The national fundraising drive known as "Giving Tuesday" is having a growing impact for nonprofit groups, with nearly $46 million raised for charity over a 24-hour period, according to initial numbers released Wednesday.
The Giving Tuesday effort is driven largely by social media and online giving campaigns. It was started in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y in New York City and the United Nations Foundation to kickstart the critical holiday giving season after Thanksgiving.
It comes on the heels of the consumer-oriented day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday, when stores open their doors for massive crowds to swarm in and snatch up bargains; Small Business Saturday, when shoppers are encouraged to visit individually owned retailers; and Cyber Monday, when retailers offer deals over the Internet.
Research from Indiana University's Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the Case Foundation provided to The Associated Press shows the amount donated on Giving Tuesday increased by 63 percent over 2013, with an average gift of $154. Last year, about $28 million was raised. In 2012, about $13.5 million was raised on the first Giving Tuesday.
The number of organizations participating has grown dramatically over three years from about 2,500 the first year, said Una Osili, director of research at the philanthropy school. This year, more than 15,000 nonprofit groups participated and raised funds for Giving Tuesday, representing large, small and mid-sized organizations. Researchers counted 698,000 tweets this week mentioning Giving Tuesday.
Osili's team is studying the day's overall impact on charitable giving patterns. She said the timing of Giving Tuesday is important because it's positioned at the time of year when most nonprofits raise a significant share of their donations.
"For many donors, this is the time that they start to think about their charitable giving for many different reasons, certainly tax reasons but also religious reasons," she said. "We have not seen any evidence that Giving Tuesday changes the behavior of donors in terms of giving less at other periods, but that's something that we continue to look at very carefully."
Based on the initial data, analysts said the total number of donations increased by 53 percent this year. There were more than 296,000 contributions made to charities Tuesday. The average donation amount also increased slightly.
The estimates are based on contributions tracked by major donation platforms, including Blackbaud, DonorPerfect and Network for Good. The numbers primarily reflect online contributions but also some offline gifts reported through vendors.
Ken Berger of the nonprofit watchdog Charity Navigator said the new annual phenomenon in philanthropy reflects a growing savviness around how to use social media to generate support for nonprofits. Giving Tuesday could become one of the top days of the year when people give, he said, though it's not likely to trump Dec. 31 when many people make tax-deductible gifts.
"Americans give $250 billion a year to charity. So in one sense you could say within that context this is not that big of an amount, but that includes everything from donations to big universities and hospitals to art museums," he said. "That doesn't mean that this isn't vitally important to some organizations. ... I think it's still very powerful."
Overall giving in the U.S. is up only 1 percent over last year, so "this will certainly help," said Steve MacLaughlin, director of research at Blackbaud, which provides giving platforms for nonprofits. Small and mid-sized organizations especially are taking advantage of greater awareness around Giving Tuesday to generate more support, he said.
Sheila Herrling of the Case Foundation, which supported the research to find out how Giving Tuesday was working, said the numbers show it has become a tradition.
"It feels like it's here to stay," she said. "It feels like it's this wonderful match to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which inspires this frenzy of buying. It's a really nice match in that it inspires a frenzy of giving."
Follow Brett Zongker on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DCArtBeat .