Nick Kor was still giddy Tuesday afternoon. You could hear it in his voice.
“To me, the lesson of this is just how powerful a small organization can actually be, and what happens when there are dedicated people, dedicated leaders, passionate people who really care about the organization and really step up and take ownership,” said Kor. “Amazing things can happen.”
And how. Kor is the board chair for the 8–year-old St. Paul-based SOY (Shadesofyellow.org), the first and only Hmong Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer (LGBTQ) nonprofit organization in the world. Last Thursday, nonprofit groups from around the United States geared up for Give OUT Day, the second annual national day of fundraising for LGBTQ organizations and programs.
“SOY hasn’t done a lot of fundraising in the past, and this year we decided to participate in Give OUT Day and put a lot of effort in getting the word out via social media,” said Kor.
Modeled after Give to the Max Day, Give OUT Day awards cash prizes to the top three finishers in each state, so Kor and his cohorts hit the phones hard Thursday. When the funding software Razoo crashed, as it did in November on Give to the Max Day, Give OUT Day was extended to 11 p.m. on Friday.
“On Thursday, we were in fourth or fifth place the entire day – and then the site crashed,” said Kor. “So on Friday, it was kind of slow, we were still going back and forth between fourth and fifth place. That night we had an event called Soy Stories that we do every month, bringing people together and sharing our stories about being LGBT and Asian-American in Minnesota and the community at our office on University Avenue in St. Paul.
“One of the folks that shared her story was Joann [Vue]. She’s one of the board members at SOY, and she shared her story about coming out to her parents; she came out later in life and to her kids and family and she talked about how that has been and how SOY has really been a place she could call home and be her full self as a Hmong and LGBTQ person.
“After the event was over, we were talking and we were excited that we were in fourth place, and then we realized we were 30 donors away from reaching third place. So we decided, ‘OK, all of us essentially need to get three more people to donate.’ So it was literally like, ‘OK, let’s do it!’ We jumped on the phones and we were all calling our friends and family members, and in the last two hours we got about 40 new donors. It was just amazing.”
In the end, SOY beat out several nonprofit Goliaths, raising $4,300 with 212 donors and taking third place in Minnesota (16th nationally), which fetched the coveted $3,000 kicker. Tack on the $250 “golden ticket” awarded by Give OUT and SOY’s grand total haul was $7,602. Not bad for an organization whose main competition was Outfront.org, the oldest LGBTQ organization in the state.
“It’s always tough when you’re going against an organization that you also support,” said Kor, who noted that the new funds will go toward paying SOY’s one part-time staff member and future programming. “We support Outfront and Outfront supports us, and that’s the difficult thing – seeing us have to fight for the money. But people did feel really proud. Outfront is a really large organization compared to us, and we felt proud we were able to accomplish something so huge.”