HANCOCK COUNTY — Two nonprofits serving Hancock County have been selected to compete for fundraising dollars leaders say could have a huge impact on their organizations.

Families United for Support and Encouragement and Shares Inc., have joined Brackets for Good, a competitive March Madness-style event pitting nonprofits against one other in a contest to see who can raise the most by the championship round, April 3 to 6.

Nonprofit leaders say the event, which raised some $700,000 for 100-plus organizations last year, not only bolsters their fundraising efforts but provides an opportunity for greater exposure than a small nonprofit would be able to achieve on its own.

Story continues below gallery

Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

FUSE, which empowers families and individuals with disabilities and mental health needs by providing information, training, support and encouragement, was chosen to compete against 63 other organizations from Indianapolis and the surrounding area. Shares, which employs people with disabilities from throughout central Indiana, including at its Brandywine plant in Greenfield, will be up against 63 other organizations from throughout the state of Indiana.

Brackets for Good, which kicks off Friday, builds on the momentum of March Madness to help charitable organizations spread awareness of their missions and generate donations, according to a news release. One dollar donated equals one point toward organizations moving on to the next round. Brackets for Good shares promotional videos about each of the nonprofits and funnels Web traffic toward donation pages.

“There are a lot of amazing causes taking part,” said Shares fund development associate Nesetta Gellizeau. “We’re really excited to be a part of that.”

Last year’s winner, Brooke’s Place, an Indianapolis organization dedicated to providing a safe place for children to process grief after the loss of a loved one, raised $90,000 through the contest, including the $10,000 top prize, which allowed the organization to expand its programs to an additional location, said executive director Teresa Brun.

“Brackets for Good was a tremendous experience for our organization,” Brun said. “It was really significant for us in enabling us to reach more kids who need our services. It’s a great way to raise funds for small organizations that maybe don’t have the capacity to do so on their own.”

Each round lasts seven days, said FUSE executive director Denise Arland — a short time to get the word out about the organization’s work and raise more money than their competitors, she said.

Gellizeau said Shares, which has six locations throughout the state, depends on community awareness to draw in financial support that funds educational and enrichment programs for its clients. In addition to employing individuals in its facilities and coordinating employment at businesses throughout the community, Shares also teaches courses on living skills like cooking and cleaning and provides some continuing education in reading and math, she said.

Sara Cummins, FUSE development director, first heard about Brackets for Hope in 2015; she applied to compete once in the past, but FUSE wasn’t selected, she said. Last year, she watched how the event was run and how organizations promoted themselves throughout the contest

“I made it my mission to get it this year,” she said. “It’s so exciting; it’s very fast-paced.”

FUSE leaders were notified they were selected as one of the 64 Indianapolis-area organizations in late January, but didn’t discover where they’d be placed on the bracket until Feb. 15, Cummins said. FUSE will go up against Grace Care Center Foundation, a Noblesville-based nonprofit serving 600 families a week through a food pantry and other services, according to its website.

Cummins plans to show those voting with their dollars what impact FUSE has on the community by publishing videos of families, individuals and teachers who have been involved with the organization in its 22 years.

Among its most popular programs is Adaptive Swim, which works with children with varying disabilities and adapts to their cognitive level to teach them swimming skills. The program teaches swimming to children with disabilities from age 5 to 18, pairing each swimmer with one or two volunteers, who help them with their skills in and around the water.

By using the platform of the March Madness-style contest, Cummins believes FUSE will be able to share its mission and its programs with many more people than it would have otherwise been able to do, she said.

“There’s not a lot of opportunities for smaller nonprofits like FUSE to be on this bigger scale,” she said. “Brackets for Good has a lot of tools they just give to us. It’s a supportive process, and I’m very thankful for that.”

How to help

Families United in Support and Encouragement has been selected for the competitive giving event, Brackets for Good, to compete against 63 other Indianapolis-area charities. To learn more or donate, visit indianapolis.bfg.org/bracket.

Shares, Inc., competes in the Indiana Brackets for Good, which can be found at indiana.bfg.org/bracket. 

The event begins Friday and continues until April 6.

Author photo
Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.