At the stroke of midnight on Wednesday, the fundraising race is on.

The Big Give 2019 officially kicks off when the calendar turns to March 28, and continues for 24 hours as local nonprofits vie for supporters, donations, and prizes.

The goal of the Big Give is to support nonprofits that make South Central Texas a great place to live, work, and play. Since its inception in 2014, donors have given more than $20 million to 2,000 nonprofits through the annual day of giving.

Last year, the Big Give raised $5.1 million of its $6 million goal, and the number of donors increased from 43,400 in 2017 to 43,834 in 2018. The 2019 goal, however, isn’t tied to dollars.

“We have no monetary goal this year,” said Scott McAninch, CEO of The Nonprofit Council, the agency that coordinates the Big Give for San Antonio and a 14-county region. “We are trying to bring more awareness of the nonprofits and the work they do through the giving day. We realize the nonprofits have their individual goals, and we are just supporting them in raising money to achieve their goals.”

But the 556 nonprofits participating this year got a head start reaching those goals with early giving open since March 21. As of Monday, early-bird donors had already contributed more than $225,000 to nonprofits that were promoting early giving to their fans and followers.

For their efforts at fundraising, nonprofits have a chance to add to contributions by winning cash prizes for achieving the most donors during certain time periods throughout the day and for most money raised online. The prize money is substantial – a total of $66,000 – but is less than last year, when the John L. Santikos Charitable Foundation supported the Big Give’s category prize program.

“Funding priorities changed for Santikos and we certainly understand that as a nonprofit,” McAninch said. “We never expect that prize funding to be the same every year. But we do our best as The Nonprofit Council to have fun day prizes.”

This year’s prizes are being sponsored by The Nonprofit Council, Wave Healthcare, Zeledon-Castillo, Armstrong & Vaughan CPAs, Schriver-Carmona CPAs, the McKenna Foundation, and the City of San Antonio Department of Arts & Culture.

Participating agencies also seek donor-matching opportunities. In 2018, 26 percent of them had a match, and 93 percent of those received the full value of their match.

The biggest winner in terms of money raised last year was Tracy’s Dogs, a national rescue and transport initiative that relocates shelter dogs to foster and adoptive owners in other parts of the country. Through an active social media campaign during the Big Give, the group raised $170,342.

The Brighton Center, a nonprofit that provides early childhood intervention and education services, also did well during Big Give 2018, McAninch said, raising $56,162.

Both Tracy’s Dogs and the Brighton Center were successful because they used current donors as advocates through social media and the Big Give website. Donors made requests to friends on the nonprofits’ behalf, and not only did it net more money, but it also created new connections with new donors for potential growth and sustainability.

Last year during the Big Give, the Rivard Report raised $13,536 to support the work of the nonprofit news organization, and received a $3,000 prize.

The goal for 2019 is $15,000. Donations can be made here.

The minimum donation to a nonprofit through the Big Give is $10 and there is no maximum. Of your donation. 6.2 percent plus 30 cents goes to the credit card companies, to The Nonprofit Council to cover training and materials, and to GiveGab, a platform that hosts the event.

Last year, the average donation was $85, and 66 percent of donors also elected to cover processing fees so the nonprofit could receive the full amount of the intended gift. But donors also can give directly to the charity of their choice.

To give, search for a nonprofit or charitable category on the Big Give website. The Big Give 2019 ends at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, March 28.

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.