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Big Payback’s impact determined despite difficulties with website

Staff Reports • Updated May 27, 2016 at 4:30 PM

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee spent weeks analyzing the results of donations from this year’s Big Payback event and finally determined the payoff after website crashes caused a myriad of problems during the early May nonprofit donation event. 

The Big Payback for 2016 was originally supposed to be a 24-hour online giving campaign for donors anywhere to give for 770 participating nonprofits in the Middle Tennessee area, but the vendor-based website being used for the donations, Kimbia, crashed about nine hours into the event. 

Nonprofits participating in the giving campaign were encouraged to continue to accept and raise funds by other means until May 5. 

“I humbly and gratefully express my sincerest gratitude to the thousands of donors who stuck with us for hours, trying time and time again to make a gift on TheBigPayback.org before shifting to other options,” said Ellen Lehman, president of the Community Foundation.

After the donations were officially closed the Community Foundation spent weeks doing what Lehman called “forensic accounting,” including refunding $28,000 to donors due to a processing issue that turned several $25 gifts into $500 gifts. 

Results were finally tallied to reveal that the 2016 Big Payback event raised more than $2.61 million for the participating nonprofits through 11,270 donations. 

In its first year, 2014, the event raised $1.49 million through 11,661 gifts.

In 2015, the event’s more than $2.6 million total came through 21,735 gifts, which included a $97,000 gift from an anonymous donor that covered all credit card fees.

The third annual event was well on its way to surpassing 2015’s $2.64 million total in Middle Tennessee before the national vendor-based giving website crashed mid-morning. About $15,000 were raised in the first 12 minutes, and by the time the website crashed around 8 a.m., the giving numbers had surpassed those at 8 a.m. in 2015’s campaign by about $57,000. 

“We’ve learned that in Middle Tennessee, down doesn’t mean out,” Lehman said. “On our shared giving day, this community rallied once again, making a crisis into a success.”

The Big Payback began first as a tool for teaching local nonprofits new communication and donor engagement tools, second as a way to help donors understand the life-changing work done by these local organizations, and third as an event designed to increase philanthropy in Wilson and 39 other counties served by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

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