Todd Polyniak is just fine with other companies replicating the soiree his organization, Sax LLP, put on Thursday night. In fact, he’s encouraging it.
“I would love to see all our competition imitate this event. If I can spur people into copying me, and donating money to not-for-profit, great — because this event was to help people. The for-profit world needs to support the not-for-profit world,” said Polyniak, a partner at the accounting firm and head of its Not-for-Profit arm.
Polyniak hosted Sax’s first annual Founder’s Awards, a night honoring the charitable vision of the firm’s founders in which a $15,000 prize was awarded to one lucky New Jersey or New York based nonprofit which a team of judges deemed to best demonstrate financial sustainability.
When the announcement came it was Mountainside-based Imagine: A Center for Coping with Loss that took home the check. Imagine provides year-round, free grief support for children and families.
Two runners-up were honored as well. Spectrum360, a school system serving children and adults on the autism spectrum, was honored for its commitment to affording students of all ages the opportunity to learn and grow through their Verona, Livingston, and Whippany-based programs.
Partners for Women and Justice, based in Montclair, was honored for its work providing free legal assistance to hundreds of survivors of domestic violence since 2002.
“When I was driving over here, I thought ‘We have as much chance winning this as we do to winning the lotto,’” said Stuart Arnold, Imagine’s board chair. “[The folks at Sax] have been so sweet and so lovely, and they were saying how impressed they were with the way we build our programs to the way we develop sustainable individual donors. It’s been great. Couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Arnold said Imagine has really taken off since its founding six years ago.
“It’s absolutely exploded,” he said. “The need has exploded, but you know, so has the giving base. What we do really touches a lot of people in a very special way, and they’ve really been good at helping us grow the organization. This award is really just an amazing testament that we’re on the right track.”
To develop sustainable individual donors, Arnold explained Imagine doesn’t cold-call for money and hold big galas where people unfamiliar with the organization will come, donate once, and not again. Imagine hosts an intimate breakfast once per year where kids and parents who utilize its resources come speak to current and potential donors. After that breakfast, Imagine stays in touch with the donors, checking in on them and inviting them to tour the center.
“It’s about building relationships,” he said. “Last year, we had over an 80 percent donor renewal rate.”
The original article said that Stuart Arnold founded Imagine. This was incorrect. Mary Robinson is the Founder of Imagine.