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Day of Giving donations exceed $5.5 million

| Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, 1:15 p.m.

For many nonprofit groups, the Day of Giving represents some of the easiest money they will make in a year.

“It's easy for us to email folks. We're not throwing a gala, using a lot of staff time, no need to rent a facility,” said Tara Covelens, director of individual giving at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

Donors on Thursday surpassed $5.5 million in giving as of 9 p.m., about the same pace as last year. More than 700 nonprofits in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties participated in the fifth annual Day of Giving, sponsored by the Pittsburgh Foundation.

“I'm not sure we'll actually pass what we did last year,” said Christopher Whitlatch, a spokesman for the foundation. “It's going to be close.”

In 2012, the Day of Giving raised more than $7.6 million, excluding what the foundation matched.

This year, the foundation is providing a match of about $750,000 to groups in Allegheny County and about $100,000 to those in Westmoreland.

The foundation tweaked its match this year, capping the amount of a donation that it will match at $1,000, down from $10,000 last year. The idea is to attract more donors whose contributions will be matched.

“This is what the Day of Giving is for — to encourage everyone to give that day, not just a large donation,” he said.

Covelens said donations to the food bank were coming in at about the same pace as last year. “It's exciting to be in the top five again,” she said.

As of 7 p.m., only the financially troubled Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra had raised more money than the food bank.

“This Day of Giving is such a gift to the community, and it's an opportunity for the community to support the great work that we do,” said Jodi Weisfield, vice president of development for the symphony.

More than 1,000 people contributed to the food bank last year. “We have a lot of donors giving a little rather than a handful of donors giving six-figure amounts,” she said.

Covelens called the Day of Giving the biggest one-day fundraiser for her organization. “It ensures that all the dollars raised come to the food bank,” she said. “It's not going to the costs associated with an event.”

Joe Wos, executive director of the ToonSeum, expected to raise more than last year's $4,000 because of the buzz surrounding its gift of a DOG Day T-shirt designed by Patrick McDonnell, creator of the Mutts comic strip.

“For us, it's really about creating awareness,” he said. “For a lot of people who give to us, it might be the first time they're even hearing of us.”

Wos said most of the money from the day will be earmarked for the exhibit, “Wonder Women on Page and Off,” exploring the historical role of women in the comics industry and their portrayal in comics.

Foundations officials have said they will continue sponsoring the Day of Giving through 2014 and will re-examine its future beyond that.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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