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Nonprofit leaders uncertain about changes to Day of Giving fundraiser

| Sunday, May 4, 2014, 9:30 p.m.

Nonprofit leaders are looking forward to the sixth annual Day of Giving on Tuesday with anticipation because it's the biggest fundraising day of the year for some and because of possible changes in the program.

“What we like about it is it really harnesses the community where everybody is thinking about how they can support nonprofits in their community,” said Michele Margittai, director of development for the Veterans Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania. “It's not just a fundraising day. It's an awareness day, a friend-raising day, and I think there is value in that.”

Since starting the program in 2009, The Pittsburgh Foundation has raised more than $30 million for charities in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties. This year, the program is expanding to include charities in Butler County. The foundation matches donations made on the Day of Giving.

Last year, however, the foundation announced that it would continue the event through this year and said possible changes are in store. The possibilities involve ending the program, continuing it but ending the match or getting other groups to contribute to the match pool.

Adding to the uncertainty is the announcement that Grant Oliphant, president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation, is leaving in June to head The Heinz Endowments. He shepherded the Day of Giving.

Oliphant expects The Pittsburgh Foundation will continue the event in a modified form, but that decision will be up to his successor and the board.

“My guess is it might focus on a particular issue, like education or human services,” he said.

The foundation will sponsor a day of giving for the arts on Oct. 2.

The Veterans Leadership Program made about $11,000 from the event last year and hopes to make about $15,000 this year. Margittai said the Day of Giving is important because its donations are unrestricted, meaning there are no strings attached to the dollars.

The event happens when the demand on the South Side-based program, which provides aid for utilities, housing and jobs, is growing. Last month, the group served 500 veterans compared with the usual 300.

“It was a harsh winter,” Margittai said. “We're starting to see results of a drawdown from Iraq and Afghanistan and people trying to get connected to jobs.”

The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh raised $107,958 from 1,065 donors in last year's event. Library spokeswoman Suzanne Thinnes said the event helps the system attract donors and develop social media as a way of attracting them.

The ToonSeum, Downtown, made about $3,000 last year and hopes to get the same this year. Although that total may not seem like much to large nonprofits, it's important to the cartoon museum.

“It covers the cost of an entire exhibit,” ToonSeum Executive Director Joe Wos said.

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

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