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Day of Giving returns, glitch-free

Natasha Lindstrom
| Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, 10:54 p.m.
A “giving station,” photographed on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016 inside the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, which has joined forces with CASA of Westmoreland Inc. child abuse nonprofit and Westmoreland Community Development Corporation for Western Pennsylvania’s rebooted Day of Giving. Hundreds of nonprofits across the region are participating in the collective campaign to get people to give via the online platform, PittsburghGives.org.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
A “giving station,” photographed on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016 inside the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, which has joined forces with CASA of Westmoreland Inc. child abuse nonprofit and Westmoreland Community Development Corporation for Western Pennsylvania’s rebooted Day of Giving. Hundreds of nonprofits across the region are participating in the collective campaign to get people to give via the online platform, PittsburghGives.org.

For most of Wednesday, Lindsey Nova nervously fixated on her computer and phone screens more so than usual.

“I'm not getting any work done. I just keep hitting refresh,” Nova, executive director of the Downtown-based nonprofit Three Rivers Young Peoples Orchestra, said mid-afternoon as she scanned the Day of Giving leaderboard on PittsburghGives.org.

Nova had multiple reasons to keep a close eye on the online fundraising ticker, which kept a running total of donors and dollar amounts throughout the 24-hour campaign.

For one, she relished seeing the number of individual donations climb, with the youth orchestra, which has a $400,000 annual budget, logging among the highest amount of contributions.

For another, her hair was on the line, literally — Nova promised she'd dye her brown locks blue if her group hit the $20,000 mark.

It did — before 7 p.m.

More than 820 nonprofit organizations participated in Wednesday's rescheduled Day of Giving coordinated by The Pittsburgh Foundation, four months after the original event flopped amid nationwide technical failures.

The reboot of Western Pennsylvania's largest single giving event spurred sector-wide enthusiasm, social media blitzes and financial boosts for nonprofits across Allegheny, Butler and Westmoreland counties.

“We had no glitches, no system problems, very few calls from confused or frustrated donors,” The Pittsburgh Foundation CEO Max King said late-afternoon.

As of 9:30 p.m., more than 13,800 online donations totaling nearly $1.9 million had been made to more than 820 nonprofit organizations in Allegheny, Butler and Westmoreland counties.

Nova's 25-employee nonprofit youth orchestra was on track to raise the ninth-highest amount of money.

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, which has about 115 employees and a $40 million annual budget, dominated the competition's prize board with more than 685 donations totaling more than $96,000 as of 9:30 p.m.

Charla Irwin-Buncher, the food bank's director of donor relations, said her organization starts getting the word out through its staff and volunteer core of about 5,400 people before aggressively reaching donors on Facebook, Twitter and email. And since the Day of Giving is regionwide, “you also get a bounce off of all the other nonprofits who are getting the word out as well,” Irwin-Buncher said.

Rounding out the Top 5 organizations in dollar amounts, as of 9:30 p.m.: Light of Life Rescue Mission, with 320 donations totaling $80,001; Pittsburgh Symphony, 244 donations, $72,312; Seton Hill University, 210 donations, $43,102; and Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, 89 donations, $27,232.

Child-abuse advocacy group CASA of Westmoreland Inc. joined forces with Westmore­land Museum of American Art and Westmoreland Community Development Corporation to drive up donations with a series of events, including a breakfast mixer, a day-long laptop “giving station” at the museum and an evening happy hour at Hugo's Taproom.

“It's all of our communities in this region coming together in philanthropy, in giving, in serving to say, ‘Our communities matter, and today I'm going to show you they matter by making a gift,' ” which start at $25, said Sherrie Dunlap, CASA's director of development. “Having that starting level makes it possible for anyone to be a philanthropist.”

The foundation had to cancel its Day of Giving on May 3 after the web platform — formerly run by Texas online fundraising provider Kimbia — faltered 10 hours into the 24-hour campaign. The malfunction affected more than 50 community foundations across the United States.

Because of the disruption, The Pittsburgh Foundation pledged an additional $100,000 in prizes on top of $94,000 worth of incentives.

This time around, the foundation turned to Denver-based CiviCore, a firm with 15 years in experience managing large giving events. It ensured the Day of Giving would be the only event CiviCore was hosting Wednesday and had e-commerce company Square on retainer as a backup.

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514 or nlindstrom@tribweb.com.

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