In its fifth year, Amplify Austin kicks off Thursday night


Amplify Austin 2017 aims to raise $9 million for more than 700 local nonprofit.

The annual fundraising event begins at 6 p.m. Thursday and runs through 6 p.m. Friday.

Amplify Austin, the city’s annual online day of giving, will celebrate its fifth anniversary this year by aiming to raise a record $9 million for more than 700 local nonprofits. The event, produced by the nonprofit group I Live Here, I Give Here, will start at 6 p.m. Thursday and run through 6 p.m. Friday.

“You don’t have to have your name on a building to be a philanthropist,” said Celeste Flores, executive director for I Live Here, I Give Here. Amplify “is about a lot of small donations coming together for a big impact.”

The 24-hour online fundraising campaign has grown in popularity over the years, garnering more nonprofit participation and increasing donations each year. In 2016, the campaign raised more than $8.5 million for 600 Central Texas area nonprofits. This year, Amplify aims to raise an additional $1 million throughout the rest of the year by educating the public on the year-round Amplify website, which can also be used to donate for occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries.

“It’s become more of a movement,” Flores said. “We’re providing the infrastructure, but the campaign comes alive because of the work of the nonprofits.”

For organizations such as Hospice Austin, which provides end-of-life care to any person who needs it regardless of ability to pay, Amplify has helped the nonprofit change the way it connects with the community.

“What we do is so serious so much of the time,” said Melinda Marble, Hospice Austin’s communications coordinator.

Amplify, she said, has allowed the group to reach out to donors and supporters in a fun way. Each year they have watch parties and a fundraising theme like “The Wizard of Oz” or this year’s theme, “Dr. Seuss,” since the campaign coincides with the late author’s birthday.

Hospice Austin joined Amplify five years ago, said Robin Clemons, the nonprofit’s director of development, because it was an enjoyable and a less labor-intensive way to raise a lot of money. In its first year of participation, Hospice Austin raised $113,000. In 2016, it raised more than $224,000.

“We don’t turn any (patients) away,” Marble said. “We can only do that with support.”

Keeping the Amplify campaign relevant as new technologies emerge and online fundraising best practices evolve is among the challenges of the growing campaign.

Over the years, Flores said, Amplify has improved the website’s checkout process and adapted to the evolution of hand-held devices. Although Central Texans have been donating via mobile devices since its launch five years ago, in 2016 about a third of donations were made on mobile devices versus a desktop computer. And about 40 percent of donations in 2016 were made by new donors to nonprofits, Flores said.

In addition to helping further the mission of all participating groups, Amplify helps invigorate the staffers at each organization to keep pushing forward, Marble said.

At nonprofits, “there’s a lot of burnout that happens, the pay isn’t always good, and the hours are long,” Marble said. “But Amplify is like getting a big hug from the community.”

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