The holiday season is a time of giving. There’s a push to donate to local nonprofits on Giving Tuesday, and development officers pound the pavement in December to get those final, end-of-the-year tax deductible gifts. While lots of nonprofits send letters and appeals to their donor base, Jimmy Comer, principal agent and president at RBI Services and Community First, had a better idea to raise funds.
Born out of the COVID-19 pandemic, Christmas Under the Clocktower was a way to both educate the community about and raise funds for area nonprofits, as well as getting people to return to the gorgeous Main Street Station in Downtown Richmond.
“A friend of mine is the event coordinator at Main Street Station, and she was asking if I’d like to rent a space to donate to a nonprofit,” Comer said. “I got an idea. What if we invite 10 nonprofits to set-up a Christmas tree and it could become a contest to see who raises the most money?”
On top of that, RBI Services had additional incentive prizes for all participating organizations, with a little extra going to the top two fundraisers.
You see, Comer and RBI Services have a niche: working with nonprofits in the insurance space. Recruitment that first year was pretty easy, and the event was a success. Organizations came and set-up their trees, and they were given a QR code that linked directly to a donation portal.
In its inaugural year, Christmas Under the Clocktower raised $24,000. In 2021, COVID restrictions were looser, and the party got amped up a notch.
“We had an opening night event which corresponded with First Fridays, that event is at 5:45 p.m., and we timed our opening for 7 p.m.,” Comer said. “Last year, we had 19 nonprofits, and we raised around $40,000. We also had two additional prizes, one for Best Spirit of the Nonprofit and Best Representation of the Theme.”
Last year’s theme was Old Time Christmas, and the theme for 2022 is Miracle on Main Street.
There are 21 nonprofits who are signed up to battle it out for those precious end-of-year donations, and Comer is taking advantage of Richmond’s most spirited weekend for this year’s kickoff. The third annual event will kick off just after the Grand Illumination. The next day? The beloved Dominion Energy Christmas Parade.
This year you can expect to see: Build Forward Foundation, CJ’s Thumbs Up Foundation, Cobb Imprint, Dress for Success Central Virginia, Elijah’s Purpose, Equality Virginia, Fatherhood Foundation, Friends of the James River Park, Grace Home Ministries, Hanover Community Support Services, Henrico CASA, Jackson Ward Collective, Jacob’s Chance, Lend Them a Helping Hand, Live Red Foundation, OAR of Richmond, Paws 4 A Cause, Podium RVA, Positive Vibe Foundation, Safe Harbor, St. Andrews School, Troopster and Wings of Hope.
The public is welcome to attend the opening night event, Friday, Dec. 2 from 7 – 8:30 p.m. Or you can drop by Main Street Station any time to vote by donating via QR code. Donations collected between Dec. 2 and Dec. 18 will count towards the competition, but the trees will stay up and donations will be accepted through the end of the year.
To learn more, visit Christmas Under the Clocktower on Facebook.