On any given day in the Lowcountry, someone makes a charitable gift. A check, an online donation, a bag of groceries, or just an hour or two of their time.
By itself, these gifts are appreciated but often perceived as unremarkable - after all, they happen every day. But on May 6, the first-ever Lowcountry Giving Day, that dynamic shifted and we saw the combined power of many small acts of philanthropy. As it turns out, the little things matter and when we add them all up, we can move mountains.
Facilitated by Coastal Community Foundation and scheduled to coincide with similar giving day challenges across the country, Lowcountry Giving Day combined three powerful forces to create a transformative philanthropic event.
First, it leveraged the generosity of incentivizing donors to create a pool of more than $1.3 million in matching funds. Second, it harnessed the power of social media to create excitement and spur donations.
Third, it channeled gifts through an online platform that made it easy to give and easy to see how much we as a community had donated together.
As a Coastal Community Foundation board member and, more importantly, as a resident of the Lowcountry, I was astounded by the result. On the morning of May 6, I watched as donations accumulated - $25 here, $250 there - and the grand total mounted.
Fueled by the generous incentive match and caught up in the excitement of real-time interaction via social media and the web, the community kept giving and giving. In all, more than 7,000 individual donations were made and more than $4 million was raised for 93 worthy causes.
I must admit: On the day itself, I was caught up in the moment-to-moment tally. What began as concern for an event that might not succeed soon transformed into eager curiosity for how big it might actually become.
As the day progressed, participating non-profits pulled out all the stops, calling, tweeting, posting on Facebook, hosting events and surprising all of us with their creativity and energy. It was fun and exhilarating and, by midnight, exhausting.
Now that the dust has settled, we must consider what it really meant. On one level, Lowcountry Giving Day was simply an enormously successful fundraising event. We raised more money than any other first-time giving day in the country.
We were the fastest community nationwide to cross the $1 million barrier. Better than 20 percent of gifts came from first-time donors, an important expansion in the fund-raising prospect pool for participating organizations. I'm grateful for all these results.
But if you look more closely, I think you'll see a different and more powerful effect.
Much of the excitement leading up to the day was driven by the size of the incentive pool - money that would match general public donations and vastly increase the final total. With more than $1.3 million in pledged dollars,
Lowcountry Giving Day had a larger incentive pool than any other giving day in the country. Yet by the end of the day, donations from the community had more than doubled that incentive amount. In effect, the efforts of the many outweighed the early (and important) contributions of the few.
Which is exactly what our generous and selfless matching donors had intended all along.
In a world where large gifts earn headlines and small ones often go unnoticed, Lowcountry Giving Day flipped the narrative.
In the end, the match donors were gratified to see an outpouring of generosity in the form of 7,166 individual donations.
We were all philanthropists that day and together we made an enormous difference.
And on May 5, 2015, we'll do it all over again. Join us and we'll make next year's Lowcountry Giving Day an even bigger success.
Bill Medich, Charleston Regional President of South Carolina Bank and Trust/First Federal, chairs the Coastal Community Foundation Board of Directors.