Five years ago, ACT for Alexandria helped raise $100,000 for local charities at its first annual Spring2ACTion event. Last year, the organization raised over $1 million for 121 local nonprofits. At this year’s city-wide event on April 22, ACT for Alexandria’s Chief Program Officer Brandi Yee says the goal is to exceed 10,000 donors. Last year, the program had 7,516 total donors to the event, but this year Yee hopes a more public presence and greater involvement in the community can help bolster that number.
In the past, the event was primarily online. One of the aims of this year’s Spring2ACTion is to use donations and arrangements with local businesses to turn the primarily online charity drive into an offline community event. Sugar Shack on North Henry Street has offered a free donut to anyone with proof of donation on April 22. Holy Cow, Pork Barrel BBQ, and Sweet Fire Donna’s have all offered to donate 25 cents from every purchase to a charity of the buyer’s choice. All proceeds from Whole Food’s Wine Wednesday will go towards sponsored charities.
According to Yee, each nonprofit conducts their own fund raising campaign. ACT for Alexandria helps smaller nonprofit groups, like groups from Matthew Maury Elementary School and Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy attempting to raise funds to renovate their playgrounds, form effective campaigns. ACT for Alexandria was founded in 2004 and, according to a 2013 form 990, has a budget of $2 million, $1.4 million was spent in grants to other community organizations, and $738,374 spent on salaries and compensation of current officers and key employees.
Yee says an element of competition underlies the whole event. In 2014, Spring2ACTion gave $31,950 to nonprofits that won in certain categories. The group offers a $5,000 grant to the nonprofit that raises the most funding. Last year, faith-based community organization Casa Chirilagua raised $85,000 in 24 hours. Other $5,000 prizes are awarded to groups with the most donations and groups with the most unique donors. Smaller prizes are awarded to runner-ups in each category, a specialized leaderboard for art groups, and various localized competitions.
Wright to Read is one of the organizations participating in this year’s Spring2ACTion event. Wright to Read provides tutoring and mentors to Alexandria students who read at one grade level below their peers. The organization offers one-on-one relationships between mentors and students, which last an average of three years, through which mentors help develop reading strategies. Leigh Nida, executive director of Wright to Read, has been with the nonprofit for nine years and said the organization screens and trains volunteers to take students to a library and help them find books that interest them.
“I have seen the challenges and rewards mentors face,” said Nida. She noted that the biggest challenge many mentors face is seeing the difficult home life of many students. “There can be an overwhelming aspect. Mentors want to be involved, but there’s a balance between how much they can take on.”
Luisa Reyes, who's been a mentor a Wright to Read for three years, said said she’s seen students call their mentors to say that the student is getting ready to graduate from high school or just got into college, and that often these students credit help from mentors with making that possible.
Nida says their goal with funds raised in Spring2ACTion is to be able to get parents more involved.
“If you invite a family out to dinner, it raises the price, but we want parents to be involved,” said Nida.
Nida also said Wright to Read has been developing a pilot program to help students access laptops and learn computer based reading and writing skills.
For a complete list businesses and nonprofits participating in Spring2ACTion, visit http://spring2action.razoo.com/.