Today's Paper Latest stories Most commented Traffic Weather Obits Newsletters Puzzles + Games
story.lead_photo.caption Heather Larkin, center, speaks to Brooke Ivy of the Museum of Discovery at the Arkansas Community Foundation press conference announcing its first Arkansas Gives Day slated for April 2, 2015. - Photo by Bobby Ampezzan

For a while the foundation folks at CHI St. Vincent -- or maybe the event planners? -- were sotto voce about the big "IV" party's location. Since its debut atop the parking deck at St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center nine years ago, location -- or the transformation thereof -- has always been a big part of its serendipity. Event planner Todd Bagwell temporarily carpeted the oil-stained concrete in a bright pink shag, and socialites still applaud the bathrooms (they were so not-rooftop).

Photo by Special to the Democrat-Gazette
Amanda Laboy is executive director of A-Camp, Inc., a summer day camp for children with autism.

Well, on Saturday it will move to the Dreamland Ballroom, 800 W. Ninth St. downtown.

For benefactors, the party starts at 6:30 p.m. Who's a benefactor? Anybody! Anybody plus $500. Doors open for main event ticketholders -- that's anybody plus $175 -- at 8.

What do benefactors get? Just early admission, face time with executives and doctors, high-end hors d'oeuvres and drinks prepared by Cache. Will all that disappear at 8? Not exactly. Will it be the same? Not exactly.

This particular fundraising is earmarked for the hospital's Nursing Excellence program; chiefly, scholarships for nurses to pursue advanced degrees and the hospital's Simulation Lab (think lifelike dummies that can "code").

All partygoers can expect "an innovative high-tech entertainment experience," says the foundation. Actually, they can expect D.J. Dojah from San Francisco, who reportedly played Mark Zuckerberg's wedding, so he knows what we'll like before we do.

To find out more or to buy tickets, go to, or call (501) 552-2380.


That's the rest of my column, in a word. And here's a qualifying word for that word -- whoa!

On April 2, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., a great rush of charitable donations laid siege to the Arkansas Community Foundation's dedicated ArkansasGives website. Nearly 10,000 individual donations came in, according to the community foundation. Together, they amounted to about $2 million.

Now, here's another word for the mix -- gamification. That's a neologism for the way game theory can be applied to behavior. FitBits and self-improvement apps like Woop are all about gamification. When mothers say to their tykes, "I'll bet you can't eat your breakfast before the coffee pot stops brewing," that's gamification. There's no reward -- if there were, we would call it "competition," or perhaps "gambling."

During ArkansasGives, the website continually updated the fundraising totals. There were two Top Ten leader boards (for Small and for Large nonprofits) so that (hopefully) your contribution would show a measurable impact on the "race." This is gamification. You yourself aren't rewarded, but, then, aren't you? Kind of?

To improve metrics, the community foundation, and separately, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, offered matching grants to particularly high performers (first-place finishers in particular categories) and then to those who met certain thresholds. (I don't know if this is "gamification" so much as straightforward "incentive.")

Consider the "winner" -- did anybody, after all, lose? -- in the Small Nonprofit category, A-Camp Inc., out of Little Rock. The summer day-camp for children with autism and their families raised nearly $34,000, but got another $5,000 for winning the Smallest Nonprofit category race, another $5,000 for having the most donors in that category, then, because the community foundation itself put up $250,000 to be distributed proportionally over all the nonprofits who participated, the initial $34,000 earned roughly 1.7 percent of the quarter-million pot -- $4,315.

"It turned out that April 2 [ArkansasGives Day] was also Worldwide Autism Awareness Day," says Sarah Kinser of the community foundation. "They did a great job of capitalizing on that coincidence."

Guys, this is a charity whose annual operating budget doesn't tip $100,000. Its previous biggest fundraiser was called Butt for Bucks -- that's smoked pork butt for $40. It raised $10,000-$15,000.

I don't have the space to go into all the digital and nondigital efforts director Amanda Laboy did to spread contagion. Sometime late in the afternoon the nonprofit's haul jumped more than $10,000. Something happened. But lest you think some angel donor splashed the pot, remember that A-Camp also came in first in donors.

When that happened, when they suddenly burst into first with three hours to go, "we literally took to the phones, texting, email, Facebook, Twitter -- we rallied the autism community and our A-Camp families, and we just pulled ahead and I don't think we ever looked back."

I'm inclined to think part of ArkansasGives' success can be explained by gamification. One executive emailed community foundation director Heather Larkin with "The real-time giving info is just amazing and FUN!" Larkin's more inclined to point to social contagion theory, where you want to do what others in your cohort, or mob, are doing, but bigger than that even is that charities simply asked.

"Three or so nonprofits were in the running for the top prizes and reached out to donors in a spirit of 'we can win this thing,' [but] by far the large majority of participants were never in the running for a prize and didn't have any aspirations to be so. They used ArkansasGives Day as a reason to reach out to donors and ... ask."

This parallels something Paul Leopoulos told me a few days ago, something I never would have considered. Leopoulos is the founder of the Thea Foundation, an arts education nonprofit that has quite a presence in these parts (and a beautiful storefront on Main Street in North Little Rock). He said the day gave nonprofits like Thea some cover to more aggressively go to the public for charity.

He said development, which is the industry's euphemism for donation wrangling, doesn't come naturally to him. Sure, he believes in his mission, but a bunch of strangers kicking in for it? Oh, gosh, he really hates to trouble people, "but whenever there's a little bit of cover, it makes me more confident asking."

There's a common belief that charities are fighting for limited donor dollars. It's a notion I happen to subscribe to myself. But the ArkansasGives paradigm turns that on its ear, and it mirrors the labor movement. In effect, instead of individual charities vying for a limited number of donations, unite, and demand a higher level of giving from stakeholders!

Hold on, was I not supposed to yoke charity and labor? Eesh.

Write me,

High Profile on 04/19/2015

Print Headline: IV Party to give hospital a transfusion of support

Sponsor Content


You must be signed in to post comments