On Thursday, you can donate to one or more of your favorite local charities and they will get even more.North Texas Giving Day, set aside by the Communities Foundation of Texas, will bring millions into the coffers of 1,000 area charities through an online donation platform. The foundation matches donations with money previously raised.We saw a need to create a day to make donors more aware of charitable giving and the nonprofit community in the region, foundation spokeswoman Carol Goglia said. We wanted to bring light to all of them at the same time.Now in its fifth year, the giving day one of the first in the country has done nothing but increase its numbers.In 2009, we raised $4 million that day with 6,000 donations, Goglia said. Last year, we raised $14.4 million from 37,000 donations.Last year, the bonus on top of the donation total was 7 percent of what each nonprofit received by the end of the event. Individual organizations also received extra money drawn throughout the day.This year, the foundation has raised $1.5 million to help match donation dollars, Goglia said.Until last year, North Texas Giving Day was the top fundraiser of its kind when compared with 30 such days in cities and states across the country, Goglia said. Give Minnesota, a day last fall that encouraged giving over 36 hours throughout the state, beat North Texas Giving Day in 2012, raising $16.4 million.We want to regain our title, Goglia said.While it might seem strange for nonprofits to work together for donation dollars they typically compete for, Goglia said, the community has embraced the idea.The community spirit here is amazing, she said. We thought that might be an issue, but it never has been. Everyone sees it as a win for the community. Most nonprofits know that their donors support many organizations in a year.In fact, 22 percent of those who donated on North Texas Giving Day last year gave to more than one charity, she said. The day also brought in another important source new donors. Goglia said 20 percent of the donors, reached through social media and other marketing outlets for the event, were new.ACH Child and Family Services in Fort Worth received the most funds on last years Giving Day: more than $144,000 from 34 donors.We actually worked very hard to get a good response for that day, said Wayne Carson, the chief executive officer. We had a capital campaign going on, and we organized some gifts so they coincided with that day.The money raised on Giving Day made up about 12 percent of ACHs overall budget of more than $1 million, Carson said.It was a big boost to support the kids and families in our program, he said. ACH has programs in 19 counties to support foster care, adoption, emergency shelter and to identify and provide support for children caught in trafficking for labor or sex. Last year, the program reached almost 3,000 children, Carson said.Meals on Wheels of Tarrant County received more than $101,000 from almost 150 donors last year, said Denise Harris, spokeswoman for the nonprofit, which brings hot meals to homebound residents.Our match to that was $4,000 more, she said. The donations paid for 21,000 people to see a smiling face and get a hot meal.The River Legacy Foundation in Arlington received $16,278 from more than 70 donors last year, according to its e-newsletter.This year, the natural science school at River Legacy Parks will host events to draw attention to Giving Day, including coffee and other refreshments, as well as a free screening and discussion of Robert Redfords film Watershed at 6:30 p.m. Goglia said the foundation verifies that all groups signed up for Giving Day have proper nonprofit status and an address in one of 16 participating counties. The charities also cannot be private foundations.As with all online donations, some costs are involved. Goglia said the nonprofits themselves cover a 2.99 percent credit card fee on each gift. The foundation pays for the bulk of a 1 percent software fee.Such regional Giving Days are increasing nationwide, said Sandra Miniutti, chief financial officer for Charity Navigator, a watchdog over the nonprofit community.Giving Tuesday, the Tuesday after Black Friday, is one example, she said. Its a day the sector comes together and promotes giving as a whole.Miniutti recommends that those contributing on Giving Day research the charity to make sure they know what it will do with the money.Take time to really understand what the charity is all about, she said. It can have cancer in the name, and you think you are giving to research, but it might be advocacy or awareness. Remember, theres no way to recover an online donation on the back end to get your money back.
Teresa McUsics column appears Saturdays. TMcUsic@SavvyConsumer.net