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Day of Giving critical to Western Pennsylvania nonprofits

| Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, 12:08 a.m.
High school rowers from the First Row program take to the Allegheny River in a downpour of rain for rowing practice at the docks of Three Rivers Rowing at washington's Landing on Thursday September 27, 2012. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
High school rowers take to the Allegheny River in a downpour of rain for rowing practice at the docks of Three Rivers Rowing at washington's Landing on Thursday September 27, 2012. Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review

The Day of Giving helps keep Three Rivers Rowing Association afloat.

The one-day event in 2010 and 2011 raised a total of $85,000 in gifts and matching money for the organization, Executive Director Rick Brown said, accomplishing in two days results that might otherwise take a year.

“It's been critical,” said Brown, whose organization promotes rowing and related activities. “There's a bonus of matching dollars, which certainly encourages people to participate that day. It gives people a deadline to give, which they often don't have in a campaign.”

During the Day of Giving, The Pittsburgh Foundation provides matching dollars to eligible nonprofits based on the donations that day. This year's event is Wednesday.

Since the Day of Giving started here in 2009, it has become an increasingly important part of the fundraising landscape, nonprofit leaders said. Some groups plan special events or campaigns to coax donors to open their wallets within the 24-hour window.

“We've seen it become much more of the strategy that nonprofits are using to reach out to new donors,” said Grant Oliphant, president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation. His foundation sponsors the event in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.

Donors must send online contributions of at least $25 to eligible nonprofit groups during the 24 hours that begin at 12 a.m. Wednesday.

The foundation will distribute $750,000 of its money proportionately to organizations in Allegheny County and about $80,000 to groups in Westmoreland County, based on what those groups generate in donations.

More than 700 charities from the two counties will participate, up from 654 last year.

The foundation hopes its incentive will generate more than $7 million this year for the nonprofits.

Last year, the event raised $6.4 million, compared with $3.3 million in 2010. The campaign attracted 13,643 donors, up from 7,778 a year ago.

Three Rivers Rowing uses the Day of Giving as a prelude to its signature Head of the Ohio race.

The Manchester Craftsmen's Guild uses a free event tied to RADical Days — when beneficiaries of tax money the Allegheny Regional Asset District distributes hold free events — to promote the Day of Giving.

“We use it to engage people who wouldn't necessarily know much about us,” said Erik Rueter, spokesman for the guild.

People who visit the guild at 5 p.m. Wednesday can get their photo taken, silkscreen a T-shirt and watch a show that combines magic with jazz.

The guild made $15,526, including the match, during last year's Day of Giving and $4,590 in 2010, said Jen Boughner, development director for Manchester Bidwell Corp. The guild made $15,146 when the foundation hosted a separate match day for arts organizations.

Last year, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh led all nonprofit groups with 843 donors, who gave $82,461, not counting the match.

“Over the years, the library has brought almost 900 new donors to the library through the Day of Giving,” said Charla Irwin-Buncher, annual giving manager for the library system.

Oliphant said the foundation might move the event to spring so that it won't conflict with traditional, end-of-year giving. He's thinking of asking corporations to contribute to the match pool.

Foundations are considering a national Day of Giving in 2014. If that happens, Oliphant said, he would tie Pittsburgh's day to the national event.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or

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