Local charities face off in a bracket-style, single-elimination fundraising tournament

For March Madness lovers who are looking for more (especially after the UMBC upset), this month also plays host to a different experiential tournament — an exciting and competitive challenge that leaves all participants with a win.

The Indianapolis-based Brackets For Good comes to Colorado for the second year, pitting local nonprofits head to head in a single-elimination competition to raise money for charitable causes.

Twenty-seven nonprofits are participating. The organizations are rallying their communities to help them “out fundraise” their competitors with each dollar donated translating into a point. Agencies “outscoring” their competition advance in the bracket toward the championship.

No matter how many rounds a competing charity survives — one or all six — it keeps all money raised in its name. The organization that wins the final round will receive an additional $10,000 championship grant. 

The six-round tournament spans five weeks and began the first Friday in March. The first four rounds of fundraising each last a week, with the charities accepting online donations from Friday to Friday. The semifinal and championship rounds each last three days. 

The idea behind this charitable challenge came from Indianapolis Butler University alumnus Matt McIntyre in 2011 after he noticed the communal spirit and camaraderie that came with a Butler men’s basketball national championship game.

McIntyre wondered if there was a way to mimic the positive energy and support flooding from the basketball fans and channel it into something meaningful and impactful for the community.

So, working with charitable organizations across the country, McIntyre brought a new, competitive dynamic to the world of nonprofits. Results indicate it’s a success.

Since 2012, Brackets For Good has been featured in 31 states and has raised a total of $6.3 million for charities. 

Last year, during the tournament’s first appearance in Denver, more than $160,000 was raised for competing local charities.

In addition to almost 20 Denver agencies, metro-area nonprofits participating this year include Westminster’s Clinica Colorado, Centennial’s Doreen Katz Memorial Cancer Foundation, Franktown’s Promise Ranch Therapeutic Riding Center and Lakewood’s Second Wind Fund.

Currently taking the lead is Children’s Future, a Denver-based nonprofit that takes social work and educational services to the youth of Cambodia.

“Brackets For Good is … getting people motivated to support nonprofits in the area. And they’re doing it in a really fun and engaging way,” said Austin Klemmer, the charity’s outgoing executive director. (Klemmer is transitioning to a position on the board of directors.)

Children’s Future came in second place to Promise Ranch Therapeutic Riding last year. The pair is matched up again in the current round.

“Some of our donors probably saw that match up and thought, ‘No way we are going to lose to these guys again,'” Klemmer laughed.

Despite coming in $2,200 behind Promise Ranch during the 2017 championship round, Klemmer said they raised $20,000 on that final day of the tournament.

“The outpouring and support on the last day of the competition last year was stunning,” he said.

The Colorado tournament, now in its second round, has 16 organizations facing off this week: Lutheran Family Services vs. Colorado Children’s Chorale; ECDC African Community Center vs. LiveWell Colorado; Doreen Katz Memorial Cancer Foundation vs. Otero Junior College Foundation; Demi’s Animal Rescue vs. Ferocious Fighters; Curious Theatre Company vs. Second Wind Fund; Youth on Record vs. EarthLinks Inc.; Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy & Research Organization vs. The Crowley Foundation Inc.; and Promise Ranch Therapeutic Riding vs. Children’s Future.

Round Two ends Friday, March 23, and will leave eight teams advancing to the third round. The championship round will begin April 3. 

To view teams in the tournament, see how much they’ve raised or donate to a charity, visit denver.bfg.org

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