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This image was part of the St. Lawrence Arts Council's Adirondack Gives campaign to raise money for a new pottery wheel.  Photo:  SLC Arts/Renee Stauffer
This image was part of the St. Lawrence Arts Council's Adirondack Gives campaign to raise money for a new pottery wheel. Photo: SLC Arts/Renee Stauffer

How one Adirondack organization is crowdfunding local nonprofits

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Nonprofit groups are a big part of the North Country's economy, helping with everything from social service and health needs to job training, arts and education. But fundraising is often a huge bottleneck, as organizations scramble to find new donors.

Now, Adirondack Foundation, a community organization that serves the Adirondack region, has started a new crowdfunding website. Adirondack Gives is designed to help nonprofits in our region connect with people who can give even small amounts.

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Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

In his office at the foundation, Chris Morris sits at his computer scrolling through what looks sort of like a wish list catalogue of cool little projects – a photo exhibit for loons, new microphones for a local theater. He points out campaigns based on educational projects, and "there's environment, there's human well-being, community vitality and culture."

Adirondack Foundation – which used to be called the Adirondack Community Trust – is headquartered just outside Lake Placid. Since 1997, the group has channeled donations to programs across the North Country. But last year, Morris says, the foundation decided to build a new crowdfunding model, aimed at pulling in more grassroots donations.

"We've seen a lot of $5, $10, $15 dollar donations on this site," he says.

"I would say about 75 percent of the donations came from people who've never given to our organization before."
Rebecca Wilkins-Pepiton is executive director St. Lawrence County Arts Council based in Potsdam. She says this kind of philanthropy is a good fit for small, specific projects. "Our ask was for $650 to purchase a new potter's wheel," she says, noting that their Adirondack Gives campaign surpassed its goal.

Wilkins-Pepiton says she thinks the Adirondack Gives website does open the door to people who might not have otherwise been able to donate. "I would say about 75 percent of the donations came from people who've never given to our organization before." She says it's an exciting trend.

Chris Morris, with the Adirondack Foundation, says his organization has made it relatively easy for nonprofit groups to start an on-line fundraising campaign. This kind of crowdfunding won't supply a group's full budget, he says, but it can fill in gaps.

The Adirondack Gives site does resemble other crowdfunding models, like Kickstarter. But the focus is more specific to the region and it's designed to be far easier for groups to launch these mini-campaigns.

John Sheehan, with the Adirondack Council, says his group was able to raise more than $500 quickly to help fund a conservation mapping program.

"When we have a special need that pops up in the middle of the year, this is an opportunity to bring it to people's attention and have a relatively quick and inexpensive campaign to make it happen," he said.

Adirondack Foundation's Chris Morris says part of the strategy here is to draw investment from outside the region, by offering a website that attracts at least some donors who care about the Adirondack North Country but don't live here full time.

"We've developed a site that capitalizes on the fact that people love the Adirondacks and love the North Country."

Morris says nonprofits across the North Country seem eager to test drive the new crowdfunding concept, with new fundraising campaigns launching every week.

Adirondack Gives is only available to federally-recognized nonprofits or groups affiliated with a nonprofit. Morris says anyone applying to start a campaign will get feedback about their proposal within a few days.

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