Charlotte Jones believes we can lift our spirits in this time of dread by showing gratitude to nonprofit warriors dealing with the ravages of COVID-19.
That’s why the Dallas Cowboys’ vice president and chief brand officer has teamed up with the Communities Foundation of Texas and the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas for this week’s all-out giving blitz, North Texas Giving Tuesday Now.
For Jones, this marathon day of online goodwill is as much about raising hope and fostering unity as it is about raising money.
“The need for our charitable organizations around our community is more than doubling. The resources are just not there. The people who normally help can’t help as much as they could before because they have their own problems,” Jones says.
“We’re going to get to the other side, but we’re trying to provide hope until we get there. We need a sense of people coming together, while acknowledging the challenges and figuring out how to make progress in it.”
Using the Communities Foundation’s platform, NorthTexasGivingTuesdayNow.org, you can go online and donate any amount of money or time to any of the 3,000 nonprofits that participated in September’s North Texas Giving Day. The website has been taking early gifts, but the official hours are Tuesday from 6 a.m. to midnight.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott took a moment out of his pregame warm-up routine last season to welcome youngsters from the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Youth Education Town at The Salvation Army Arlington to AT&T Stadium.(Courtesy Dallas Cowboys)
This local grass-roots effort is part of a worldwide effort. New York-based GivingTuesday is holding its first spring campaign on Tuesday for global pandemic relief and recovery.
As soon as the crisis began to unfold, the Cowboys instantly went into help mode.
“Our guys, our team and organization were out doing all kinds of things,” Jones says. “It was an immediate response. Zeke [Elliott] did clothing benefits for the [North Texas] Food Bank. Sean and Megan Lee did something like 50,000 meals for the Boys & Girls Club. DeMarcus Lawrence was out raising money for gift cards for small businesses. Everybody was all over the place doing great things, which is wonderful.
“But we wanted to harness all of this great energy and encouragement, and have a big umbrella where everybody could come together and help all of these different foundations and institutions that are trying to do the best work that they can in this time of crisis. This creates that umbrella.”
She also worries about the political and economic polarization gripping the nation.
“Our country desperately needs something to unite people,” Jones says. “This is a moment for everybody to slow down and be grateful for those in our community who make our community happen — the garbage man, the health care worker, the teacher and so many people we usually take for granted. Everybody wants to help. Here’s a way.
“I hope this will be a silver lining in an otherwise very dark situation.”
D/FW’s giving heart
North Texas Giving Tuesday Now was organized by some of our local big thinkers who know how to pull in dough. The name — admittedly a mouthful — is a mashup of the Communities Foundation’s North Texas Giving Day and United Way’s Giving Tuesday DFW.
Giving Day originated here in 2009, when the Communities Foundation opened its platform to area nonprofits so that they could run individual fundraisers.
That first North Texas Giving Day raised $4 million in 18 hours and caught the attention of the world.
Last year, the day inspired more than 100,000 donors to give $50 million to 3,000 nonprofits in 21 North Texas counties in 18 hours. Giving Day is the largest one-day citywide giving event in the world.
Five years ago, under the leadership of Jennifer Sampson, Dallas became the first United Way to join forces with GivingTuesday, the global day of philanthropy intended to make up for Cyber Monday’s shopping gluttony.
As Asha Curran, CEO and co-founder of GivingTuesday, puts it: “Jennifer is very much driven by the ‘Go fast alone. Go faster together’ mentality.”
And America’s Team is the marquee benefactor of the Salvation Army with blowout showmanship on Thanksgiving Day and other Cowboys home games. Then rookie Elliott turned the world a-Twitter in 2016 when he jumped into an oversized kettle at AT&T Stadium after rushing for a touchdown. His antics created a massive spike in donations.
This is not the first time that Jones, Sampson and Dave Scullin, CEO of the Communities Foundation, have locked arms.
The Communities Foundation, United Way and the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Foundation are founding organizations of North Texas Cares, a consortium formed in March to raise support for front-line organizations involved in protecting, feeding, educating and nurturing those most hurt by the coronavirus.
The trio came together to make this latest collaboration happen in a matter of days.
Scullin wanted a way to immediately deploy the Communities Foundation’s Giving Day platform, technology know-how and extensive North Texas nonprofit network. “I’m inspired by how our staff seized the opportunity,” he says.
Meanwhile, Jones and Sampson had been kicking around ideas to kick-start an emergency response to the plight of local nonprofits.They weren’t quite sure how they could pull it off until Curran called Sampson to see whether Dallas wanted to be a part of GivingTuesday’s global mobilization.
Of course they did.
“But Charlotte and I knew we needed CFT because they’re the experts in this,” Sampson says. “I called Dave on a Friday and by Sunday it was thumbs-up and we had a press release that went out that Tuesday.
“We went from idea to execution in six days.”
Anita Martinez Ballet Folklorico performed at NorthPark Center on North Texas Giving Day in 2019.(Kim Leeson)
Jones says it just proves what can happen when people cut to the chase.
“Normally projects like this take months of thought, organization, creation, technical support and all that,” she says. “But everybody just dropped their normal protocol and everything that they were doing to make it happen.”
Scullin says everyone understood it was a matter of here and now.
“Think about the muscle that United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and the Dallas Cowboys separately bring combined with the muscle of the Communities Foundation of Texas with our 3,000 nonprofits already loaded into the system. To be able to put all of that together and touch all aspects of this community is something truly remarkable.”
Curran hasn’t seen anything quite like this alacrity anywhere.
“This collaboration for Giving Tuesday Now is a game-changer, right?” she says. “It’s unique and groundbreaking. We didn’t give the world much notice for Giving Tuesday Now. We announced it five weeks out. So to pull together this kind of mega collaboration in this time frame is extraordinary.”
Much more than money
Sampson hopes to raise funds for United Way’s pandemic relief fund, introduce United Way to the uninitiated and celebrate the resilience of the nonprofit and social service sector. “It’s about virtual volunteerism, acts of kindness and celebrating community heroes,” she says.
Jones used her marketing prowess to produce a high-impact video that promotes the day by showing the human connections the Cowboys are making.
In addition to the Salvation Army, she says the Cowboys are trying to raise visibility and funds for the North Texas Food Bank, the Baylor Scott & White-Dallas Foundation, Café Momentum and GetShiftDone.
Jones admires how many nonprofits have shifted formation to deal with the crisis. The Salvation Army, as an example, has gone from feeding the needy via a buffet line to distributing boxes of food to families for the Food Bank.
“All of these organizations have done such a great job of pivoting like that but still within their central area of focus.”
Major Barbara Rich, who heads the North Texas Command along with her husband, Jon, says curbside pickup and home delivery are two of the things done to keep the Salvation Army’s assistance going. Their territory is the five county of Dallas, Tarrant, Collin, Denton, and Ellis Counties and oversight includes 30 Salvation Army officers, more than 400 staff members, and a budget of $41 million.
“This is the highest demand I’ve witnessed in my three decades with the Army,” Barbara Rich says. “At the same time, we’re experiencing disruptions to our revenue streams — thrift store closures, canceled events and uncertainty in government.”
She says there are also added sanitization costs to protect the health of its staff and the 1,300 people being sheltered 24/7 at its facilities.
“We anticipate that Giving Tuesday Now will make a huge difference in the number of people we’re able to offer assistance to,” she says. “We are trying to make wise decisions with the money that is entrusted to us to make it go as far as it can because we know we’re going to be needed not just for the short term but for the long haul.”
On a lighter note, Jones says she doubts there’s ever been more appreciation for teachers than now when homes have become our classrooms. ”There are more funny memes and videos of parents trying to figure out how to teach and, ‘Do I really have to admit that I’m not as smart as my fifth-grader?’ ”
Scullin is a goals guy, but he has no idea how to set one for this campaign. “We don’t know what to compare it to, because we’ve never done an event like this in the spring or one this quickly.”
But he would like to match the 100,000 people who gave last September, even if they can only give five or 10 bucks.
“We’re going to shout from the highest point in the region to everybody to please participate in this, because it’s about way more than money. It’s about community resilience, hope, compassion, helping your neighbor,” he says. “All of the things that we love about this community are at stake right now. The pain across the community is significant, and it’s not going to dissipate soon.”
North Texas Giving Tuesday Now
What it is: A special emergency day of giving to raise funds and volunteer hours for area philanthropies dealing with the COVID-19 calamity.
When: Early giving is open now through Monday. The official campaign is Tuesday from 6 a.m. to midnight.
What nonprofits can participate: Any nonprofit that participated in North Texas Giving Day 2019 and is in good standing with the IRS. Registration fees have been waived for this campaign.
Who can give: Anyone in any amount.
To find a nonprofit, go to northtexasgivingday.org/nonprofits
To find virtual volunteer opportunities, go to northtexasgivingday.org/givingtuesdaynowvolunteer
To see how much has been raised for how many organizations or how many volunteer hours have been pledged, check out the ticker at northtexasgivingday.org/index.php
SOURCE: Communities Foundation of Texas
Texas Instruments employees volunteered at Boys & Girls Club in Richardson for #GivingTuesdayDFW in 2018.(United Way Metropolitan Dallas)