It took Rachel Klein a little while last year to figure out exactly what ArtDog was, how it worked and what it meant for her group, the 40-member Emerald City Chorus.
It took her even longer to explain it to the rest of the choir.
But once ArtDog started – and the group of a cappella singers saw an unexpected cash infusion in its budget – it all started making sense.
It was a given that the chorus would participate again in this year’s ArtDog, short for Art Day of Giving, a 24-hour arts fundraiser organized by the Wichita Community Foundation. This year’s event will be from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. April 24.
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“It was so hard to try to convey the idea of the whole concept of the thing and get the rest of the members on board,” said Klein, the group’s public relations manager. “Nobody knew what we were doing, and the Wichita Community Foundation didn’t really know what they were doing yet, either.”
By the end of last year’s ArtDog, though, more than half a million dollars had been raised, benefiting 38 local arts organizations. Whatever they were doing, Wichita Community Foundation leaders realized, they were doing something worthwhile.
Wichita’s ArtDog got its start last year when the Knight Foundation, a Miami-based group that invests in communities where the Knight brothers once owned newspapers, including The Eagle, began studying how people give to nonprofits. Younger people, it discovered, weren’t big check writers. They prefer to give online.
The Knight Foundation encouraged the Wichita Community Foundation to organize a 24-hour period of giving, mainly online. The idea had already worked well in other cities.
“We honestly didn’t know what to expect,” said Courtney Looney, communications manager for the Wichita Community Foundation. “But we were shocked by the support, and we’re even more blown away by the fact that this year, people are excited about the event. They’re expecting it.”
It’s free for arts organizations to participate in ArtDog. After they prove their nonprofit status and fill out an application, they’re in. The groups are encouraged to organize events to tie into ArtDog, and they’re asked to heavily promote their events to their patrons online. (Most are happening Friday, though a few organizations’ events are scheduled for Saturday.)
Last year, the Emerald City Chorus took the title literally, flipped it around, and planned an event centered around dog art. The ladies had their pet pooches tromp through paint and then onto canvases to create canine masterpieces that they displayed and sold as part of their ArtDog event. They’re doing the same thing this year, but they’ll sell a few of the paintings and also plan to auction off some human-created pieces.
This year, participation has increased to 55 art groups, Looney said. The groups try during the designated 24-hour period to raise money, and the fundraisers in different categories will get a cash prize from the ArtDog “bonus pool” that includes $25,000 raised by the Wichita Community Foundation, another $25,000 donated by Spirit AeroSystems, and money donated from several other local businesses and individuals. Last year, ArtDog gave out an extra $65,000 above what the groups raised. The Community Foundation also will give out “Golden Ticket” prizes, which are $1,000 cash bonuses for randomly chosen groups.
The top performing groups that got additional ArtDog money last year were Wichita Community Theatre in the small organization category, the Kansas Aviation Museum in the medium-sized organization category and Wichita Grand Opera in the large organization category.
Online donations are the centerpiece of the event, but groups also can count checks written or cash donated on site during the 24-hour giving period.
The Wichita Community Foundation made a few changes from last year, most notably creating its own online donating platform. Participants and organizers both were dissatisfied with the way last year’s platform operated, so the foundation hired out a locally produced site that worked how the foundation wanted it to, Looney said.
The site, http://ictartdog.org, lists all the events the different groups are putting on. It’ll be updated in real time so that when events end, they’re removed from the list. The site will also allow online donors to give to as many different organizations they want in one transaction.
Although raising money is the focus of the event, several of last year’s participating organizations said that the opportunity to raise awareness about what they do was just as valuable.
The Museum of World Treasures didn’t raise a huge amount of money, but it did win one of the ArtDog $1,000 golden tickets, which went directly into the operating budget, said Rachel Stanley, the museum’s marketing and development director. This year, the group is offering one of its popular murder mystery parties as its ArtDog event.
“We don’t otherwise have an online platform, so this was an opportunity for us to do an online donation push,” Stanley said. “And it just kind of created awareness in general of the cultural community in Wichita. That’s what we enjoyed most about it. They were putting all this effort into promoting and supporting the arts as a whole, which we think is beneficial for everybody.”
The event also provided Klein and her Emerald City sisters a crash-course education in social media, which they’ve used since to promote the chorus.
This year, Klein didn’t have trouble convincing anyone that ArtDog was a worthy endeavor.
“Everybody is on board now,” she said. “We’re getting our name out there. And we’re a fairly new group, so every way we can get it out there, we appreciate it.”
If you go
What: A 24-hour online giving drive organized by Wichita Community Foundation that includes a schedule of events put on by local art groups
When: Giving lasts from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. April 24. Most events also are scheduled for Friday.
Where: Fifty-five arts organizations are participating. To donate or learn about their events, visit www.ictartdog.org.
ArtDog by the numbers
A few numerical results from last year’s inaugural ArtDog event:
Money donated: $548,372
Website visits: 12,496
Organizations participating: 38
Online donations: 764
Source: Wichita Community Foundation