Give Day Tampa Bay, a 24-hour online fundraising campaign, exceeded its goal Tuesday and raised more than $1 million for charities in the Tampa Bay area. It was an impressive effort by the entire community in the event's inaugural year. The event's success lays the foundation for a continued communitywide commitment to philanthropic giving in the bay area. By making donations large and small, donors helped provide money to 384 participating charities and the worthy causes each champions. This is what the community should be doing, working together to lift its most needy and vulnerable.
Organized by the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and the Florida Next Foundation, Give Day Tampa Bay was designed to spur local giving for charities based in Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties. The idea surfaced after organizers discovered the bay area's dismal record of charitable giving, ranking 250th out of 366 major metropolitan areas.
The event organizers targeted first-time givers and young donors, because that demographic traditionally does not embrace local philanthropic giving. According to the Community Foundation, 5,144 individual donors participated Tuesday in Give Day Tampa Bay, 25 percent of whom gave for the first time. The majority of donations, which totaled $1,089,359, were made by local givers, but donors hailed from as far away as Beijing, London and Glasgow. Organizers did not record donors' ages.
Social media played a significant role in fundraising efforts for many of the participating nonprofits. Big Cat Rescue raised $85,864 and used its website and Facebook page to encourage the public to give. The Tampa sanctuary for exotic cats logged 802 individual donors, the most of the campaign. Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry bested all groups, raising $111,344 by promoting its efforts hourly on Facebook and Twitter and employing traditional volunteer phone bank techniques.
The success of Give Day Tampa Bay mirrors efforts by communities around the country that held similar events this week. Preliminary totals from Sarasota's 2014 Giving Challenge, for example, show that 18,799 donors raised $3.1 million from noon Tuesday to noon Wednesday. But Sarasota started its local giving challenge several years ago. A similar trajectory is possible for the Tampa Bay area if charities and the community embrace Tuesday's effort as a launching pad for future endeavors. Building strong communities with a commitment to giving takes a collective effort. With the wind at its back, Tampa Bay should keep going.