Updated Wednesday at 2:35 p.m.
Early signs suggest that Giving Tuesday fundraising efforts soared compared with last year, in part because of new efforts by charities, businesses, and big philanthropists to promote donations, especially by social media. Nonprofits that used matching gifts and powerful stories of real-world donors, plus lots of social media, made the difference this year.
Blackbaud, which processes the majority of online donations on Giving Tuesday, reports that online giving was 52 percent higher than last year. The technology provider processed $39.6 million in online donations yesterday. Another gift processing platform, DonorPerfect, reported that the average online gift was 46 percent higher than last year. And GlobalGiving reported a 290 percent increase in new recurring donations started on Giving Tuesday compared to last year.
Last year’s nearly $46 million tally for Giving Tuesday included data from five organizations that process contributions for nonprofit groups. This year, the estimate of total donations expected Wednesday afternoon may include data from as many as 50 giving sites.
"This trend of collaboration is absolutely stunning and a really big example of the Giving Tuesday movement over all," says Sarah Koch, senior director of social innovation at the Case Foundation, a founding partner of Giving Tuesday.
One of those donation sites, PayPal, broke the Guinness World Records title for the most money contributed online in 24 hours, raising $45.8 million for nearly 73,000 charities around the world. The previous record of $19 million was held by the Disasters Emergency Committee, in Britain, which raised relief money for the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Giving Tuesday’s reach on social media has "exploded," says Asha Curran, director of the Center for Innovation and Social Impact at the 92nd Street Y, which created the first Giving Tuesday with the help of the United Nations Foundation in 2012.
By around 5 p.m. on Tuesday, 1.5 million tweets had been sent with the #givingtuesday hashtag, more than double last year’s total.
"It feels to me like we’re going to be able to make a stronger connection between social-media sentiment and actual donations than perhaps has been made before," she says. "If that’s the case, then I think that’s a powerful and profound statement about what social media is capable of."
Such activity is crucial to the day’s success, she says. "For us it is about the human stories. We want to see good numbers, but it’s not our only metric."
In light of the Syrian refugee crisis and new terrorist attacks, Giving Tuesday may offer a sense of empowerment to donors, she suggests.
"You almost can’t take the day out of the context in terms of what’s happening in the world," says Ms. Curran. "It’s a particularly troubled moment for the world, and it felt really good for people to pivot on this day from thinking about how terrible everything is to thinking about the role they can play in making things better."
But social media may not be as crucial in connecting supporters with charities as some fundraisers believe. New data released Tuesday by Adobe Digital Index, a marketing organization, found that 40 percent of people connect with charities online using search engines compared with 3 percent through social media.
The data also found that the number of clicks on "donate now" buttons accelerated rapidly and steadily on Giving Tuesday in 2014, growing by about 900 percent during December.
However, the amount of the average donation declined slightly in December last year compared with the previous month. Average online gift size was $114, down from $120 in November.
A wide variety of organizations touted matching gifts to make smaller donations go further. Among them were two big international charities.
Heifer International, which provides farmers in developing countries with livestock to help them earn a more sustainable living, sought to raise $900,000 for farmers in Haiti. Until midnight on Giving Tuesday, it was offering donors to that program a dollar-for-dollar match provided by an anonymous donor.
And Mercy Corps, a relief organization seeking to raise $50,000 on Giving Tuesday also offered a one-to-one match for gifts up to its goal amount, also provided by an anonymous donor. As of 11:30 a.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, the charity had nearly raised the total, according Christine Nyirjesy Bragale, director of media relations.
Charities that participated in Giving Tuesday this year also often used storytelling about beneficiaries or their supporters.
In the case of HIPGive, the online giving portal run by Hispanics in Philanthropy, both matching grants and storytelling played roles in fundraising success.
In the first 20 minutes of Giving Tuesday, HIPGive raised enough to use up a $20,000 pool of matching funds from Kaiser Permanente, says Andrea Perez, HIPGive marketing and project coordinator.
To keep the momentum going, HIPGive, which supports Latino causes around the world, announced a second pool of $20,000 in matching funds to be released in staggered increments of $5,000 during the day. The new match came mostly from Kaiser Permanente, with $5,000 from Hispanics in Philanthropy itself.
As of 8:20 p.m. Pacific time on Tuesday, the San Francisco nonprofit had raised more than $170,000 — of which $40,000 was matched. .
What makes the success story even more remarkable is that it contains an element of beginner’s luck: While Hispanics in Philanthropy is 30 years old, its online giving site was launched only about a year and a half ago. (In its first year, HIPGive raised little over $300,000.) Last year, the fledgling site participated in Giving Tuesday in a limited way, says Ms. Perez. This was the first year it went all in.
She attributes this year’s breathtaking haul to HIPGive’s guidance to the dozens of charities that raise money on its site in crowdfunding and media outreach. And to bolster an image of philanthropy among Hispanics, HIPGive ran a social-media drive called #LatinosGive. People were asked to post photos or videos on social media that conveyed stories of Hispanics giving. They were asked to use that hashtag and tag 10 friends. NBC News Latino featured 10 of the #LatinosGive stories on Tuesday. Ms. Perez says the social-media drive helped stir up enthusiasm for the fundraising campaign: "The more people you can gather together in an effort, you see how the results just magnify."