McHenry nonprofit Pioneer Center joins holiday fundraising campaign

McHENRY – Pioneer Center for Human Services is joining a holiday fundraising competition and hoping to raise $150,000 to support developmental disability, behavioral health and homeless service programs.

The center is joining the Newman’s Own Foundation $500K Holiday Challenge, a fundraising competition that launched Nov. 21 on CrowdRise, a crowdfunding website.

The campaign is made for U.S.-based 501(c)3 charities. Participating organizations compete for $500,000 in prize money, according to a news release from Pioneer Center.

“We haven’t done a lot of email or social media-type fundraising, so this is a wonderful opportunity for us to start in a more concentrated way and move the needle on this,” said Amy Hernon, director of development for Pioneer Center. “The way people give now is through online giving, and it’ll allow us to reach such a broader audience through our Facebook contacts.”

Funds will be used to support the center’s 15 group homes for individuals with developmental disabilities, mental illnesses and autism, as well as the organization’s two PADS shelters for the homeless.

Pioneer Center serves more than 4,500 people in McHenry County annually and relies on private contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations to support its three service areas.

The center has a $12 million annual budget and receives $1 million from private donors. Hernon said she hopes to see 20 percent of the future budget funded by donors after building a base of larger $5 and $20 donors.

“We need more private contributions because this is not the time where we can rely on funding or reimbursements from the state,” Hernon said.

She said she knows the center needs to capitalize on Giving Tuesday, and online campaigning is a cheaper way. The center previously used to send things through mail and had to pay mailing lists.

Newman’s Own Foundation has donated close to $500 million to charitable organizations since it was founded
35 years ago, according to its website. To celebrate, the foundation gave another $500,000 to help charities in the Holiday Challenge supersize their campaigns.

Each charity had to apply to join the campaign. Hernon said that even if Pioneer Center doesn’t win the challenge, it’s a great way to spread awareness, and the center is honored to be included.

The challenge goes until Jan. 3, and 10 grand prizes are available for the charities that raise the most money.

Donations to Pioneer Center can be made online at www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/pioneer-center-for-human-services2.

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