December 4, 2015

To help generate that attention, the Fast Forward Film Festival created a short stop-motion animation film and also leaned on a $1,000 challenge grant from the Root 31 Cafe & Eatery in Pittsford.

ROC the Day generates needed cash, exposure

By NATE DOUGHERTY • December 4, 2015

See correction below.

Tuesday was a good day to be at St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center.

The organization had cake and balloons, a festive atmosphere amid what is an important and often busy time of year that coincides with a year-end giving push and its annual appeal.

The reason for the celebration was ROC the Day, an online fundraising event sponsored by the United Way of Greater Rochester Inc. that gives St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center a chance to connect with donors, both new and old, and to bring a significant one-day boost to its fundraising.

“We love ROC the Day,” said Sister Christine Wagner, executive director of the organization that provides health care, counseling and social work services to individuals and families who lack access to health insurance. “We see it as a really fun and exciting and contained way for people to make donations and connect with the neighborhood center.

“This even happens at the same time as our annual appeal, but we don’t care. Any way we can get people to give is important.”

Now in its fifth year, ROC the Day is a 24-hour giving event that allows donors to support area non-profit organizations. It coincides with the national Giving Tuesday, which encourages online giving in the wake of two consumer-centered days, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Donors for ROC the Day are able to navigate through a searchable database set up by the United Way, showing lists of organization that match their interests and allowing them to contribute directly to organizations.

This year’s event raised $875,765, an increase of more than $31,000 from last year’s event. The total includes $245,145 in matching challenge grants and $21,700 in donor and agency bonuses.

Beyond the total money raised, the event also generates enthusiasm among non-profit organizations and their donors, United Way officials said.

The buzz for ROC the Day was evident across social media, said Juli Geyer, director of marketing and communications for United Way.

“We could scroll through for hours just on the (Twitter) hashtag,” she said. “Over the past five years this has grown to be our biggest splash on social media. There is so much buzz that the organizations are generating, and we were seeing Facebook and Twitter really exploding.”

The United Way offers prizes and incentives to encourage participation, including $1,000 for organizations that generate the most donors during a given time frame.

It is a prize St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center has aimed for, and achieved, in each of the last three years. On Tuesday the organization was awarded $1,000 for the most donors from noon to 2 p.m., the end result of some careful planning.

“We get the word out and encourage people to give between those hours,” Wagner said.

ROC the Day is an opportunity for the agency to generate enthusiasm and to give all donors a chance to make a difference, she said.

“ROC the Day is perfect because if you want to give $5 that’s great, and if you want to give $10 or $1,000 that’s great,” she said. “We’re very conscious about creating donor opportunities for people of all income levels, and this is what makes ROC the Day so effective.”

For Foodlink Inc., ROC the Day falls within one of its busiest times of the year. The organization has a goal to distribute 16,000 or more holiday baskets to its partner agencies, and the annual fundraiser gives them a boost to complete these efforts.

“With ROC the Day we get a lot of donations and we also have a matching grant, so it gives people an opportunity to give and see their impact doubled,” said Amy Button, the organization’s marketing and events manager. “All of that goes to our operations, and especially at this time of year we can distribute more food and more holiday baskets.”

Foodlink gets involvement not only from the many people online but from some longtime contributors as well. This year, the regional food bank had a $10,000 matching grant from Richard and Tamye Lozyniak.

“As longtime supporters of Foodlink and its mission to end hunger, we hope this challenge grant will compel others to give to those in need,” said Richard Lozyniak, former CEO of North American Breweries Inc. “The overall goal of this grant is to maximize the impact of community donations in support of Foodlink and its efforts to build a healthy, hunger-free community.”

The food bank helped spell out how much donations could help. A $20 gift would provide 60 healthy meals to families in need; a $100 gift would provide 600 locally grown vegetable seedlings for community gardens.

Foodlink also uses the attention surrounding ROC the Day as an opportunity to spread the word about its work and mission. The organization shares updates on its Facebook page and gains more visibility through the ROC the Day database.

“For us and a lot of other organizations, it’s a way to teach people about what we do,” Button said. “So we go to Facebook and highlight different parts of our programs. A lot of people know the name and know that we put food out into the community, but maybe they don’t know how big our warehouse is or just how far our work extends. This day gives us the ability to market to people who may not know much about us.”

For the Fast Forward Film Festival, generating attention was just as important on ROC the Day as raising money. The organization, an initiative of non-profit The Lost Bird Project, which encourages films that raise awareness of environmental issues, has expanded greatly in the past few years and now needs to grow both its name and its donor base.

“We’ve got so many more groups reaching out to us now, and we need to raise awareness of the festival and bring in the funds to react to how large the community wants this to become,” said Rebecca Delaney, the festival’s director.

To help generate that attention, the Fast Forward Film Festival created a short stop-motion animation film and also leaned on a $1,000 challenge grant from the Root 31 Cafe & Eatery in Pittsford.

Wagner said ROC the Day also has been an opportunity for the St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center to expand its donor base, reaching people it normally would not.

“We do get some new donors through the search process, but we’ve also seen a lot of people who have supported us in the past really jump in,” she said. “Someone might be at work and giving online and show this to a colleague.

“It’s an opportunity for people to touch base with their families and friends and help give them an idea of what they can do to help. The enthusiasm has just been so contagious.”

12/4/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

An article published Dec. 4 misidentified the source of a $1,000 award given to St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center during the United Way of Greater Rochester Inc.’s ROC the Day fundraiser. The grant came from the Rochester Area Community Foundation.

12/11/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email