A Bustling Kickoff for #GivingTuesdayCLT

Organizers aim to raise a record $10 million for the campaign’s fourth year



#GivingTuesdayCLT campaign manager Amy Jacobs (left) and SHARE Charlotte founder Kelly Brooks prepare promotional materials for the first day of the campaign Tuesday at the SHARE offices in Cotswold.

Greg Lacour

Tuesday was the first day of this year’s #GivingTuesdayCLT, a two-week campaign to raise money and donations for 235 Charlotte-area nonprofits, and the small, second-floor SHARE Charlotte offices in Cotswold were alive just after lunch with the bustle of three women stuffing marketing materials in boxes and arranging promotional t-shirts in stacks.

The campaign’s kickoff event was Tuesday night. At the office beforehand, Kelly Brooks spoke on the phone with a friend who regretfully couldn’t make it because of an event at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. “Well, have a great time,” Brooks told him. “Wish us luck. We’re off to a great start.” The office grew warm and stuffy on a chilly day. Amy Jacobs, the campaign manager, took a break from collation of marketing swag with volunteer Melissa Hovey to zip into Brooks’ office and crack open the window. Then she beelined back out.

Brooks, 48, continued to tell me excitedly about the kickoff, at Unknown Brewery in South End. Her desktop was cluttered with stray notebooks and pens, a half-eaten quinoa salad, a can of Diet Coke, and framed inspirational slogans: “Be the Change.” “She Believed She Could. So She Did.” “Do Epic Shit.”

“The kickoff event we did last year is my favorite event that we’ve ever thrown, so tonight I’m super-excited, because it’s kind of like that event on steroids. It’s this local marketplace, so all these totally diverse local vendors are coming in to sell their local products.” Jacobs hustled back into Brooks’ office for more promotional stuff. “And then, get this, Unknown is allowing—how many breweries, Am’?”

“There’s nine total, including them,” Jacobs replied. “And one of them is a cidery!”

“Allowing eight other breweries to come into their space to do tastings of some of their brews. How cool is it that Unknown allows their competitors to come into their space, all for good?” Brooks said. “I mean, that’s what we do. We try very hard to bring this community together.”

SHARE Charlotte, which Brooks founded five years ago, has organized and run #GivingTuesdayCLT with growing success since its first year in 2014. SHARE operates as a clearinghouse and matchmaker for Charlotte-area nonprofits—444 of them, at last count—and donors. #GivingTuesdayCLT aims to support SHARE’s nonprofit partners through marketing, especially on social media, and encouraging potential donors throughout the community to give money, materials, and volunteer hours. It’s part of a global movement, begun in New York City  in 2012, that designates the Tuesday after Thanksgiving as a day of giving.

In Charlotte, the campaign raised about $800,000 its first year, $4.2 million in its second, and $7.2 million last year. SHARE’s goal this year is $10 million across its 235 nonprofit partners. Those have already arranged for charitable ventures as diverse as a citywide American Red Cross blood drive at nine YMCA of Greater Charlotte locations and Lily Pad Haven’s goal to raise nearly $40,000 to pay for one year of housing and services for a human trafficking survivor.

As worthy as those efforts are, #GivingTuesdayCLT has an unofficial, secondary goal: to lure individual nonprofits out of their corners. Brooks, one of this magazine’s 2016 Charlotteans of the Year, also took part as a panelist during our October 19 discussion of the city’s nonprofit sphere. One of the discussion’s main themes was the need for Charlotte’s charities to find more ways to work together on broad projects, and Brooks said Tuesday that she hopes #GivingTuesdayCLT can gradually bring leaders of those organizations together. “That’s really where we’re heading,” she said.

She’s getting help from people who grew tired of life in the corporate world. Hovey, who manages the campaign’s business partnerships, spent two decades in corporate marketing for Dell in her native Texas before she moved to Charlotte with her husband, who landed a job with Honeywell. Jacobs, 39, spent 15 years as a project manager for Bank of America but “just wanted to pursue a more meaningful career,” she told me. “I met Kelly at a Women’s Impact Fund event. She told me what she did. I asked her if she needed any help. She said yes, and here I am. That was two-and-a-half years ago. She sucked me in.”

Jacobs said she loves the connections she’s made to her adopted city—she’s originally from Cleveland—and the “entrepreneurial” spirit Brooks has brought to SHARE. “We call it ‘nonprofit immersion,’” she said. “We ought to call it ‘drowning.’” She laughed heartily and got back to work.

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