Lisa Adkins: GoodGiving Challenge connected donors to charities

Thanks a million.

Make that $1.67 million.

That's the amount that was raised for 107 local charities during the 2013 GoodGiving Guide Challenge. What a testament to the generosity of our community and to the inspiring charities serving it.

In 2011, Blue Grass Community Foundation and Smiley Pete Publishing teamed up to offer the first GoodGiving Guide Challenge, an online giving campaign designed to engage the entire community — and to make charitable giving easy, effective and fun.

That first year, the Challenge raised $204,000 for 58 local nonprofits. In 2012, that amount more than doubled to $586,000 for the benefit of 68 local nonprofits.

And in 2013, 4,074 generous donors made gifts totaling $1,671,958 — a 720-percent increase over the amount raised just two years before. There is no doubt that our community wants to give back and that the Challenge offers the perfect vehicle to do so.

But that's only part of the story. Local businesses, public and private foundations and local philanthropists also got involved to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars in challenge grants, weekly prizes and pools of matching funds. For instance:

■ Jenna and Matthew Mitchell, head coach of the University of Kentucky women's basketball team, through their Mitchell Family Foundation at the Community Foundation, sponsored the Buzzer Beater Challenge that helped raise almost $300,000.

■ Blue Grass Community Foundation hosted its inaugural GoodGiving Gala on Dec. 7, which raised nearly $100,000 in matching endowment funds for nonprofits in the Challenge.

■ The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Blue Grass Community Foundation partnered to offer $75,000 to establish permanent endowments of $7,500 each for the first 10 nonprofits to raise $7,500 in donations.

■ Eleven local banks got together to offer the Bankers Challenge: a $30,000 pool of matching funds.

■ Dozens of Giving Funds at the Community Foundation provided weekly nonprofit grant prizes. Local businesses like Raising Cane's, GoodFoods Market, Whole Foods, West Sixth Brewing Company and the shops of Woodland Triangle, among many others, donated portions of their earnings on special giving days.

■ Scores of local businesses provided rewards for donors who gave through the Challenge — movie passes to the Kentucky Theatre, free ice cream at Sav's Chill, free coffee at Starbucks and Coffee Times, gift cards to Kentucky State Resort Parks, and the list goes on.

Yet the Challenge is more than a way to provide much-needed support for local nonprofits. It also shines a light on the amazing charities working so hard to make a real, measurable difference in our neighborhoods. They feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, safeguard the environment, protect at-risk children, teach adults to read, educate the next generation, improve our health, ensure the ethical treatment of animals, make the arts accessible to all and give us hope for a better future.

And now, more donors know who these nonprofits are, what they do and, most importantly, how they can support and engage in their efforts.

Donors have told us that when they went online at www.goodgivingguide.net to give to their familiar tried-and-true nonprofits, they discovered a new world of charities serving causes they believed in and were inspired to give to them, too.

Not surprisingly, nonprofits also told us that many new donors had discovered them. And in many cases, these donors didn't fit the usual demographic of older, established givers. That was another goal of the Challenge — to engage and grow the next generation of givers. And to promote local giving so that we could make a difference, right here, right now in our own neighborhoods.

At Blue Grass Community Foundation, we're dedicated to the idea that one person can make a powerful impact. But we also know that we have the biggest impact when we work together. The success of the 2013 GoodGiving Guide Challenge bears witness to this.

If you'd like to be a part of the 2014 Challenge or establish your own Giving Fund, contact Blue Grass Community Foundation at ladkins@bgcf.org or 859-225-3343.