TAMPA — About 40 people sat in the downtown, second-floor office of Tampa Bay WaVE on Tuesday, entranced by their computers.
It was the first Give Day Tampa Bay, organized by the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and Florida Next as part of the nationwide Give Where You Live campaign. For 24 hours, donors could give money — a requested minimum of $25 — to any pre-registered local charity, all part of an overall effort to boost funds for bay area philanthropic organizations.
“It’s spreading all over the place,” said Jocelyn Carpenter, stewardship specialist with the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.
By about 6 p.m., 3,900 donors had given more than $787,000 to charities in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties. As organizers watched on their computer screen, the website tallied up the constantly growing list of donations.
By 7:30 p.m., more than 4,200 people had donated nearly $875,000.
The list of 385 charities included some well-known groups such as the Humane Society of Tampa Bay and Habitat for Humanity, but also other organizations like the Ybor City Museum Society and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.
Similar online donation drives were taking place across the country Tuesday, and organizers of the Tampa Bay event were using the Miami fundraiser as a benchmark, said Ned Pope, president of Florida Next. By the end of drive, they were hoping to have raised about $1 million.
“We’re very encouraged with the numbers at this point,” he said in late afternoon, as the totals were just about to hit the $600,000 mark.
The largest gift was about $30,000, Carpenter said, but most of the money came from individuals who wanted to contribute smaller donations.
“It really is for everybody, which is what we wanted,” she said.
Some of the participating charities raised little or no money, but others raised tens of thousands of dollars, with the Benedictine Sisters of Florida, and Big Cat Rescue leading the way for much of the day. With more than four hours left in the fundraising drive, the Benedictine Sisters had nearly cracked $100,000, and Big Cat Rescue had received nearly $77,000.
For the participating non-profits, any amount of money could be put to good use.
Each dollar collected by Feeding America Tampa Bay meant the organization could provide seven meals for the hungry, said Thomas Mantz, executive director of the group. By evening, the organization had collected about $60,000 and was in the top 10 charities with the most donations.
“That’s a pretty significant impact,” he said.
In addition to the money, the fundraiser was a good way to engage donors and potential givers, Mantz said.
“It’s a terrific awareness opportunity for folks to understand that there are a lot of ways to connect with missions in our community,” he said.
For Susan Jacobs, CEO of Wheels for Success, a Tampa non-profit that helps repair and provide cars for people who need reliable transportation to their full-time jobs, the publicity her organization got from the drive was just as useful as the $7,475 in donations that had come in by late afternoon.
Wheels for Success doesn’t have enough money to advertise, and it costs the organization an average of $2,500 to fix up donated cars for clients, Jacobs said.
“I think the exposure for all the charities is terrific,” she said about Give Day Tampa Bay. “Non-profits are doing a lot of work to keep our community healthy, and the community needs to be aware of that and support us.”