There were many beaming smiles and shouts of cheer as representatives from 50 nonprofits were called to the stage Thursday evening to collect donations made to their groups as part the annual Great Fish Community Challenge.
During the annual awards event at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center, board members from the Whitefish Community Foundation handed out checks totaling more than $2.4 million from the fourth annual fundraiser that stretched over seven weeks this summer.
Foundation Chair Ken Wessels presented the final amount raised to a crowded room and announced that the final 2018 percentage match was 51 percent, which is 3 percent higher than the year before.
“It’s amazing what’s been accomplished with like-minded people working together to provide financial assistance to these nonprofits,” he said. “This year the community has supported the Great Fish again to make it grow and be the focus base for donations.”
Each participating charity received a match applied to the first $20,000 they raised for a total match amount of $468,931. Nonprofits that met or exceeded $20,000 received a matching grant of $10,200 from the Community Foundation. Thirty-eight of the participating nonprofits exceeded $20,000 or more and received the maximum matching grant.
The total amount raised by the nonprofits surpasses the 2017 total by more than $300,000 and for the fourth year in a row, the challenge has set a new high.
Special awards were announced at the beginning of the evening including the prestigious Great Fish Award, presented to North Valley Music School for exhibiting outstanding participation in all areas of the challenge. This award is accompanied by an additional $5,000 grant.
North Valley Music School provides lessons annually to 400 students from babies to adults through private lessons, group classes, summer camps and workshops.
Deidre Corson, executive director of NVMS, said the Great Fish Award is proudly displayed in the school’s foyer.
“We are so excited to receive the Great Fish Award and love what the Whitefish Community Foundation has created with the Great Fish Community Challenge as it has had such a positive impact on fundraising and philanthropy,” she said. “Although I was not around for the days of NVMS rummage sales and selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts on the sidewalk, I can’t say I would miss them for a second.”
She said what the Whitefish Community Foundation has created is spectacular.
“Community members are more informed of local nonprofits and their needs,”she said. “North Valley Music School is so grateful to this generous community and the strong Circle of Giving who gets behind the challenge and help support so many amazing organizations.”
Flathead Rapids Youth Soccer received the Doris Schumm Community Spirit Award and a grant of $2,500, North Valley Hospital Foundation received the Russ and Mary Jane Street Community Service Award and a grant of $2,500, and Flathead Cancer Aid received the Jean Howard Memorial Award and a grant of $5,000.
Three new awards were added to the event this year including the Biggest Catch Award to Whitefish Legacy Partners to recognize the nonprofit with the most donors, the Corporate Citizenship Award to The ZaneRay Group, and the Exceptional Volunteer Award presented to Don Bestwick who directed his special grant award to The Abbie Shelter. All three of the new awards were accompanied by a $2,500 grant directed to a nonprofit.
The Foundation added the Corporate Citizenship Award to recognize a business that is a standout in encouraging employee giving. For several years, The ZaneRay Group has been an active donor to the Great Fish by matching the gifts of their employee’s dollar for dollar.
“Not only do they match the gifts, but they match them immediately,” said Foundation President Linda Engh-Grady. “It would be exciting to see businesses seriously competing to earn this award in future years by encouraging employee giving.”
The ZaneRay Group selected Flathead Cancer Aid Services as the nonprofit recipient for their award.
A $1,000 grant was also presented to Nate Chute Foundation, the nonprofit winner of the Mic Drop Contest, for the most creative rap representing the true spirit of the Great Fish Community Challenge. Artist Eric Kanter earned a standing ovation from the crowd with his rap.
Throughout the challenge, the Community Foundation offered incentive grants to participating nonprofits totaling over $15,000. The bonus grants helped to increase the urgency of donors to give to participating nonprofits and in many cases encouraged donors to give again.
Whitefish Community Foundation organizes the annual campaign free of charge for participating nonprofits. The cost of the 2018 campaign exceeded $150,000.. The foundation with help from its sponsors covers the cost to ensure that all donations go to the charities.
For complete campaign details, visit www.whitefishcommunityfoundation.org.