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Local Charities Capitalize On Holiday Rush With Day Of Giving

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Right now, nonprofits are sending out calls for donations before the end of the tax year. It can be hard for an organization to stand out from the crowd, to get people excited about opening up their wallets. So around the country, communities are trying to turn giving into more of an experience. Ben Allen from member station WITF reports that in one Pennsylvania county, the idea is working.

BEN ALLEN, BYLINE: Lancaster County calls it the Extraordinary Give. In 24 hours, coffee shops, bars, performing arts centers and retirement communities across the county host 60 events to encourage people to make a donation. There's pop-up Shakespeare...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Be not offended, for it hurts not him that he is loved of me.

ALLEN: Beat poetry...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: You should be seen, not heard. Don't say a word.

ALLEN: ...And even a local performing arts center welcoming therapy animals.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAT MEOWING)

ALLEN: Sam Bressi is president and CEO of the Lancaster County Community Foundation, which runs the Extraordinary Give. Three hundred and sixty-seven nonprofits participated this year.

SAM BRESSI: They are whipping their support bases into a frenzy. So if I have a thousand supporters or a hundred supporters and I can get those hundred supporters to talk to 10 of their friends, you've just multiplied. The exponential growth potential is huge.

ALLEN: Lancaster is part of a bunch of communities that are trying these giving days. Pittsburgh, Seattle, Miami and North Texas all have their own events. But, per capita, Lancaster's ranks near the top. At one event, Jason Allgire and his wife were checking out all the choices on the Extraordinary Give's donation website deciding which group to give to next.

JASON ALLGIRE: We're bumping into people, and it just feels like - feels like Christmastime already with everybody out in the streets celebrating and kind of all coming together.

ALLEN: About 30 percent of those who gave last year said it was their first contribution to a nonprofit in their life. Kat Rosqueta is the executive director at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for High Impact Philanthropy.

KAT ROSQUETA: There's nothing like a great deadline that really focuses people's attention. They're kind of borrowing a page from some commercial activities - Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

ALLEN: But Rosqueta says to keep donors coming back, it's important for nonprofits to follow up, letting people know how their donation is making a difference. Sam Bressi, with the Community Foundation, says his group is pushing others to think about going beyond one day.

BRESSI: We need to connect with those individuals, find out why they gave and how they can connect deeper with them. A positive buzz in energy lives throughout the year.

ALLEN: But tonight, Bressi is hooting and hollering on stage in a downtown hotel after yet another record.

(CHEERING)

BRESSI: Six million dollars.

ALLEN: That's $6.1 million to be precise, when just three years ago, they raised $1.6 million. And to think - it only took 24 hours. For NPR News, I'm Ben Allen in Lancaster, Pa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.