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Another ‘Giving Tuesday’ happens this week as nonprofits struggle

Typically held the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, organizers are rallying around an extra day of generosity dubbed #GivingTuesdayNOW.

As the coronavirus crisis deepens for nonprofits and their clients, the international fundraiser known as Giving Tuesday is expanding beyond its usual December push to encourage a day of charitable giving this week.

The idea for #GivingTuesdayNOW began five weeks ago, said Jamie McDonald, founder of Generosity Inc. and chief of strategy for #GivingTuesday, the 8-year-old campaign that has become a huge event for philanthropy.

“The frontline people who do good for others need our support right now," McDonald said. "And if they fall into a category that isn’t a traditional frontline responder — beyond food, shelter and clothing — they feel sheepish asking for support. There are so many ways the community is supported. We can’t forget about all the other non-frontline responders who are helping right now.”

Organizers have been rallying corporate partners around the country for the new day of action, set for Tuesday, May 5.

For most nonprofits, the most critical period of the crisis is just beginning, said Sabeen Perwaiz, director of the Florida Nonprofit Alliance.

Even the best financially situated groups have enough cash reserves for about three months, and most have less, she said. While government programs like the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Impact Disaster Loans are available, nonprofits have had varied access to them, Perwaiz said.

Related: RELATED: Nonprofits seek ‘Paycheck Protection’ loans, but worry about equity

“In that first round, it was really a mixed bag,” she said. “There’s a lot of anxiety around how and when they’ll come out of this.”

The Florida Orchestra received about $1.2 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans, said Kelly Smith, communications manager for the orchestra. But it’s barely enough to keep them afloat through the season, she said.

With canceled concerts, revenue has dried up. But the orchestra has not shut down.

“We’re still continuing the mission and the music," Smith said. "We’ve moved to a virtual world and we’re adapting. We’re trying to bring joy and comfort and relief in any way they can.”

Members Florida Orchestra's brass section rehearse at the Mahaffey Theater for a March performance of Sibelius' Symphony no. 7. The orchestra later canceled its season but has found other ways to continue its mission during the coronavirus crisis. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

The orchestra has been live-streaming on their website, continuing virtual lessons for students in the community and performing weekly radio broadcasts. Before they qualified for federal loan money, the orchestra committed to pay its musicians for the remainder of the season.

“An orchestra is not just music,” Smith said. “It’s people. It’s full-time musicians who live in your neighborhood. It’s their livelihood. ... Music is a way to inject joy into the community. That’s why we’re not letting up.””

Ticketholders have the option of donating their already purchased tickets to the orchestra, and people can give directly using the orchestra’s website, Smith said.

Eleanor Saunders, director of Emergency Care Help Organization, said that, while her organization received Paycheck Protection Program money for its staff of nine, the demand for services has increased exponentially and it’s base of volunteers has gone down.

The group, known as ECHO, had to temporarily collapse its programming of providing clothing, GED assistance and job training so it could focus on food distribution last month, Saunders said.

They gave away more than 44,000 pounds of food, and are still seeking food donations as well as financial contributions, she said. “The need is pretty overwhelming.”

Rick Cohen, chief communications and operating officer for the National Council of Nonprofits, said nonprofits are the third-largest employer in the workforce, behind retail and food services, accounting for 12.3 million jobs.

With increased demand for their services, the sector could employ even more people, he said, but a survey of nonprofits before the coronavirus crisis revealed a dire financial situation as it was.

“A lot of nonprofits were in a very precarious place before this," Cohen said. "There are some nonprofits where, if the dollars were there, they could be hiring people in their communities because there’s urgent need out there. They’re the lifeline for a lot of people.”

He said he expects the situation to worsen as states and cities anticipate massive budget deficits.

The timing of this extra Giving Tuesday, he said, is helpful. The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, known as CARES, includes a provision that allows all taxpayers to write off up to $300 in charitable contributions on their next tax returns.

“Not every nonprofit is getting a CEO of a big corporation stepping in,” Cohen said. “For many nonprofits it’s about a $25 or $50 donation. Right now, every dollar counts.”

While many people face financial burdens right now, the spirit of Giving Tuesday Now extends beyond monetary contributions, said McDonald, the Giving Tuesday organizer.

“Taking a casserole to a neighbor or checking in on a friend, it’s critical right now,” she said. “Giving Tuesday is about generosity in all forms. The way you give is the way you shape the community.”

For a list of projects from local nonprofits in the area seeking funding, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay put together a Nonprofit Needs List last month. Find it at cftampabay.org/nonprofitneedslist.

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