Giving is Gorges: Tompkins County’s non-profit fundraising day brings organizations, people together

By Rob Montana
Tompkins Weekly

In 2015, local company GiveGab approached a few local organizations about putting together a day devoted to giving back – financially – to local non-profits.
That was the birth of Giving is Gorges. And the giving, well, it has been gorgeous.

In its two years, Giving is Gorges has raised $223,123 in donations from 2,245 individuals for local non-profits; at least 119 organizations have taken part in each of the years.

Giving is Gorges is back for its third iteration, and will take place starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 9.
“I thought it was a great idea and very much in line with our mission to inspire and support community philanthropy,” said

, one of the partners in the event. “It celebrates the giving nature of our community, and it gives people lots of options and choices for giving. That’s why we were involved from the very beginning.”

Jennifer Tavares is president and chief executive officer of the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce.

“It creates engagement, it creates excitement and it enhances the total experience of giving,” added Jennifer Tavares, president and chief executive officer of the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, another of the event collaborators.

In years past, the event has run for one day, from midnight to midnight; this year it will still cover a 24-hour period, but it will span two days, with the start at 6 p.m. May 9, and running to 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 10.
“This allows our nonprofits and their supporters to be active (and awake!) during the most exciting times of the giving day – the kickoff and the closing celebration,” said Bridget Cafaro, customer success guru for GiveGab of the change to the two-day format.

Photo Provided
George Ferrari is the chief executive officer of Community Foundation of Tompkins County.

One way Community Foundation is supporting the day of giving is by hosting its annual meeting at 6 p.m. May 9 to coincide with the kickoff of Giving is Gorges. It will take place in the Boynton Middle School Cafeteria, located at 1601 N. Cayuga St. in Ithaca; for more information, visit the Community Foundation website at
“We are going to have people from Giving is Gorges there and encourage people to make gifts, in a celebratory way, as part of the community,” Ferrari said.

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Photo Provided
Liz Hudson is the president of the Finger Lakes chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and is director of development for Alternatives Impact.

The Finger Lakes Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals has been a part of Giving is Gorge since its inception, said chapter President Liz Hudson.
“GiveGab brought the idea to the table,” she said. “Given that we are an association of fundraising professionals, we were more than will and happy to come to the table to discuss such an opportunity as this. There was no question about whether we’d participate, it was simply a matter of how.”
The how has been providing support through engaging AFP’s members, and providing educational support with programs “dedicated to helping small non-profits take advantage of Giving is Gorges.”
“If GiveGab is providing a bridge between community members and community organizations doing excellent work in the community, we are the pillar that is helping them,” said Hudson.


Bridget Cafaro is a customer success guru for GiveGab.

Cafaro said the company’s role for the event is to “create an engaging Giving Day website and to be available as partners to everyone involved in making this day successful.”
“A Day of Giving is about increasing awareness and support for nonprofit organizations by dedicating 24 hours to giving back and spreading the word about their important causes – all while building a stronger sense of community in the process,” she said. “It’s a way to celebrate all of the amazing things local nonprofits do for our community by getting everyone excited about the idea of giving back. It’s also an opportunity for nonprofits to become more familiar with tools and improve on their online fundraising strategies.”
The crowdfunding model aided by the GiveGab platform, Hudson noted, is a fairly new aspect for fundraising professionals.
“One primary function of AFP is to provide that kind of practical education that community organizations need to successfully support their mission,” she said.
The online platform, Ferrari said, is a great way to connect people with community organizations.
“Having, in that one place, a long list of not-for-profits helps,” said Ferrari. “Maybe someone is here from another place and did something with literacy where they are from, and may not know about, for example, Family Reading Partnership.
“They can look for an organization that focuses on literacy and see that Family Reading Partnership does,” he added. “Because the organizations are listed in one place, it really does help people find their passions in terms of what they want to support.”
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In addition to viewing Giving is Gorges through her AFP lens as one of the co-presenters, Hudson has experienced the view from working inside local non-profits that have raised funds during the day of giving. She is director of development for Alternatives Impact, previously having been assistant director of the Tompkins County Public Foundation.
Hudson had heard of days of giving before GiveGab approached with the concept for Tompkins County, having taken part in one for her alma mater.
“I don’t pay daily attention to my alma mater, but I did that day,” she said. “So, when GiveGab started the conversation about a day of giving here, I already had experience as a donor in giving in another community, and I already knew the power of a day of giving.”

At the library foundation for the first Giving is Gorges, Hudson had the chance to see what such a day looked like from inside an organization that was participation.
“It was a really cool opportunity to see things from the other side of the table, to meet new people and garner support for my organization,” she said. “We let people know far in advance that this was an opportunity for them to not only give, but be a voice in supporting our mission.
“By engaging community members, longtime volunteers and existing donors,” Hudson added, “we were able to loudly and proudly engage a larger audience in our day-to-day work.”

The impact of the engagement can be almost as important as the financial donations received during a day of giving.
“When you’re on the inside of an organization trying to fix big problems in the world, it can feel a little lonely,” Hudson said. “So to engage during days of giving, the goodwill matters a lot.
“The financial donations matter – they really matter – because this funding allows organizations to meet their mission’s promise,” she added. “But the goodwill goes a long way for the professionals tasked with raising money for their organizations. There’s a real feeling of camaraderie, of partnership – community wide.”

There is no question that the event has a positive impact on the community.
“I think it symbolizes the involvement county residents have, and their commitment to philanthropy and volunteering,” said Ferrari. “There is a very low bar of entry. We are not talking about large gifts, we’re talking about participation, and reflecting on opportunities to engage and help non-profits start a new relationship with donors.”
“Even though a lot of non-profits or special projects might be raising money all year long, this is nice,” added Tavares. “It’s one day, and the partnership with GiveGab makes it easy to give donations to different organizations at once.”

With concern about what the future may hold for government support of non-profit organizations, the time is now to support those who work with the local community.
“I think it’s important for people in the community to know that these non-profit organizations that have always been here and do great work in our community need their support,” said Tavares. “The organizations do good work and have tried to step up their efforts to anticipate the needs of our community. There has never been a better time to focus giving efforts locally again. ”
“I also think that lots of people have concerns about what our society is going to be like, that we may be in the position of losing governmental support for services,” added Ferrari. “I think this community has a considerable amount of generosity and, when asked, people here respond,” he said. “We can be proud of that.”
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For more information about Giving is Gorges, visit