For the first time, Gainesville’s Pride Community Center of North Central Florida launched online fundraising to offset event and maintenances costs as well as annual taxes costs. After raising $4,490 online and $1,500 in private donations, the center will continue to operate as normal and will host Pride Days 2016 in October as scheduled.
Terry Fleming, the co-president of the center, had to move the annual Pride Days event after holding it at the under-construction Bo Diddley Community Plaza for more than 16 years.
Fleming anticipated extra staging, lighting and event equipment rental fees at the 2015 Pride Days, held outside the Alachua County Administration Building on Oct. 24.
But he didn’t expect unforeseen maintenance costs totaling more than $3,000 at the LGBT resource center earlier that same month. Combined with annual property taxes of $6,296, Fleming knew he had to do something new to come up with funds, he said.
“It’s always a challenge to raise funds for a nonprofit, especially for a community center that keeps its doors open 365 days a year,” said Fleming, who is part of an uncompensated board of directors that largely relies on memberships and LGBTQ+ community support to meet day-to-day costs.
So Fleming turned to GoFundMe with a goal of $11,900 to cover all unusual event costs, unexpected repairs and to aid in paying annual property tax fees. It’s the first time the center has turned online to raise funds, he said.
“We absolutely need the community to pitch in or we won’t be able to provide services and put on events in 2016,” Fleming wrote on the Pride Community Center’s Facebook page.
About 50 people raised more than $4,000 since late July, and with about $1,500 from private donations, he said, the Pride Center will remain open and operate normally into the next calendar year.
Jeanna Mastrodicasa, a Gainesville resident since 1997 and a staunch supporter of the center, saw the online fundraiser and was pleasantly surprised to see the organization change its way of rallying community support.
“There’s a distinct generational difference in who gives online and who writes a check,” said Mastrodicasa, who has been on the center’s mailing list and is a past Pride Days honoree. “Young people who don’t have checks, how can they give? You must do both traditional fundraising as well as online crowdsourcing to reach both kinds of people.”
Mastrodicasa, and the more than 50 people who contributed to the center’s GoFundMe, are part of a larger trend of donors who are turning to online fundraising. According to a Pew Research Center 2012 study, one in five American adults have contributed to online fundraisers and one in ten have contributed to fundraisers via text messaging.
A key finding in the study found that while online fundraising is largely shared on social media, social encouragement is the key to contributing to fundraisers, including encouragement through text message, direct interaction on a social networking sites and via email.
Knowing ticketed events put on by the Pride Center throughout the year and during Pride Days weren’t enough to cover the outstanding expenses, Fleming began fundraising mid-summer.
“We do a lot of different events throughout the year and we have some ticketed events,” said Fleming, mentioning a community awards dinner that charged $45 per head for admission. “But that’s not a fundraiser; that’s what it actually costs for us to put on the event. When we calculated after that event, actually, we lost $137 approximately after paying all expenses.”
Fleming said the center would consider the broader online fundraising method again in the future. The GoFundMe, while not meeting its goal entirely, will help the center to operate into next year.
The center is considering not purchasing a new air conditioning compressor to maximize the funds raised so far. Otherwise, Fleming is happy with the move to online fundraising.
“We’ll be close enough to cover all of our expenses, which is very exciting, since it’s always scary to face unexpected costs as a nonprofit.”