Wilson County charities hauled in more than $230,000 in this year’s Big Payback, the regionwide fundraiser that seen millions raised each year for area nonprofits.

“It’s phenomenal,” said Rondy Smith, founder and executive director of Rest Stop Ministries. “Our supporters are competitive and have just been all-in.”

Rest Stop Ministries, which offers long-term housing to female survivors of domestic sex trafficking at its facility in Lebanon, drew the second-most unique donors (321) and the third-most money ($30,217) raised among Wilson County nonprofits participating in the Big Payback.

“We’ve been part of the Big Payback for seven years,” Smith said. “We’re getting some traction. We love our supporters and they love us.”

Old Friends Senior Dogs, a Mt. Juliet charity that cares for older dogs, raised the most money among county charities with $77,435 from 1,064 unique donors. Compassionate Hands collected $47,905 from 219 donors.

In an email, Compassionate Hands Executive Director John Grant thanked the donors as well as the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, which runs the Big Payback, and his staff, board and volunteers.

“It is a blessing to serve in such a generous community,” he wrote. “Walking with people toward stable housing is a challenge, and the work is a joy when we pull together.”

Overall, the eighth annual Big Payback raised $4,265,674 in 32,941 donations to participating area nonprofit organizations, schools and religious institutions, according to a news release.

In its history, the Big Payback has helped more than 1,000 area nonprofits by raising more than $25 million in cumulative gifts. An event-record 1,017 Middle Tennessee organizations from 33 counties signed up to participate in this year’s event. It is a communitywide online giving day designed to give the public the opportunity to pay back the nonprofits that make this a place we are proud to call home.

This year’s event included 87 organizations from 12 counties that were participating in The Big Payback for the first time. Categories included human services, education, community improvement, arts and culture, youth development, animal welfare, health, housing and shelter, and the environment.

In 2020, The Big Payback raised an event-record $4,347,441 from 31,694 donations. The 2019 totals were $4,106,182 from 28,458 gifts.

“After a year of ‘downs,’ The Community Foundation has again raised spirits and funds for Middle Tennessee’s nonprofits,” said Ellen Lehman, president of The Community Foundation, in the release.

The Big Payback included 11,096 donors who reported giving to an organization for the first time, upping the eight-year total to 50,789.

Those new donors contributed $963,693. Also, 937 donations came with the indication that the donor would be willing to volunteer for the organization.

Global Sanctuary for Elephants led all organizations this year with $113,921 from 1,137 unique donations, followed by: Proverbs 12:10 Animal Rescue, $101,123 from 936 unique donations; Freedom’s Promise, $93,974 from 168 unique donations; Elephant Sanctuary, $91,927 from 914 unique donations; and Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, $81,210 from 431 unique donations.

Rounding out the Top 10 in total gifts were Old Friends Senior Dogs, $77,435 with 1,064 unique donations; NIA House Montessori, $59,724 from 445 unique donations; Nashville Opera Association, $59,724 from 67 unique donations; Wags and Walks, $55,092 from 614 unique donations; and Fisk University, $52,418 from 246 unique donations.

Also, 736 peer-to peer fundraising campaigns raised from $10-$31,940 for participating organizations. A total of 101 campaigns raised $1,000 or more, topped by Compassionate Hands with $31,940, followed by $15,458 for Wags and Walks, and $14,558 for Valor Collegiate Academies.

Gifts to nonprofits from the public were boosted with additional financial prizes from sponsors of The Big Payback, and a leaderboard tracked donations in real time, both online and on digital billboards throughout the area.

This year’s incentive prize pool totaled about $250,000. Generous sponsors included: Kharis Foundation, The Jane and Richard Eskind and Family Foundation, The Frist Foundation, The Danner Foundation, Jerry and Ernie Williams, The HCA Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, The Memorial Foundation, Delek Fund for Hope, Kraft CPAs, Lipman, Susan and Luke Simons, and Sir Speedy BNA.

Donors were able to search and select organizations based on mission, location and focus area. Donors also could support multiple nonprofits and make gifts of any size with ease, from $10 and up.

“Of course, The Community Foundation has been helping nonprofits who serve all our communities for the past 30 years, but The Big Payback joined our work just eight years ago,” Lehman said. “In 2014, we took a leap of faith when we started The Big Payback because we didn’t have enough discretionary dollars to help many of the local nonprofits on whom our 40 counties rely. So we then created a shared service event to avoid duplication of fundraising expense and effort. Since then, The Big Payback has become a monument to caring.

“This year was different,” Lehman continued. “We were all getting tired of quarantining and the pandemic and this new way we live. But something remained the same, thank goodness. It is this day in May each year that we come together to thank our nonprofits and celebrate the spirit of giving. It is a day to remind us all that if we live here, we should give her, and that you don’t need great wealth. You just have to have a great heart.”

For a complete list of nonprofit giving totals and additional prizewinners, visit thebigpayback.org

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