November 25, 2013

Baltimore Gears Up for ‘Giving Tuesday’ With a Grass-Roots Campaign

Mark L. Dennis/Office of the Mayor

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

Charities, local businesses, and the mayor of Baltimore are joining forces to help the city earn the title of “most generous city in America” by collectively raising $5-million for good causes on Giving Tuesday, an event after Thanksgiving to help nonprofits nationwide raise money.

Baltimore has bragging rights to uphold: Last year, the event’s first year, a local charity, the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, raised more than any other nonprofit in America that day, according to Giving Tuesday organizers.

The competition across the country for most donations on Giving Tuesday might be tougher this year. Some 5,500 nonprofits—double the number that participated last year—are expected to promote charitable donations on December 3, after the big traditional shopping days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

In Baltimore, the work to make December 3 a big giving day started in October, when more than 200 nonprofits and companies collaborated to promote “Bmore Gives More.”

The campaign kicked off with a “food-truck rally” that invited people to sample items from 25 food trucks and to pledge to make charitable gifts on Giving Tuesday. Several other events are being held throughout the city until that day.

GiveCorps, a local tech start-up that processes online gifts for charities, is spearheading the “Bmore Gives More” campaign and has built a website that allows visitors to make Giving Tuesday pledges ahead of December 3. Then on Giving Tuesday they can pick a charity to receive their donations.

Last year, GiveCorps processed $25,000 for about 40 charities on Giving Tuesday.

“The pledge activity has been strong,” says Jamie McDonald, chief executive of GiveCorps. “All indicators are there to give us confidence that we should be able to hit” the drive’s $5-million goal.

'Energy and Excitement’

Local nonprofits are also joining the campaign. Most notably: the Associated, which raised $1-million last year, is putting its muscle behind the effort.

This year, the Associated wants to raise more than last year’s haul, says Leslie Pomerantz, the group’s senior vice president for development. It will hold another a phone-athon, an “old-fashioned” but “effective way for us to raise money,” Ms. Pomerantz says. But for the first time this year, it will enlist 200 volunteers who will each be asked to persuade at least five people to donate that day.

Local businesses are also trying to give a lift to fundraising by sponsoring matching gifts and providing thank-you gifts to donors. An ice-cream parlor is making a signature flavor, a pizza shop is offering a special “Bmore Gives More” pizza, with some of the proceeds going to the campaign, and a French bakery will sell a pink macaroon. A CrossFit gym is creating a workout for that day.

Ms. McDonald says she hopes that the collective “energy and excitement” of Giving Tuesday will prompt Baltimore residents, who may have been planning to give later in December, to give on December 3 and give more than they had planned. Already some nonprofits are urging their board members to consider making their big gifts on Giving Tuesday instead of December 31.

“It’s very grass roots,” Ms. McDonald says. “That feels right to us. That’s part of what really powers the energy of a day like this.”

Send an e-mail to Raymund Flandez.