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Nonprofits: Groups gear up for a day of online donations

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Teach My People is planning a party under the oaks. Murrells Inlet 2020 is filling a fish tank with pledges. They are among the scores of nonprofits serving Georgetown County that will participate in next week’s Lowcountry Giving Day.

The initiative was started by the Coastal Community Foundation in 2014. To participate, nonprofits were required to have a match. The Bunnelle Foundation at Pawleys Island matched 15 nonprofits up to $10,000 last year. This year it is matching 22 organizations up to $7,500.

Nonprofits can now participate without a match. They have from midnight until 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday to raise funds through lowcountrygivingday.org. Donors can go online earlier to schedule pledges.

“It’s an effort to engage donors and increase giving and to increase online giving,” said Ashley Nelson, executive assistant at Bunnelle. “There’s a great deal of energy from the organizations that are participating.”

Teach My People was among those Bunnelle sponsored last year. It raised $46,000 in the 24-hour giving day window and another $5,000 came in afterward, said Eric Spatz, executive director of the Christian after-school mentoring program.

“The majority was online and 25 percent was new donors,” he said. Teach My People used its Facebook page to promote giving. Before that it was mainly to tell the nonprofit’s story.

Business sponsors and current donors also spread the word through social media, Spatz said. “Day of Giving’s really helped us out,” he said. Teach My People has other sponsors in addition to Bunnelle, bringing its total match up to $23,000. The goal is to raise $50,000 for summer programs.

The Murrells Inlet 2020 revitalization group is new to Lowcountry Giving Day. It’s goal is to raise $7,500 to match the Bunnelle funds, said Renee Williamson, the executive director. “It’s a baby step,” she said, but one that fits the goal of focusing its fundraising on fewer events.

Online giving isn’t a large part of Murrells Inlet 2020’s fundraising. “It’s whatever the donor feels comfortable with,” Williamson said. “Our donor base is an older base.”

She set up a fish tank for pledges because she remembered collecting money for the Jerry Lewis telethons as a child. She took the money to a local TV station where it went into an oversize fish tank.

Lowcountry Giving Day also has a feature that allows donors to send donations via text messages. Williamson said even her board members struggled with that. For Teach My People, the texting feature is one they will promote at a party Tuesday at the Live Oak Center. It runs from 5 to 8 p.m., but Spatz said he’ll be watching the donations come in online until 11:59.

The 15 nonprofits Bunnelle sponsored raised $275,000 before the foundation’s match, Nelson said. Only two didn’t raise the full amount of the match.

The website lowcountrygivingday.org lets donors see the participating nonprofits and their missions. They can filter the groups by category, service area and whether donations will be matched.

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