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Western Pa. nonprofits promote Giving Tuesday

| Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 7:24 a.m.

For years, America's national day of gratitude has been followed by two days of commercial hype and excess — Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Now there's “Giving Tuesday,” a new effort to make donating time or money to charity as routine as standing in line outside a big box store at 3 a.m. in freezing weather.

“This is the flip side of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It is asking people to think about what they give and not just about what they buy,” said Betsy Momich, a spokeswoman for the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, one of 2,000 partners in the nationwide effort.

Collaborators at the 92nd Street Y in New York City and the United Nations Foundation conceived Giving Tuesday, which began with more than 2,000 charities and nonprofits participating nationwide.

Participants in the Pittsburgh area included Mt. Lebanon Village, a nonprofit that serves the aging, the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh and the Cooper-Siegel Community Library, which operates a library in Fox Chapel and one in Sharpsburg.

The effort relies heavily on charities and nonprofits spreading the word of their need via social media. Giving Tuesday was trending Tuesday afternoon on Twitter, #GivingTuesday, with people as diverse as Bill Gates and former first lady Barbara Bush tweeting for people to give.

“Giving Tuesday is sort of a social media movement encouraging people to give time, money, or in the case of the Red Cross, to give blood,” said Lauren Chapman, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross Southwestern Pennsylvania, another local partner.

Nonprofits such as the Red Cross that have relied on mailings and phone calls know that effective use of social media is now an essential part of fundraising, she said. “It's is a great way to share information. It is a chance to connect with people you might otherwise never reach.”

Efforts such as Giving Tuesday and the Pittsburgh Foundation's increasingly popular Day of Giving have the potential to expand fundraising for small nonprofits and charities, foundation spokesman John Ellis said.

“Social media has played a very big part in the way we operate on the Day of Giving,” he said.

The foundation's Oct. 4 online Day of Giving raised $8.5 million for 665 nonprofits — 31 percent more than last year. The foundation matched those donations with 10.5 cents for each dollar.

The foundation gives classes on social media for nonprofits. “Facebook and Twitter do not involve huge outlays and really can help with fundraising,” Ellis said.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or rwills@tribweb.com.

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