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Pittsburgh Day of Giving's destiny being studied

| Monday, Sept. 30, 2013, 12:08 a.m.

The sponsor behind the Pittsburgh Day of Giving, the biggest one-day fundraiser in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, is pondering whether the event set for Thursday should continue beyond next year and, if it does, in what form.

“The nonprofit community in Pittsburgh has developed the capacity we were hoping it would,” said Grant Oliphant, president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation. “We have to evaluate whether the program is still necessary as presently constructed, given the tremendous progress that has been made in nonprofits and donors connecting in new ways.”

The Pittsburgh Foundation has sponsored the event since 2009. Donors gave $1.2 million to nonprofits in Allegheny County that first year with the promise of prorated matching funds. Last year, donors gave $8.5 million to groups in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.

The foundation plans to provide $750,000 in matching funds to groups in Allegheny County and $100,000 to Westmoreland County, the same as last year. More than 700 nonprofits received gifts last year.

The foundation is adding a twist this year. It plans to match the first $1,000 of a gift, compared to the first $10,000 in previous years. Foundation officials hope the change will attract more donors whose contributions would be matched.

The buzz is mostly about the foundation's plans after next year's Day of Giving.

“There's a lot of mixed opinion about how and if this should go forward,” said Mitch Swain, CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, which represents arts groups that benefit from the day. “There are some larger organizations that are of the opinion that it confuses their regular fund-raising effort.”

Oliphant said he likes how the event has spurred nonprofit groups to use social media. Many groups email and post Twitter messages to remind donors about the event.

He said the foundation is considering three possibilities after 2014.

One would be to stop sponsoring the event. The second is to sponsor the event but not provide matching contributions, noting that some cities offer prizes for reaching milestones such as attracting the most donors or new donors.

A third option would be to have a pool of matching money from sources outside the foundation.

Suzanne Thinnes, spokeswoman for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, said the Day of Giving has cultivated a climate of philanthropy in Allegheny County. Last year, the library system raised $97,916 from the event. She declined to recommend what the foundation should do beyond 2014.

“We have a greater engagement through social media with our donors. It also has helped us build an awareness of library services to be supported,” she said.

Oliphant said the foundation will sponsor a Day of Giving for arts groups next year because of a special grant from The Heinz Endowments. A date hasn't been set.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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