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This Giving Tuesday, Tampa Bay nonprofits hope for some relief

With demands for services increased and an inability to host fundraisers, the sector is coming off a bleak year.
Giving Tuesday 2020 has taken on added significance for local nonprofits, who are hoping donations will help make up for financial setbacks dealt by the pandemic.
Giving Tuesday 2020 has taken on added significance for local nonprofits, who are hoping donations will help make up for financial setbacks dealt by the pandemic. [ Times (2013) ]
Published Nov. 30, 2020|Updated Dec. 4, 2020

Giving Tuesday couldn’t come soon enough for a hurting nonprofit sector, Tampa Bay industry experts say.

The day of charitable giving, which started as a social media campaign in 2012, has grown into a major annual philanthropic event. The idea was to encourage a show of generosity on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, amid a season that traditionally has focused on shopping.

But this year, as the majority of nonprofits have been financially wounded by the pandemic, the day has taken on added significance.

While some nonprofits have seen skyrocketing demand for services like offering food and shelter, others in the arts sector have not been able to sell tickets or hold in-person gatherings.

“They can’t do what they do right now,” said Wilma Norton, vice president for community connections at the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. “They can’t pack their theater, they can’t fill their museum.”

Almost all nonprofits have expressed concerns over fundraising and the inability to host fundraising events, said Emily Benham, CEO of the Nonprofit Leadership Center. Many of those events — a big source of revenue — have switched to digital platforms.

A July survey from the Florida Nonprofit Alliance found that more than 80 percent of nonprofits have experienced some sort of disruption in their ability to offer services. Nearly 20 percent had to stop offering services completely. A few have had to fold or merge, and the alliance expects more of that in the next year.

About 35 percent say they can’t operate longer than a year on the amount they’ve raised in 2020, and half tapped into their reserves, said Leah McDermott, program manager for the alliance. Another third, she said, didn’t have reserves to tap into.

“They’re really on a shoestring right now, trying to stay in existence,” McDermott said.

In May, the creators of Giving Tuesday launched a Giving Tuesday Now campaign to increase donations beyond the holiday season. Many nonprofits have also been reaching out to their donors through the year as their own resources dwindle.

The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay launched a nonprofits needs list in March to directly connect donors with nonprofits. Since its creation, the list has raised more than $3.6 million for nonprofits. But it still has more than 276 requests pending for more than $19 million in unmet needs.

“The needs have been greater this year,” said Norton, the foundation vice president. “Giving Tuesday every year is really a reason for nonprofits to get their message out a little more broadly. It taps into people who are not regular givers.”

Sabeen Perwaiz, executive director of the nonprofit alliance, said some may have “giving fatigue” in a year when resources are already strapped. Florida recently ranked in the bottom 10 states per capita for Giving Tuesday contributions, she said.

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Benham said it’s important for nonprofits to do the ask. They will be essential in defining the “next normal” as society recovers, she said. “I’m confident it will continue to do so.”

Perwaiz said she also expects the upcoming session of the Legislature to be tough for the nonprofit sector, which includes more than 95,000 organizations and employs 6.5 percent of Florida’s workforce, as the state’s revenue has diminished.

“Nonprofits will always be providing services for the community, but they also need help because they’re doing a lot with very little,” she said.

(Editor’s Note: This article has be updated regarding Florida’s ranking in Giving Tuesday contributions. A previous version incorrectly stated the ranking.)


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