WATSONVILLE—The Pajaronian this year has jumped on the growing digital giving movement Santa Cruz Gives, the first crowdsourcing website for multiple Santa Cruz County nonprofits.

The campaign, which launched for its fifth holiday season Wednesday, raises funds for 37 selected nonprofits via SantaCruzGives.org, where donors can browse individual pages to learn about each nonprofit’s mission and “Big Idea” project for 2020 that will be funded with the online donations. 

Santa Cruz Gives, which was founded by the Pajaronian’s sister paper Good Times with the support of The Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County, prides itself on reaching donors during their busy day-to-day schedules.

“We’re trying to take advantage of technological advances,” said Santa Cruz Gives Director Jeanne Howard. “I feel like we’re creating money out of thin air for all of these great causes.”

Projects cover the county geographically and represent a variety of needs: youth, seniors, animals, the environment, education, health and wellness, food and nutrition, housing and homelessness, arts, families, the disabled and LBGTQ+. A seven-member committee with diverse nonprofit experience vetted the applications. 

Selected nonprofits will receive donated funds, matching funds and be eligible for three awards: Most Donors Overall, Most Donors Under 35 years old and Most Innovative Program. Each honor comes with a $1,000 award.

Fundraising ends at midnight on Dec. 31. 

Last year, giving to nonprofits was up by an average of 4.5 percent nationwide. But donations to the nonprofits participating in Santa Cruz Gives grew by 19 percent in 2018 over the previous year.

The program raised $234,571 in 2018 for 33 nonprofits.

“Santa Cruz Gives is the gold standard for giving in this community, in my opinion,” said Karen Delaney, executive director of the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County. “There is massive growth across every metric every year compared to the previous year: number of donors, donation amounts per donor, and challenge grant totals. In the past, only large national organizations had a tool like this at their disposal Santa Cruz Gives puts this tool into the hands of local people.”

Participants in Santa Cruz Gives reported that a majority of donors are new donors as well as younger donors. 

“Any business, nonprofits included, is always looking to reach new people,” Howard said. “Getting younger people to donate is big too. We want to show younger people that it feels so good to donate, and, hopefully, it becomes a lifelong habit.”

Community Foundation Santa Cruz County joined as a major sponsor in 2018 and is on board in 2019. Other business sponsors are Santa Cruz County Bank, Wynn Capital Management and Oswald.

For donors who prefer to pay cash or deliver a check in Watsonville, they may bring payments to The Volunteer Center, 349 Main St., Suite 208. They may also contact a participating nonprofit directly. Each nonprofit can accept cash donations for their organization on behalf of Santa Cruz Gives.

List of participating nonprofits:

• Big Brothers Big Sisters

• Bird School Project

• CASA of Santa Cruz

• Coastal Watershed Council

• Community Bridges

• Dientes

• Farm Discovery at Live Earth

• Food What?!

• Girls Inc. of the Central Coast 

• Grey Bears

• Groundswell Coastal Ecology

• Homeless garden project

• Housing Matters

• Live Like Coco

• Mesa Verde Gardens

• Mountains 2 Sea

• Nourishing Generations

• Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes

• Pajaro Valley Shelter Services

• Regeneración – Pajaro Valley Climate Action

• Resource Center for Nonviolence

• Safe Families for Children Alliance

• Santa Cruz Chamber Players

• S.C. County Animal Shelter Foundation

• Santa Cruz SPCA and Humane Society

• Save Our Shores

• Second Harvest Food Bank S.C. County

• Senderos

• Shared Adventures

• Teen Kitchen Project

• The Diversity Center

• UnChained

• Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County

• Warming Center Program

• Watsonville Wetlands Watch

• Wings Homeless Advocacy

• Youth N.O.W.

For information on Santa Cruz Gives visit https://santacruzgives.org/.