A small fortune is up for grabs for more than 50 Chattanooga-area nonprofits — and deciding who should pocket some cash isn't going to be easy.
Should it be Todd, the gregarious red fox who loves tug-of-war and deep ear rubs but needs an enclosure that's accessible to the public at Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center?
How to vote
Go to https://25yearsofgiving.submittable.com/submit and click on a region. Voting ends Friday, Aug. 31, and you can vote for a favorite video each day — even multiple favorites each day, though not the same video twice in a day. Votes clear each night at midnight CDT.
The top 30 videos will advance to the next level to be reviewed by a panel of judges. Then 25 organizations will receive anniversary tribute grants in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $25,000, for a total of $250,000. Winners will be announced Monday, Oct. 1.
Note: This list does not necessarily include statewide organizations that may provide services in Chattanooga.
* Alton Park Development Corp.
* Bessie Smith Cultural Center
* Boys and Girls Clubs of the Ocoee Region (Cleveland)
* Bridge Refugee Services Inc.
* Caldsted Foundation
* Catholic Charities of East Tennessee
* Chattanooga Area Food Bank
* Chattanooga Autism Center
* Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy
* Chattanooga Room in the Inn
* Chattanooga’s Kids on the Block
* Chattanooga Preparatory School
* Chattanooga Symphony & Opera
* Chattanooga Theatre Centre
* Chattanooga Zoo
* The Chattery
* Children’s Advocacy Center of Hamilton County
* Cleveland Bradley Regional Museum (Museum Center at Five Points)
* Creative Discovery Museum
* Erlanger Health System Foundations
* Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians
* Girls Inc. of Chattanooga
* Houston Museum of Decorative Arts
* Humane Educational Society
* Hunter Museum of American Art
* Junior Achievement of Chattanooga Inc.
* Junior Achievement of the Ocoee Region Inc. (Cleveland)
* Karis Dental Clinic (Cleveland)
* The Kidney Foundation of the Greater Chattanooga Area
* La Paz Chattanooga
* Little Miss Mag Early Learning Center
* Make-A-Wish East Tennessee
* Marion County Community Ministries
* McKamey Animal Center
* Metropolitan Ministries Inc.
* National Park Partners
* Orange Grove Center
* Partnership for Families, Children and Adults
* Pirate Springs (Cleveland)
* The Pop-Up Project
* Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center
* River City Company
* Remote Area Medical
* Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Chattanooga
* St. Peter’s Episcopal School
* The Salvation Army of Grater Chattanooga
* Sculpture Fields
* Tennessee Aquarium
* Tennessee River Gorge Trust
* United Way of the Ocoee Region (Cleveland)
* Welcome Home of Chattanooga
Or maybe Niles and Frasier, the comically voiced African crowned cranes who think their visitors look a little goofy but are super-excited about the eventual addition of giraffes as soon as they can expand their "crib" at Chattanooga Zoo?
Or is Kathie Scobee Fulgham's plea for a shelter at the Sculpture Fields more deserving so she can put away her straw hat on scorching days and her umbrella when it rains? (Worth noting: At the moment, she is literally taller than the trees that will eventually shade the area.)
Multiply those three examples by 17, and you get an idea of the scope of the 25 Years of Giving Video Contest, sponsored by the First Horizon Foundation to celebrate more than $80 million it has given to nonprofits over the last quarter century. The video contest will award a total of $250,000 to 25 nonprofits in increments of $5,000 to $25,000.
Of particular interest to local givers are the 50-plus contenders from Hamilton, Bradley and Marion counties, but there are hundreds more in the running. The East/Northeast Tennessee division also includes an array of nonprofits in Knoxville, Tri-Cities, Greeneville, Sevierville and Morristown/Dandridge. And East/Northeast Tennessee is just one of nine regions in contention, along with Middle Tennessee, West Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina, Northwest Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
All of these regions have nonprofits that have filmed a short video (no more than 60 seconds) and are making a plea for votes.
"The response has been above and beyond what we expected," says James Dowd, head of media relations for the First Horizon Foundation, the private charitable foundation of First Horizon National Corp., the parent company of First Tennessee Bank National Association, which operates as Capital Bank and First Tennessee.
First Horizon Foundation held a similar contest in 2014 when it celebrated First Tennessee's 150th anniversary by hosting the 150 Years of Giving campaign. That contest generated 1.3 million votes and distributed $750,000 to 150 nonprofits, according to news reports.
Voting for 25 Years of Giving continues through Friday, Aug. 31, "and we anticipate lots and lots of folks to visit online and vote for videos that have touched and inspired them," Dowd says.
The decision is yours, whether your idea of philanthropy means advocating for arts and culture, education and leadership, the environment, financial literacy or health and human services.
Dowd says more than 500 videos were submitted before the Aug. 1 deadline. After public voting ends at the end of the month, a panel of judges will spend the first half of September determining finalists. Winners will be announced in October.
The idea was to share in 60 seconds or less how a First Horizon Foundation partnership can help or has helped in the past.
Videos range from serious to comical. Some have a representative speak to the camera, while others use on-screen narration to tell their story.
Paul Hook, founder of Cleveland recovery center Pirate Springs, cites precise statistics in his no-frills request for help. "In two years of operations," he says, "we've received $23,484 in grants and donations, 8.5 percent of which have come from the First Tennessee Foundation. But we've spent $435,772, nearly 20 times that amount."
Marion County Community Ministries, a food bank in Sequatchie, Tennessee, makes a poignant plea for help, noting an aging building in need of repair and an unreliable truck used for food deliveries.
Several videos express gratitude for support already given by the foundation or illustrate the ways a windfall would help provide or enhance programming.
Orange Grove Center notes its 14-year partnership with First Tennessee in its video.
Chattanooga Zoo acknowledges the "generous donation" from First Tennessee that made the cranes' African Aviary habitat possible.
Although some of the videos have better production values, Dowd says the nonprofits were encouraged to simply use a smartphone to film the brief videos.
"We realize that nonprofits work under tight limits and often have minimal staff, and we don't want you to feel like you have to document who you are and what you do in some expensive video," he says.
Some of the videos take a practical approach:
The staff of La Paz Chattanooga begin their 58-second pitch to renovate their new home into Chattanooga's first Latino cultural center with a "Hola, First Tennessee" greeting.
And some tug at heartstrings:
Make-A-Wish East Tennessee notes that 110 children with life-threatening illnesses are waiting for their "one true wish" to be granted.
Sometimes the scenery is the star. Views range from simple (neat homes on a quiet street in the Alton Park Development Corp. video) to soaring (the lush forests on view in the Tennessee River Gorge Trust offering).
Not all of the videos include music, but those that do are often memorable.
The Chattanooga Area Food Bank has customized lyrics to the "Hokey Pokey" sung by the staff, complete with forklifts that turn themselves around.
The Kidney Foundation of the Greater Chattanooga Area has doctors, nurses and other staff, even the kidney mascot, dancing to Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling."
Local band Sistren sings a powerful cover of "You Don't Knock" for Welcome Home of Chattanooga, which provides end-of-life care to the homeless. Michelle Goble, the resident care volunteer coordinator, aka "director of happiness," says a grant would go toward a $200,000 housing campaign to buy the house they're now renting or find property to build a new home.
Dowd says he and other foundation officials have been amazed at the variety and diversity in the videos and how these "snippets of ideas" show how the foundation may make an impact.
"I've been inspired and encouraged by the ingenuity and the variety of the videos," he says. "There's some that are heartwarming and bring a tear to the eye, and others that make you laugh out loud, and some that do both.
"It gives us a sense in the corporate offices of the great work, the important work, the impactful work being done by nonprofits across our footprint."
Contact Lisa Denton at email@example.com or 423-757-6281.