Thinking about giving to charity? Lift the Lowcountry makes your dollar go further

By Sandra Ecklundsecklund@abcnews4.comCHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Today is the day! All donations made to select organizations today will be "amplified" with matching donations.Organized locally by the Coastal Community Foundation, "Lift the Lowcountry" is part of a nationwide effort to encourage everyone to support worthy causes in their community. The incentives will be made for online donations given from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. May 6. All donations must be at least $25 and be made by credit or debit card. No checks will be accepted. All donations are 100 percent tax deductible.As the sun came up Tuesday morning, donations were flowing in."We raised a million bucks nationwide overnight, $30,000 in the Lowcountry," said George Stevens on Twitter. He's the President and CEO of{} Coastal Community Foundation. "Gonna be a great day!"By 9 a.m. Tuesday that total grew to more than $472,000 in the Lowcountry. By 10:30 a.m. the total was over one million dollars. You can follow the donation totals live online by clicking here.The donation incentives are coming from several generous anonymous donors and will support 94 Lowcountry organizations, including educational and cultural groups. You can see a complete list by clicking here.The initiative is a little more complicated than just "matching dollars," with many of the nonprofits separated into categories with their own pool of incentives (or donation amounts). The Education initiative pool totals $1,000,000 and will be split amongst the largest group, the members of the Tricounty Cradle to Career Collaborative. That includes schools, educational programs and colleges. Thanks to the help of Charleston Regional Alliance for the Arts, the arts community has a pool of $110,000 being split between 35 organizations, pro-rated for each group based on what they accumulate on May 6."A donation to our organization actually supports a network of 60 nonprofit performing, visual, literary, and arts education organizations located throughout the tri-county region," said Maggie Hendricks, Executive Director of the Arts Alliance. "Funds raised on May 6 will support monthly professional development workshops for arts leaders, our advocacy and promotion efforts of the broad arts community, and to support the OPEN Arts Expo, an annual free event each fall that highlights the local and diverse performing, visual, literary, and arts education community."Another group consists of small non-profits who will split $100,000 equally.The Charleston Friends of the Library hopes to raise $10,000 for the day ($5,000 to match). "These funds will be used to benefit the programs of the Charleston County Public Library, CCPL staff development, and advocacy outreach," said Executive Director Emily Everett. "We will have a donation station at the Main Library near the Information Desk, where people can ask questions about what we have going on and future plans."GrowFood Carolina connects farmers to local grocers and restaurants to make local food more accessible to the community. They hope to raise $25,000 to help with operating their warehouse.First Tee of Greater Charleston has a goal of $40,000 and will use the funds to support its scholarship programs."More than half of the children that participate in our on-course programs do so free of charge," said Executive Director Staci Bennett. "It is our policy to never turn a child away for their inability to pay. We also give scholarships to all children that have a parent or guardian that is active-duty military."Officials with the Lowcountry Initiative for the Literary Arts said funding has already dried-up for one of their Poets-in-the-Schools Programs, held at Burke High School."We are thrilled and grateful to be part of Lowcountry Arts Day on May 6," said{} LILA President Marjory Wentworth. "We are seeking funding for our new prison poetry writing program and want to expand and continue our poets-in-the-schools workshops."Carolina Studios is turning Lowcountry Giving Day into a birthday bash for founder Mark Bryan of Hootie and the Blowfish. Their event will be held May 6 at Republic Garden & Lounge from 6 to 10 p.m. Money raised will go towards purchasing computers for their mobile studio, expanding their mobile program to reach additional students.Like the organizations, some boosts will be bigger than others, because their anonymous donors have pledged a certain amount to give.Donations to some participants, including Spoleto Festival USA, will be tripled. That means a gift of $25 will equal $75. Louie's Kids will also have their donations matched dollar for dollar up to $10,000. "It's an enormous opportunity and for us," said Louie's Kids founder Louis Yuhasz. "It could mean a couple of very specialized summer camp scholarships to some very deserving kids!"East Cooper Community Outreach has a similar dollar-for-dollar match and hopes to raise $10,000 with help from the Pearlstine Family Foundation. Their funds go towards helping people living in poverty with basic needs, health services, education and employment.Not every organization's match is dollar for dollar, though. It depends on what details were worked out between each group and their benefactors."The incentives are calculated on the basis of the total amount of money raised on May 6," said Stevens. "Since we cannot know that in advance it is difficult to predict the 'matching' amounts."Stevens said in other communities in the past, the matches were as low as 15 to 25 cents on the dollar,{} but for Lift the Lowcountry, they believe it will be much higher."There are some organizations with multiple incentives, some the individual organization has solicited and some that Coastal Community Foundation has created," he explained. "Donors will see their money augmented on May 6 but the precise amount is not yet known."Wells Fargo has pledged to match funds given to Florence Crittenton up to $10,000 while another donor has agreed to match up to $15,000. Wells Fargo will also match donations to Trident Literacy that day, up to $2,500.Some donations will even come with a thank you gift.
  • Spoleto Festival USA is offering 2014 Festival Benefits.
  • Florence Crittenton is sending Mother's Day cards on behalf of their donors.
  • Chamber Music Charleston will send donors CDs and tote bags.
  • GrowFood Carolina is sending donors a special recipe from one of the famous chefs they work with.
  • The Charleston Regional Alliance for the Arts has tiers of thank you gifts including passes to special events
  • A donation of $150 or more to Jazz Artists of Charleston will earn an invitation to special events.
  • Pure Theatre promises a "special surprise" for donations of $200 or more
The fundraising effort (which is also being called Lowcountry Arts Day, Lowcountry Giving Day and SC Gives Day) isn't just for the tri-county area. Nonprofits in Beaufort, Colleton, Georgetown, Hampton and Jasper counties are also taking part.The donation drive will also be discussed all over social media with many organizations posting live updates on Facebook and Twitter. The hashtag to follow is #liftthelowcountry. They are also asking donors to tell their friends about their gift using the special hashtag and logos saying "I gave" available for download online."The purpose of Lift the Lowcountry is to encourage online donations on May 6," said Stevens. "It's an exciting way for nonprofits to engage with the community and capitalize on the ways technology has made giving so accessible."Stevens said you can even watch, minute by minute, the dollars raised. Just visit to see how South Carolina compares to the rest of the nation and to see how local nonprofits compare to one another.There are a couple of organizations that, because of planning issues, are getting a head start on collecting donations.The South Carolina Aquarium is having a party the night of May 5. Donations will be accepted on site. You can find out more by clicking here.The Center for Women is also holding a Cinco de Mayo event Monday night. Information on their event is available on their Facebook page.{}