Giving Day investment will pay long-term dividends

A worker at the American Theater on Wednesday morning, May, 6,2015, removed the Twitter hashtag for the annual Lowcountry Giving Day that had been featured on the King Street marquee. (John McDermott/File)

A year ago, we were still reeling from the success of the inaugural Lowcountry Giving Day. At Coastal Community Foundation we were blown away by the dedication and generosity of our community that led to an incredible total of $4 million.

We couldn’t have imagined it a year ago, but today we are even more blown away by your response to Lowcountry Giving Day. Once again, you came together to celebrate the spirit of philanthropy, this time raising $6.8 million in a single day. Your generosity proved how a single idea can grow into a movement that leaves an incredible, lasting impact on our community.

Though Lowcountry Giving Day lasts for only 24 hours, preparations for the event brought our community together months in advance. Dozens of donors up and down the coast established incentive funds last year to support nonprofits for this year’s event. This support enabled Coastal Community Foundation to expand participation in and out of the tri-county: Twice as many nonprofits were involved in 2015 compared to 2014, and eight counties were represented among the nonprofits. Lowcountry Giving Day as we know it wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of the incentive donors.

Nonprofits built excitement for the event the closer we got to May 5th. #LiftTheLowcountry hit the top of our news feeds, and email inboxes filled with evidence about the good work we could support by donating on Lowcountry Giving Day. The day opened and closed with events featuring food trucks, fun and — most importantly — the nonprofits.

The combined efforts of incentive donors, nonprofits and Coastal Community Foundation set up Lowcountry Giving Day for improved success on all fronts. The $6.8 million raised this year represented a 69 percent increase from 2014’s final figure, and we doubled the number of gifts for a grand total of more than 14,000.

Support for our nonprofits wasn’t limited to the Lowcountry, though — gifts came from 49 states and three foreign countries. Donors giving to their chosen nonprofit for the first time acounted for 27.4 percent of gifts, compared to 20 percent last year. This helped expand nonprofits’ donor bases, a critical factor for their sustainability.

Lowcountry Giving Day has grown more than we ever imagined possible when planning for Year One. The numbers, made possible by the generosity that thrives in the Lowcountry, speak to the wild success of the day. But when I look back at Lowcountry Giving Day, I remember more than the millions.

I remember the nonprofits that expanded services and started new programs with funds from Year One. I remember the students who will benefit from scholarships funded by donations from year two.

I remember stories of organizations that experienced a budget surplus for the first time ever, allowing them to invest in staff and plan for the long-term future.

Ultimately, I remember that the real impact of Lowcountry Giving Day isn’t just the dollars — it’s the good work enabled by those dollars.

Luckily for the Lowcountry, the impact of that good work will last far longer than the impact of those dollars.

Two years into Lowcountry Giving Day, we want to carefully think about this event and its place in our community. This summer Coastal Community Foundation will lead a thorough evaluation of Lowcountry Giving Day, involving all stakeholders to determine the best next step forward. Should you have comments or feedback about the event, feel free to share them anytime at givingday@coastalcommunityfoundation.org.

Many things changed from Lowcountry Giving Day 2014 to 2015, and we do not yet know how the day may change in 2016 and beyond. However, we do know one fact for certain: In just 48 hours, over two short years, Lowcountry Giving Day has raised $10.8 million to support 204 nonprofits working for the lasting good of our community — and that is certainly cause for celebration.

Bill Medich is executive vice-president and Charleston regional president of South State Bank and the board chair of Coastal Community Foundation.