Article originally appeared in the Grand Island Independent

Gloomy weather didn’t keep the shine off of Go Big Give.

The giving spirit of Hall, Hamilton, Howard and Merrick counties was on full display during the 24 hours of online giving event Thursday.

More than 100 nonprofits in those counties were the beneficiaries of donations given by the public through the annual event. This was the fifth year for Go Big Give, an effort lead by the Heartland United Way and the Grand Island Community Foundation.

During the first four years a total of $1.8 million was raised, which includes last year’s record-breaking amount of about $604,000 given by 1,700 donors.

This year’s goal is $555,000 – an amount in honor of the fifth anniversary.

“We’ll be thrilled to get to that and even more thrilled if we can break our record last year,” said Cammie Benson, marketing director with the Heartland United Way.

She and others were working Tuesday morning inside the event headquarters at the Harmony Room in downtown Grand Island. An up-to-date total projected on the walls was constantly being updated. Things were looking good shortly after 10 a.m. The amount raised was 25 percent more than the same time the previous year.

The good start was aided by dollars raised through pre-Go Big Give events that were held a week before the actual event.

On Thursday, donors could either give in person at nonprofits or online. They could choose which specific nonprofit to support or give to each by selecting “support them all” on the Go Big Give website. Doing that equally distributed the donation to all the nonprofits.

The total would be available at the end of the Go Big Give 24-hour giving period. There was a total of $413,431 raised by 5 p.m. The campaign reached its goal a little after 11 p.m.

Nonprofits held various activities the day of Go Big Give and the days leading up to the event. Some included games, open houses and meals.

The Crisis Center held a “Grill and Give” cookout. Free food was served and anyone who gave a free-will donation could spin a prize wheel and be entered into a raffle.

Like other nonprofits, the Crisis Center had a goal to raise through Go Big Give. It was set at $5,500.

“All of the funds go to help us provide better services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Misty Schaecher, marketing and development coordinator.

Without Go Big Give, the organization would have to seek out grants that can only fund specific areas. The money raised Tuesday will be used where it’s most needed.

“This helps us tremendously,” Schaecher said.

It will help fill in the gaps in funding, like helping to pay for fuel for clients who needs to seek safety in another community or state, and for new pillows, blankets and food for abuse victims who stay in the two safe houses.

One of the early morning activities was at Grand Island Central Catholic where guests could grab a bite to eat and visit with Bishop Joseph Hanefeldt during “Bagels with the Bishop.” There they also could learn about the GICC Development Foundation, one of the Go Big Give nonprofits.

Foundation Executive Director Brenda Branstiter and others were on hand to talk to supporters of the school and tell them about fundraising efforts.

Money donated Thursday is going toward new doors in the school that will improve security and leasing of Chromebooks for students. Overall, the goal was to raise $50,000.

Branstiter said Go Big Give helps magnify the efforts of nonprofits. It also shows that every dollar matters when it comes to giving.

“It’s a good way to remind them that everyone can give a little and it totals up to a lot. We can do more things with everybody pitching in a little,” she said.

Benson said some nonprofits use Go Big Give to make ends meet with their general operating budget.

“I think it’s really important because there are a lot of nonprofits that use this as their main fundraiser for the year,” she said.

Benson said the purpose of the event is to grow philanthropy by increasing aware of nonprofits in the four counties.

While gaining support from the public is the main goal, the event is also a networking opportunity for the nonprofits.

“Equally as important (to fundraising) is we all come together as nonprofits. We get to know each other and know what each other do so we can better serve the public,” Schaecher said.