The Big Payback’s 4th Annual Giving Day Raises Nearly $2.6M for Middle Tennessee Nonprofits 

News Release  5/4/2017

The Big Payback once again proved a difference maker for hundreds of area nonprofits Wednesday, raising nearly $2.6 million during the fourth annual 24-hour online giving challenge.

The preliminary closing amount of $2,598,701 came from 20,695 total gifts.

This year a record total of 781 Middle Tennessee nonprofits, including religious institutions and schools, participated in The Big Payback, an initiative of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

The event has raised more than $9.3 million — $9,337,591.97 to be exact — for area nonprofits over its four-year history.

“We have seen time and time again what amazing things can happen when nonprofits put their minds to it,” said Ellen Lehman, president of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. “This community owes a great debt of gratitude to our local nonprofits for the life-changing, life-enhancing, and life-affirming work they do. They make a difference and have an impact each and every day, and so should we all.”

From midnight Wednesday to the stroke of midnight Thursday, donors were able to view and select from participating organizations listed at based on location and focus area, and they could support multiple organizations and make gifts of any size, from $10 and up.

Gifts from the public were boosted with funds from sponsors of The Big Payback, and nonprofits vied for financial incentives, bonus donations, and prizes totaling more than $240,000.

This year’s event had 112 organizations from 14 counties who participated in The Big Payback for the first time. Issue impact areas included human services, education, animals, community improvement, youth development, health, housing and shelter, arts and culture, and the environment.

Howenwald-based The Elephant Sanctuary led all organizations with $125,913, from 1,611 unique donors, followed by Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary ($76,250 from 1,576 unique donors), Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition ($19,790 from 492), Proverbs 12:10 Animal Rescue ($54,499 from 439), and Global Sanctuary for Elephants ($25,916 from 361).

Rounding out the top 10 fund-raising organizations were Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee ($36,758 from 300), Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee ($12,712 from 218), Rest Stop Ministries ($9,485 from 181), Alive Hospice ($13,049 from 178), and Nashville Children’s Theatre ($20,200 from 168).

Complete nonprofit results can be found at


In all, 27 counties were represented, with 493 nonprofits from Davidson County. Participating large nonprofits ($500,000 annual budgets and above) totaled 269, with small nonprofits (under $500,000 annual budgets) representing 512 of the participants.

The Big Payback 2017 started with a bang, with $15,990 raised in the first 12 minutes — up almost $1,000 from the same time period in 2016.

The Big Payback’s tally had risen to $250,000 in its first three hours — midnight to 3 am — with $500,000 raised in the first eight hours.

This year’s tally hit $1 million by 12:15 p.m.

By 4 p.m., the event surpassed the first-year total for The Big Payback, which brought in $1,492,492.50 in 2014.

At 7:49 p.m. The Big Payback 2017 passed $2 million in donations.

Significantly, this year’s The Big Payback tallied 6,453 gifts from donors who said it was their first gift to a particular organization. A total of 602 organizations received gifts from donors who said it was their first time giving to the organization.

“The Big Payback was created to help nonprofits enter a new age of donor engagement and to help donors appreciate the work of local nonprofits, leaving them equipped to invest with confidence,” Lehman said. “It was also created to foster innovation and a sense of collaboration rather than competition as we search for better and better ways to serve our community.”

There is no cost for nonprofits to participate. The past four years, donors supporting The Big Payback have ensured that no participating organization walked away empty-handed.

“Sincerest thanks to all those who made a total of 20,695 gifts to The Big Payback and encouraged friends, families, colleagues, clients and strangers to do the same,” Lehman said. “ works because — like during our 2010 flood and our response — when Middle Tennesseans come together to make something happen, by golly it can happen. Just not without your help!”

About The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee 
The Community Foundation exists to promote and facilitate giving in the 40 counties of Middle Tennessee and beyond. It does this by accepting gifts of any size from anyone at any time and by empowering individuals, families, companies, nonprofits, and communities to respond to needs and opportunities that matter. The Community Foundation works with people who have great hearts, whether or not they have great wealth, to craft solutions that reflect their intentions and goals. For more information, call 615-321-4939 or visit  |  For inquiries, please contact Pat Embry at 615-321-4939 Ext. 114.