SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—For the past six years, the annual holiday fundraising campaign Santa Cruz Gives (SCG) has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for local nonprofits, by creating a network of donors and shining a spotlight on the organizations.
And in 2021, fundraising has far exceeded expectations.
“We weren’t sure how things would go this time,” said SCG organizer Jeanne Howard, who led the campaign in partnership with the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County (VSCC). “With the pandemic and lots of people out of work, we were concerned we’d only raise half of last year.”
Instead, the campaign has already surpassed last year’s donations of $413,000, having raised almost $707,000 as of Wednesday.
“It’s amazing, really,” Howard said. “The community… they really stepped up to help.”
Each nonprofit chosen to be part of the campaign is set up with a page on the Santa Cruz Gives website. The page details the mission of the organization and how many staff and volunteers are involved. Then they pitch a “Big Idea,” or what they hope to do with the funds they raise.
The organization coming out on top this year was the Santa Cruz County Animals Shelter, which brought in over $105,000. Runner-ups were the Coastal Watershed Council ($60,000) and Farm Discovery at Live Earth ($31,000).
Watsonville’s Youth N.O.W. raised almost $30,000—a big improvement over last year. The support couldn’t have come at a better time, said Executive Director Michele Chaney.
“We hit a point a couple months ago where we were almost closing our doors,” she said. “This money will help keep us going.”
Youth N.O.W. hopes to continue providing its no-cost academic support to students as they navigate distance learning, from virtual tutoring sessions to on-site appointments. With Covid-19, costs have increased and work is now more labor intensive.
“We’ve increased the number of students we help, and have gone 75% virtual,” Chaney said. “We’ve created outdoor spaces, provided transportation, mentoring and support… There’s so much more that goes into what we do.”
Pajaro Valley Loaves and Fishes (PVLF) Director Ashley Bridges says they are “really grateful” to be on this year’s SCG list.
“It’s a wonderful campaign, and they’ve been really helpful and encouraging,” Bridges said. “They care about the nonprofits they’re highlighting. They do really good work.”
PVLF raised over $5,203. The funds will go toward continuing their lunch program, which they’re hoping will remain through the new year.
“We serve a lot of vulnerable populations who might not have access to the vaccine,” Bridges said. “So we have to be a lot more cautious—and that means changing how we do everything, being as safe as possible.”
Nonprofits apply to be part of SCG each year. Howard said it’s hard to turn down any, but they have to make sure they’ve “divided the pie” between different organizations. Especially this year, it was important to choose projects relevant to the major ongoing crisis.
“I wish we could include more, and maybe someday we will,” Howard said. “But we’re not a huge county. Hopefully [the campaign] will keep growing.”
SCG officially ended on Jan. 1. Howard said there was a big surge in donations on New Year’s Eve, with 15% of donors giving that day.
“Dec. 31 is our biggest donation day,” she said. “Nonprofits will often take to social media, get people interested in doing last-minute donations.”
Official totals are still being calculated. Results are slated to be released at a Jan. 21 Zoom meeting.
Good Times and VSCC received support for Santa Cruz Gives from Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County, The Joe Collins Fund, The Applewood Fund, Santa Cruz County Bank, Wynn Capital Management, Oswald Restaurant, The Pajaronian, Press Banner and Swenson Builders.