North Texas Giving Day organizers have enlisted star power as a tool to help them reach a pair of lofty goals in the event’s 11th year next Thursday: to raise $50 million from 100,000 donors.
Those targets seem achievable in light of the event’s recent accomplishments. Last year, North Texas Giving Day pulled in over $48 million from 81,000 donors.
“This is not just a giving day, like the Super Bowl is not just a football game,” David Scullin, president and CEO of the Communities Foundation of Texas, said during a kickoff luncheon Thursday. “This is truly a community movement, and you are all part of it.”
In fact, North Texas Giving Day is the largest community-wide giving event in the U.S., said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who was in attendance.
Speakers Thursday addressed a large room full of donors, nonprofit representatives, government officials and volunteers. Also on hand were Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki and his wife, Jessica, who are honorary co-chairs.
Susan Swan Smith is the chief North Texas Giving Day officer at the Communities Foundation of Texas, which organizes the annual giving extravaganza. She leads a full-time staff of less than a dozen people to ensure the event goes without a hitch.
Since 2017, North Texas Giving Day has been expanded to encompass 10 days to allow for scheduled giving. Donors began giving on Monday, and the period closes on Sept. 19, the official date for North Texas Giving Day. Individuals can also commit to doing volunteer work for nonprofits, an initiative that saw 436,000 pledged hours in 2018.
On Thursday, the Nowitzkis helped leaders from CFT and The Dallas Foundation give away $10,000 to one lucky participating nonprofit as a partnership prize.
Dirk randomly drew an organization from a container full of name cards, announcing the winner as KidLinks, which provides music therapy and free therapeutic music resources to children in need and their parents.
Maya Lechowick accepted the giant novelty check on behalf of KidLinks, clearly breathless from her unexpected on-stage encounter with the Nowitzkis.
“It’s so, so easy to get burnout in our industry,” Lechowik said. “Coming to this day, it renews our spirit of why we do what we do.”
Jessica Nowitzki later took the microphone to thank participants and donors, emphasizing that she and her husband want to keep helping the community. Dirk touched on the same issue as Lechowik and said North Texas had given his family a lot of the last couple decades.
“I think the nonprofit sector sometimes doesn’t get the attention it needs,” Dirk said. “I’m here to tell you guys that all you nonprofits do amazing work and make North Texas a better place for us to live in. So I’m here to tell you guys thank you from us.”
This year, North Texas Giving Day funds will go to more than 3,000 nonprofits from 20 North Texas counties.
Lechowick said the day benefits nonprofits such as KidLinks, which can raise thousands of dollars through the event. KidLinks had set a goal of raising $7,000 this year, an amount it exceeded after winning the drawing. Lechowik said the agency will still try to raise its original target to supplement the unexpected check. She said she’s excited to see how the group will use the funds to expand its therapeutic music services.
Many of the participating nonprofits are small, lesser-known organizations, and event leaders try to keep the playing field equal for them by not emphasizing any one organization or cause.
“We want to make it so everyone can be a philanthropist,” Smith said. “We want to democratize giving.”