Little gifts, big heart Lowcountry Giving Day can make a big impact on small nonprofits

In 2012, Emily Hoisington founded Charleston Hope as a freshman at the College of Charleston.

In Emily Hoisington’s classroom, it’s not uncommon for students to arrive hungry because they didn’t have dinner the night before, or dressed in unwashed and torn clothing because they had nothing else to wear.

As a student-teacher at Mitchell Elementary, a high-poverty school in downtown Charleston, Hoisington knows firsthand what happens when students’ basic needs aren’t met at home: They’re distracted. They can’t focus. They’re not prepared to learn.

Four years ago as a freshman at the College of Charleston, Hoisington, who’s now 22 and a week shy from graduating, co-founded Charleston Hope, a grassroots nonprofit serving more than 2,000 students at five Title 1 schools in the Lowcountry.

Next fall, Hoisington plans to pilot a new project in one of Charleston Hope’s partner schools, a basic need’s closet outfitted with toiletries, canned goods, uniforms, undergarments and school supplies, available to any student at any time year-round.

To keep the closet stocked and maintained, Charleston Hope needs to raise $15,000. On Lowcountry Giving Day, Hoisington hopes donors will rise to the challenge.

“For small nonprofits like us, days like these are really important,” Hoisington says. “I think when people donate to small nonprofits, especially the little ones, you can really see the impact that you’re making with your financial donations.”

Unlike years past, any registered nonprofit can participate in the third annual Lowcountry Giving Day, set for Tuesday.

Previously, nonprofits needed matching funds, sponsored by businesses, foundations or wealthy philanthropists, to take part in the 24-hour online crowdfunding event.

Darrin Goss, president and CEO of the Coastal Community Foundation that facilitates Lowcountry Giving Day, said this year’s change was intended to make the event more accessible to grassroots and volunteer-run organizations, like Charleston Hope, which depend heavily on the generosity of private donors.

“For some nonprofits, especially smaller nonprofits, the contributions made on Lowcountry Giving Day sometimes outpace what they will raise the entire year,” Goss said. “Small gifts in large numbers actually make a huge impact on the nonprofits and ultimately, the people the nonprofits serve.”

Last year, Lowcountry Giving Day raised $6.7 million for 179 regional nonprofits. This year, Goss expects an even bigger fundraising haul. Donors have already pledged more than $1.3 million for 387 participating nonprofits in the coastal region.

“What we try to do is promote giving year round,” Goss said. “You don’t haven’t be a large multimillionaire to be considered a philanthropist. Small donors can and do make a difference in the lives of people through the nonprofits they choose to give to.”

For R3 Inc., a youth development nonprofit with a budget of $25,000 and no paid staff, every dollar raised on Lowcountry Giving Day will go directly to after-school enrichment programing.

Eric Jackson, an operating room technician at Roper St. Francis, founded R3 (which stands for Real Talk, Real Results, Real Action) in 2011 to steer local kids away from trouble.

They meet at Shaw Community Center and Mary Ford Elementary one or two times a week for cooking classes, guest speakers, art projects and field trips.

“Whatever we raise, that will help us get through the summer, keep the kids out of trouble and help enrichment,” Jackson said. “Summer enrichment is a very big part of having the kids prepare to go back to school for the next term, helping them develop the skills that are going to help them for the next year.”

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Reach Deanna Pan at (843) 937-5764.