VACF places third in contest encouraging online donations

The Vermillion Area Community Foundation (VACF) finished third in a statewide fundraising contest geared toward encouraging the use of online donation.

From Jan. 1 to June 30, the VACF raised approximately $7,500 via its Web site, resulting in a $500 gift from the South Dakota Community Foundation (SDCF).

Huron placed first, raising $16,570, followed by Britton with $12,402. The communities received $1,500 and $1,000, respectively.

Community foundations throughout the state raised more than $40,000 overall.

�We were pleased,� said Ted Muenster, chairman of the board of the VACF. �It�s not a huge amount of money, but I think it shows a level of community spirit here that�s encouraging.�

The prize money will go into an endowed fund called the Community Savings Account. Each community foundation has its own account.

�It�ll go to help build the principle, and then the South Dakota Community Foundation allocates earnings every year from the principle to what�s called the spendable account, and then the local board will determine where the money is spent locally,� Muenster explained.

Among the local tax-exempt projects and groups the VACF has put money toward is the clock that was placed in Ratingen Platz, the Vermillion Community Theatre and the Vermillion Fire Department.

Noel Hamiel, community savings account coordinator for the SDCF, said the contest was a good way to draw attention to both the community foundations themselves and to the process of online donation.

�Historically, donations have been given by check, cash or fundraisers, and those things still exist, but the online donation is yet another way that people can give back to their community,� he said. �So, we just encouraged the local foundations from across the state to publicize it in their local papers, to try to get out the word that donors could use (the Internet) to contribute.�

Muenster said the VACF helped to promote the contest through public notices, word of mouth and correspondence.

�We wrote personal letters to the number of people who contributed to the Vermillion Area Community Foundation in the past suggesting they make their 2011 contribution via the Internet � and apparently they responded fairly well,� he said.

Hamiel agreed, saying Vermillion was a �great participant.�

�Vermillion was in the top three. They can be proud of that,� he said.

That all of the contributions were taken online showed there was no distinction in regard to the size of the community and what they could contribute, Muenster said.

�Britton, for example, finished second and it�s a much smaller town than Huron and smaller than Vermillion,� he said. �So every community was on equal footing.�

There currently are 65 community foundations across the state that have endowed funds with the SDCF, Hamiel said. About 22 of these communities have their own web sites.

�We set those web sites up at no charge for the communities,� Hamiel said. �We maintain them, we update them with information provided by the local foundations. And this year, we added the ability to donate.�

Another contest utilizing that web feature could happen in the future, he added.

�I had a number of foundations that probably would have liked to have competed, but for whatever reason just weren�t able to get it organized or launched,� he said.

The SDCF was established in 1987 by late Gov. George S. Mickelson.

�Its objective is to improve the quality of life in South Dakota by issuing nearly half a million dollars a year in grants to the state of South Dakota,� Hamiel said. �The community foundations are increasingly important to the towns across South Dakota � especially the smaller towns � and so, if we can figure out a way to help those foundations grow, that�s what we try to do.�

If another contest is held, Muenster said the VACF definitely would take part.

�I�m very proud that the community stepped up and responded, and I think we should be proud of ourselves for succeeding,� he said. �We�re a fairly new organization. We�ve only been around about 10 years. We�re still in the process of creating greater awareness in the community.�

For more information about the VACF, visit http://vermillion.sdcommunityfoundation.org/.

For the SDCF, visit http://www.sdcommunityfoundation.org/.

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