'Day of Giving' surpasses expectations with $8.4 million

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Grant Oliphant, president and chief executive of the Pittsburgh Foundation, made an unexpected confession during a staff meeting Thursday morning at the foundation's Downtown offices:

"I am a lousy prognosticator."

Mr. Oliphant admitted that prior to the Day of Giving online fundraising event for area nonprofits held Wednesday, he anticipated the final tally would be about the same as last year -- around $6.5 million.

But preliminary results show the event generated $8.4 million from individual donations and a pool of $830,000 in matching funds contributed by the foundation and the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County.

"I'm blown away to be honest," said Mr. Oliphant.

A total 665 nonprofits in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties will benefit from the event, which attracted 17,719 donors, up from 13,600 last year, the foundation said.

Mr. Oliphant said he had expected donors to hold back because of economic concerns, including uncertainty surrounding federal tax laws that could impact charitable gifts.

But donors opened their wallets anyway, he said, because of intense efforts by those organizations to get the word out about the fourth annual Day of Giving. "In the last two weeks, the nonprofit community went into overdrive reaching out to constituents for support."

Nonprofits were required to register on the PittsburghGives website to receive donations and marketed themselves to potential donors through e-mail blasts, traditional direct mail and a range of social media, including Facebook.

"There was a lot of creativity," Mr. Oliphant said. Nonprofits "are getting more sophisticated in using the tools ... and donors are more familiar and comfortable with giving through online means."

The online nature of the event limited donors to those willing to use the Internet and make payments only by credit cards, which meant their gifts were subject to a credit card fee of 2.9 percent.

The match pool -- $750,000 for nonprofits based in Allegheny County and $80,000 for those in Westmoreland County -- will be pro-rated among all the organizations that received donations.

Individual gifts ranged from $25 -- the minimum donation required -- to $25,000, and came from 48 states and the District of Columbia, the foundation said.

The 24-hour event was not without technical glitches.

When it kicked off at 12 a.m. Wednesday, the names of five nonprofits did not appear on the menu of organizations eligible for donations. Four of them were added before 3 a.m., Mr. Oliphant said, and the fifth, the Fred Rogers Co., was added by noon.

"One thing I like about the 24-hour format is that we have time to fix it and there is plenty of time to give."

businessnews

Joyce Gannon: jgannon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1580.


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