A Day of Giving Virtually


This twelve-hour event hopes to raise $1 million for Arkansas charities.

Illustration by Sally Nixon


The Ice Bucket Challenge that swept the nation last year and raised millions of dollars for ALS research showed just how much a good cause can benefit when the Internet gets behind it.

The Arkansas Community Foundation (ARCF) and the Arkansas Non-Profit Alliance are hoping to tap into that phenomenon next month with Arkansas Gives, a 12-hour, statewide online giving campaign set for April 2.

“There’s obviously something about an entire community coming together that resonates with donors,” said Sarah Kinser, ARCF’s communications director. “We thought it would be something Arkansans would love to get involved with, and it would be a real benefit to organizations.”

The idea behind Arkansas Gives is to challenge all Arkansans to give to their favorite charities on a single day, Kinser said. Donations to all participating organizations can be made online from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 2, 2015 at arkansasgives.org. The website will show a running tally of the amounts raised while the event is in progress. The goal for this first year is $1 million, and ARCF is providing motivation in the form of a $250,000 bonus pool, which will be split among the participating nonprofits based on how much each one raises. Additional cash prizes will be awarded to the nonprofits that raise the most money and bring in the highest number of individual donors.

More than 160 Arkansas nonprofits have signed up to participate. It’s a diverse and wide-ranging list, with organizations that focus on education, health, the homeless, children, domestic violence, disabilities, the arts, hunger, veterans and animals, among others. All are hoping to raise awareness and boost their capacity to help those they serve, and Kinser said ARCF is encouraging them to get creative as they promote their organizations and the Arkansas Gives event.

“We don’t have any illusions that we’re going to go ALS-ice-bucket-challenge viral, but we definitely know social media can be a big benefit for this thing,” Kinser said. “It might be a great opportunity to build your following. Organizations don’t have to use social media — they can be old-fashioned and phone bank it. If you want to stand outside your headquarters and wave a banner, do it. But there is something about this event that makes room for creativity. Social media will be a big part of that.”

For Soldier On Service Dogs, a six-month-old organization based in northwest Arkansas, that boost will help jumpstart an effort to train service dogs for local veterans who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries. The dogs can be life changing for vets, said Angie Pratt, president and founder of Soldier On. They’re trained to respond to their individual veteran’s particular triggers and problems, and can provide both emotional comfort and physical assistance. One of the first vets Soldier On placed a dog with recently told Platt that after just one month of having her, he has gone from taking four Xanax, a medication generally prescribed for anxiety, per day to taking none.

Donations to all participating organizations can be made online from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 2, 2015. … ARCF is providing motivation in the form of a $250,000 bonus pool …

“He was in my office the other day, and he had an emotional thing going on, and the dog got up and put her head in his lap,” Pratt said. “When he got close to crying, she literally got in his lap. In two months, these dogs are already beginning to do what they’re supposed to do.”

Unfortunately, Pratt said, the training process for service dogs is lengthy, complex and expensive, and there’s a long waiting list for veterans who could benefit from having one. That’s what inspired Pratt to start Soldier On: Her son-in-law, a Marine, was critically injured in Afghanistan in 2013 and suffers from PTSD and a traumatic brain injury. While Pratt was researching the conditions, she read about how service dogs can help veterans with both.

“That’s how I found out you can’t just go get one,” she said.

AR Kids Read, an organization that recruits and trains literacy tutors who volunteer in Little Rock and North Little Rock elementary schools, is hoping to raise money to train additional tutors as well as to buy books to give students in the schools where they work. Tutors go through training and then commit to volunteer one hour per week for 10 weeks. The difference that little amount of time can make in a child’s life is extraordinary, said Charlie Conklin, executive director of AR Kids Read.

“This child I tutored when I first started was very, very quiet and struggled at reading,” Conklin said. “After 10 weeks, the child had opened up, and the teacher said not only did she read better, but she is one of the first kids to answer questions now. They just learn confidence.”

Arts lovers will also have plenty of organizations from which to choose. Some, like The Rep, already have a high profile and an extensive fundraising network. Others, like the Hot Springs Jazz Society, operate on a smaller scale and hope to raise enough money through Arkansas Gives to take their offerings up a notch.

The jazz society, whose activities include the annual Hot Springs Jazz Festival, would love to bring bigger-name artists to the festival’s daylong, outdoor concert, said Gretchen Taylor, the society’s executive director.

The society also funds scholarships to send area high school students to summer music camp at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, which has a thriving jazz program, and a budget boost would mean more kids could go, Taylor said.

“We have a starting goal for [Arkansas Gives] of increasing contributions by $10,000,” Taylor said. “That may not sound like much, but when you look at our budget, it’s a nice jump.”

For more information and a list of participating non-profits, visit arkansasgives.org. For the April 2, 2015 event, all donations will be taken using credit or debit cards. The minimum donation is $25 per non-profit, and donors can designate up to 10 charities on a single transaction.

Donors will get a tax acknowledgment through email as soon as their donations are processed, and there will be a phone number posted on the website the day of the event for donors who run into technical problems.

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