Thousands of Utahns invested in the state's nonprofit sector in a 24-hour span last week, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in an organized effort.
According to the Community Foundation of Utah, which coordinated the event Friday, the first-ever statewide online fundraiser for nonprofits and schools raised $805,524 from 6,521 donors. But with business matches and challenge grants, Executive Director Fraser Nelson said the total "may well be over $900,00 by the time we're done."
"What an amazing day," Nelson said. "I think it was a lot of fun and a great way for nonprofits to connect with donors in a new way."
Groups across the state staged "Love UT Give UT" fundraisers Friday, from film screenings in Salt Lake City to a nonprofit sleep-over in Moab to a festival in St. George.
The campaign also featured a friendly competition among the organizations, generally according to their size. The nonprofits were divided into four categories small, medium, large and educational institutions. Those that attracted the most individual donors are being awarded an additional grant, with $5,000 going to the winner, $2,500 for second place and $1,000 for third place.
Catherine Kirby, founder of the Noble Horse Sanctuary, claimed second place in the small nonprofit category.
"It was fabulous seeing how people were supporting us," Kirby said. "It was shocking to me."
She said that with the donations and extra prize money, the foundation, which cares for unwanted and neglected horses, will expand its exercise arena and buy "lots and lots of hay."
Organizations also embraced social media to rally supporters, with nonprofits making their pitches through texts, Facebook and Twitter. Valerie Larabee, director of the Utah Pride Center, said she and 20 supporters gathered at The Green Pig tavern in Salt Lake City Friday night to send out last-minute appeals.
"We were all sitting around the table with a beer in one hand and a cellphone in the other, calling people and texting people, asking for their help," Larabee said. "We all had a blast doing it and were proud to be part of it."
The Utah Pride Center, which provides support and advocacy for the state's LGBT community, came in third place in the large nonprofit category, which means an extra $1,000 in prize money.
"We're gonna take first next year, just to let everyone know," Larabee said.