Tuesday is Give Day Tampa Bay, a 24-hour fundraising event that benefits a wide range of local nonprofit charities. It's also a competition of sorts, with charities vying for added bonuses from corporate sponsors and foundations.
The online giving challenge at giveday.org, presented by the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, aims to make it easy to find your favorite cause and give it a boost. Now in its third year, it has a roster of 595 nonprofit organizations from all over the Tampa Bay area. Join in on social media using #GiveDayTampaBay, #LiveHere and #GiveHere.
It's like one-stop shopping for do-gooders, and even the smallest charities are finding that this day can catch the eyes of the generous.
At 2015's Give Day, the relatively new charity NOMADstudio, which stands for Neighborhood-Oriented Mobile Art and Design, was looking for money to buy supplies. The art bus heads to places like foster homes and inner-city schools.
Carrie Boucher, 41, an artist and former art teacher who founded NOMAD in 2014, raised $2,200 that day and was thrilled. Then she got an email a few months later from the Community Foundation. An anonymous donor was interested in her mission and wanted to know what they would do with a big gift.
She was used to donors dropping, at most, $20 in a donation bucket.
"You mean, like, $50, or really big like $500?" Boucher asked.
Just before Christmas, the anonymous donor sent $20,000.
Now NOMAD can make monthly visits to a group foster home of 50 kids in St. Petersburg. It also replaced the generator on the bus and created after-school art enrichment programs in some of Pinellas County's toughest schools.
Give Day, Boucher said, "was an opportunity for us to ask."
"A lot of people who start nonprofits are the helpers," she said. "They don't feel comfortable asking for help and asking for money. For donors, you have an opportunity to make a difference in your local community."
It's heartwarming to see hundreds of charities lay out their work, said Wilma Norton, vice president of marketing and communications for the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, which has vetted all the nonprofits to verify their tax status and standing with the IRS.
There are small organizations doing big things, like Computer Mentors, teaching coding and robotics to at-risk kids. There's Wheels of Success, providing refurbished cars for the working poor, Frankie's Friends, helping pet owners who cannot afford special medical care and Boards for Bros, giving out free skateboards and lessons.
"This is an easy way for people who may not necessarily have regular causes to find out what groups are in our area that are doing the work that is meaningful to them," Norton said.
Give Day's website lists all the charities and divides them by mission, from animal rescues to food pantries to education to arts and veterans services.
The minimum donation is $25. In the 2015 Give Day campaign, almost $1.75 million was raised in 24 hours for 550 organizations. And this year, Sykes, TECO, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Tampa Bay Rays and other foundations are adding incentives, such as an extra $1,000 to a charity that has the most donors in a particular hour.
"People think you need to be wealthy to be a philanthropist," Norton said. "But your $25 and my $25, and $25 coming from 100 other people can do something that's really meaningful. We want people to know the nonprofit sector is a large part of our economy and the backbone of a society filled with people who care about their community."
Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @SharonKWn.