Friday, December 15, 2017
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#GivingTuesday grows charitable roots in Tampa Bay

Social media timelines will be flooded Tuesday with hashtags and messages encouraging holiday shoppers to donate a few dollars for the needy as a part of an annual giving drive.

#GivingTuesday is only four years old, but it has already been embraced by charities across the country and at least 46 in Tampa Bay alone.

"It has been branded like Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday," said Jennifer Dodd, education coordinator with the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay. "People want to feel a little more hopeful and they see more of a need to give back."

READ MORE: America's Worst Charities database

#GivingTuesday is a global movement that began as a hashtag created by New York's 92nd Street Y in 2012. More than 30,000 groups in 68 countries have participated, and it has generated more than 750,000 hashtag mentions on social media since its inception.

Geographic areas organize to promote the movement together, amplifying their voices. But unlike our neighbors to the east and south, the Tampa Bay charitable community doesn't have a centralized contact for #GivingTuesday efforts.

Dodd does conduct an informal survey to gauge local participation and had received 16 responses by mid-November. To find out which Tampa Bay charities are participating this year, you'll have to monitor social media on the day of the event or check the web site of a particular charity.

"It can be a little harder to stand out and little easier to get lost in the shuffle since there will be an avalanche of hashtags that day," Dodd said. "In this area we focus our efforts more on Give Day Tampa Bay in May, run by the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, because it's our own event and it makes it a little easier to stand out."

Still, some local charities are finding ways. Big Brother Big Sisters of Tampa Bay is planning on airing TV spots on the local CBS affiliate to remind local donors that #GivingTuesday is a good time to support their organization. And two charities, the Crisis Center and Humane Society of Tampa Bay, will conduct their first-ever Instagram campaigns on Tuesday.

Birgit Pauli-Haack of Naples, who serves as co-organizer for SWFL Gives and non-profit technology education group, Tech4Good, said her group started training charities and preparing for #GivingTuesday via seminars on Sept. 1 in order to have their social media skills on point in time for Tuesday's drive.

Thirteen non-profits from the southwest Florida area are currently listed on the Tech4Good site. Pauli-Haack anticipates more but doesn't expect household name charities from her area to jump into the social media fray.

"A lot of the big players, at least in Naples, receive 30 percent of their annual fundraising revenue in December anyway," she said. "They send out their solicitation letters or hold their big galas and volunteer awards ceremonies around this time, so they might not want to participate in #GivingTuesday and cut into the resources they already have dedicated to those projects."

Central Florida's #GivingTuesday efforts are being helmed by the Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at Rollins College for the second year in a row. The school acts as a liaison between charities and the national office and currently lists 10 participating groups, but registration is open through the day of the event, according to Karen Revels, the institute's senior manager of philanthropy.

"Our efforts are focused on grass roots efforts to raise awareness throughout Central Florida," Revels said. "It's a fantastic opportunity for organizations to connect with new donors, who collectively can have a substantial impact on the nonprofit they support."

Dodd isn't worried about people in Tampa Bay finding ways to participate on #GivingTuesday.

"The response has always been overwhelming in a really positive way," Dodd said. "I think they like to be asked to give back."

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