Lowcountry Giving Day

To donate or to watch local giving totals on Tuesday, go to http://lowcountrygivingday.org. Use the hashtag #LiftTheLowcountry on Twitter.

Follow individual nonprofit's gift totals on their websites.

To watch national donation numbers, go to www.givelocalamerica.org. On Twitter, use #GiveLocalAmerica.

Back in the dark ages before Twitter and Facebook and Pinterest, nonprofits raised money the old-school way.

They sent out mailers. They called people's landlines. They worked their local network trees, especially those with the wealthiest fruit to pick.

Good luck with that approach today, when a call to fundraising arms on social media, such as #GivingTuesday, can generate millions in a few hours.

"It's not just write a check, stick on a stamp and you send me a thank-you note anymore," says Jon Yarian, spokesman for Coastal Community Foundation.

A new online event to be held Tuesday has Charleston in the lead of yet another national barometer, this one of major giving.

The local Coastal Community Foundation is facilitating Lowcountry Giving Day, part of a national effort among more than 100 community foundations nationwide called Give Local America. It's the first time one in South Carolina has taken part.

The 24-hour online fundraising mashup aims to build social media buzz ahead of time and then let localities and individual nonprofits compete to see who can raise the most in donations that day. The foundations use large incentive pools to enhance people's donations.

In its inaugural year, Lowcountry Giving Day has raised $1.5 million from major donors for its incentive pool, more than any other nationwide, and more than twice as much as the next closest competitor.

Not bad for newbies. Except not really. Although new to this event, Coastal Community Foundation, which manages $178 million in combined assets to serve charitable groups, has been helping local nonprofits for 40 years now.

And Tuesday's main incentive donors? Two of the most recognized philanthropic names in town: the Zucker and Pearlstine families.

Other donors include businesswomen Nancye Starnes and Lenna Macdonald, who created a $110,000 incentive for gifts to members of the Charleston Regional Alliance for the Arts.

In all, 94 local nonprofits - from the Center for Women to Charleston Stage to Dee Norton Lowcountry Children's Center - are hoping donors will support them Tuesday.

Basically, here's how the day will work:

Major donors already have pledged the $1.6 million pool of incentive money. Some have specified nonprofits or sectors they want to support such as arts or education.

Then on Tuesday, starting at 12:01 a.m., people can go to lowcountrygivingday.org and give however much they want ($25 at least) to whichever nonprofit they want from a list of those taking part.

It works like matching funds, although not necessarily as a $1-for-$1 match. How much each nonprofit receives from the incentive pool depends on how much money people donate to that nonprofit. The "match" given a nonprofit might be more or less: 50 cents to the dollar or more like $1.20 to the dollar.

Either way, both contributors see their money become more money. And the nonprofits people most want to support get the most new money.

Throughout the day, the public can watch an online thermometer-style gauge that shows how much has been raised nationally, locally and by each individual nonprofit.

"This is a new world. You must go online," says George Stevens, president and CEO of the Coastal Community Foundation. "It's a really different feel for how giving works."

Anita Zucker, a local businesswoman and philanthropist, has pledged $1 million in incentive funds to encourage donations to education-based nonprofits. She's seen that shift over the years, too.

"I have seen a sea change in how we have to operate," Zucker says. "We have to come into a modern world."

After the 24 hours, donations go to the nonprofits specified to use how they need.

Lowcountry Giving Day isn't just about raising money, although that is the driver of the day. It's about impacting people's lives and improving their futures, something that benefits the entire community, donors say. "Our nonprofits always have such tremendous needs," Zucker says. "My hope is that this will inspire others to give."

Reach Jennifer Hawes at 937-5563, follow her on Twitter at @JenBerryHawes or subscribe to her at facebook.com/jennifer.b.hawes.