make sure the Big Give did more than just create a new opportunity to give, we expanded our footprint to the 12 counties surrounding Bexar, added more than a dozen free workshops with some of the best nonprofit consultants, teachers, trainers and facilitators in our region, and committed to really helping nonprofits use the Big Give SA to build capacity for their nonprofit for the future.

The results were overwhelming. Once again our region came together to support local nonprofits in an unprecedented way. 882 agencies joined us and nearly 40,000 donors gave $4.3 million in 24 hours to the nonprofits who make our community what it is. These are the groups that feed the homeless, provide shelter to orphans, adopt our pets, clean up our rivers and parks, and provide so many of the opportunities that make South Central Texas a great place to live, work, and play.

And after two years, we’ve learned a lot.

We’ve seen nonprofits use the event to raise awareness, expand their base of supporters, and joyfully celebrate each other’s successes.

We’ve seen large numbers of donors give to agencies they didn’t even know existed before the event started.

We’ve seen how global the world has become with people from 13 countries, 49 states, and more than 900 cities giving to our local agencies through the event.

And we’ve seen small nonprofits use the Big Give to more than double their yearly operations budget in 24 hours.

While the goal of the Big Give SA is to democratize philanthropy, raise money, connect nonprofits to new donors, and help agencies build capacity for the future, over the past two years we’ve discovered that the HEART of the Big Give is something else altogether.

It’s about solidarity. It’s about friendship. It’s about what’s possible when we work together

And it’s about showing that every gift and every person matters.

When we come together, even $10 at a time, we can move mountains, change lives, and make our community a place we can be proud of.

One of the most exciting occurrences with the Big Give SA is seeing many of our nonprofits refer to their fellow participants as family. Each agency may have their own goals, but even in the midst of the friendly competition for prize money, they also celebrate the success of the event as a whole. They realize that we are #strongertogether.

With 1051 participating nonprofits and a goal of 45,000 donors and $6 million this year, the Big Give really is BIGGER than ever and we need your help.

So far, 467 agencies have registered with Big Give SA and $224,000 given in prize money and matching grants. Photo courtesy of the Woodlawn Theatre.
So far, 467 agencies have registered with Big Give SA and $224,000 given in prize money and matching grants. Photo courtesy of the Woodlawn Theatre – one of the participating nonprofits.

Between now and May 3rd, visit and find a new agency to support.

Challenge your parents, friends, or siblings to support the causes that matter the most to you. Help a nonprofit build a van to deliver food to the elderly, add playground equipment to a park, meet the oral health needs of the homeless, or spay and neuter more pets.

Help fund a college scholarship, support local artists, or raise awareness about communicable diseases. Whatever your passion, The Big Give is a great opportunity to support it.

One of my favorite aspects of the Big Give SA is the nearly $375,000 we are giving away in prize money. The prizes are awarded to the nonprofits that bring large volumes of donors on May 3. With prizes distributed every hour and to organizations in different size and category pools, every gift has a chance to magnify the amount of money a nonprofit takes away on the day of the event. In this way, agencies are rewarded for investing in their future growth.

May 3 is quickly approaching and while we don’t know the final results, whether or not everybody will hit their goals or which nonprofits will take top prizes, we can be certain that our community will come out the winner.

And we look forward to celebrating with you on May 3

*Top image: (From left) Casey Weed, Asia Ciaravino, and Corina Zars, walk through Main Plaza during The Big Give SA, 2015. Photo by Scott Ball. 

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John Burnam

John Burnam is the co-founder and principal of Burnam | Gray, a nonprofit consulting firm that seeks to help agencies ignite and scale best practices.