For weeks, nonprofit organizations in the Lowcountry have been sending emails, posting to Facebook, Twitter and other social media about Lowcountry Giving Day, a 24-hour crowdfunding event that takes place Tuesday starting at 12:01 a.m.
Last year's Lowcountry Giving Day, the first, raised more than $4 million for 93 nonprofit groups in the coastal region, said Richard Hendry, interim CEO of the Coastal Community Foundation, which facilitates the event. There were 7,166 individual donors. More money was raised here than in similar challenges that took place across all 50 states.
This year, there are 179 nonprofits participating in Lowcountry Giving Day, Hendry said.
The groups run the gamut from Actor's Theatre of South Carolina to the YMCA of Greater Charleston and represent almost every philanthropic interest, including animals, arts and culture, community improvement, education, environment, health, human services and youth development.
Chucktown Squash is one of the lesser-known nonprofits participating. Last year, the group raised $98,000 and they're hoping to raise even more this year, said executive director Lauren Herterich.
Chucktown Squash works with two Title I schools in Charleston, Sanders-Clyde and Burke, to promote academic success, healthy lifestyles, social and emotional development and increased graduation rates. It does this through after-school, weekend and summertime tuition-free programming for the students. There are about 40 College of Charleston student volunteers working with 30 students, Herterich said.
Burke High School freshman Javier Gathers said he had never given much thought to playing squash before he joined the program when he was in the fifth grade. Now, he dreams of getting a scholarship to play squash in college.
Gathers, who is 15, said the program has twice enabled him to attend squash camp at Princeton University, which has helped him improve his game.
“And being in squash has helped me more in school,” he said. “I've been getting better grades.”
Students have to maintain an at least an 80 average to remain in Chucktown Squash, Herterich said. The main goal of the program is to get the children into college, she said. “We normally see between a six-point and 10-point improvement in all subjects,” she said.
This year, Chucktown Squash will hold a squash tournament and drop-in on Giving Day, Herterich said.
For all the nonprofits, the excitement of Lowcountry Giving Day is magnified by the online and social media components. Folks can monitor the progress of their favorite charities on a leaderboard at the Lowcountry Giving Day website. Everyone is urged to post to Facebook and Twitter with the #LifttheLowcountry hashtag.
Last year, the nonprofit that brought in the most money was the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, which received $132,236 in donations. It was followed by the Charleston Animal Society, Spoleto Festival USA and Ashley Hall.
In terms of number of donors, Charleston Animal Society was the big dog last year, with 489 unique donors, followed by the College of Charleston, Friends of the Charleston County School District and Crisis Ministries, now known as One80 Place.
Before hosting last year's event, the folks at Coastal Community Foundation weren't real sure the concept of a single day of online giving would work, said Monica Tanouye, a spokeswoman for the foundation.
“The question was, should we do it or not,” she said. “We were thinking maybe we could raise a million dollars. We broke that million-dollar amount by 9 a.m.”
Hendry said he thinks the community's big donors are attracted to Lowcountry Giving Day because they put up the incentive money ahead of time, and they list the charities they want to get the match from their incentives. Donors have already pledged $3.2 million in incentive funds for this year.
“And the people who are giving online like it, too, because they know their money is being matched with the incentive money,” he said. “On both sides, it leverages the money into bigger amounts than they would be able to realize otherwise.”
While not every donation is matched dollar for dollar, gifts made during Giving Day help nonprofits unlock additional funds from their incentive donors.
The foundation's staffers were so impressed with how well it worked in 2014 that they decided to make Lowcounty Giving Day in 2015 even bigger, Hendry said.
“We've been planning this day ever since last summer. We started planning the 2015 Giving Day in July 2014. In December and January, we had training sessions for the nonprofits,” Hendry said.
The Coastal Community Foundation serves an eight-county region of coastal South Carolina. The counties served are Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Beaufort, Colleton, Jasper, Hampton and Georgetown.
On a national level, the marathon fundraising event is called Give Local America and was organized by Kimbia, a vendor of online giving software solutions. According to Kimbia, the average gift nationwide in last year's event was $112.92.
Palmetto Brewery, which is associated with the Pearlstine family, is sponsoring incentive prizes for organizations large and small.
The first 10 small organizations to reach 50 unique donors will each receive $2,500 from Palmetto Brewery and the first of those small organizations to reach 100 unique donors will get an additional bonus of $1,000.
For large organizations, the first five to reach 150 unique donors will each receive $5,000 with an additional $1,000 bonus for the first to reach 300 unique donors.
The secret to Charleston Symphony Orchestra's success in raising the most money last year was that they had called their major donors and asked them to postpone giving until the day of the event. That's not what they did this year, said Kerri Collins, CSO's director of development.
“Our season runs between September and April. That's when we have a full orchestra on stage,” Collins said. “For us, a lot of people give at the end of the year. It's pretty tough for us between January and our last payroll.”
So no effort was made this year to encourage any donor to wait until May, Collins said. Still, CSO is looking forward to the second Giving Day event.
“We're going to have drive-through donations,” Collins said. The driveway at CSO's office at 756 St. Andrews Blvd. makes it easy for folks to drive in and out, she said.
“Our staff will be out there, We will have a little treat for them. If it is in the morning, they'll get a muffin. In the afternoon, they'll get a cookie.” Staffers will be carrying tablet computers and will be able to help donors complete online donations without ever having to get out of their cars, Collins said.
Another group, Reading Partners, provides one-on-one tutoring for reading skills and literacy to children in kindergarten through fifth grade in Lowcountry Title I schools, according to the group's website.
During the 2014 Giving Day, Reading Partners raised a little more than $70,000, said Kecia Greenho, executive director for South Carolina.
“We enjoyed the opportunity for nonprofits to cooperate with each other,” Greenho said. “Everyone was focused on helping everyone else reach their goals.”
Reading Partners this year has teamed up with other literacy groups. “We know if kids aren't being read to at home, if we don't intervene, there will be a need for intervention later,” she said. “For us, Lowcountry Giving Day is a great way for us to not only raise money but to get our message out there and recruit volunteers.”
Reach David MacDougall at 937-5655.