The Big Give SA kick off at the Oblate School of Theology. Photo tweeted by SA2020.
The Big Give SA kick off at the Oblate School of Theology. Photo tweeted by SA2020.
John Burnam

About 400 individuals representing 278 distinct San Antonio nonprofit agencies gathered at the Witley Theological Center at Oblate on Wednesday to mix, mingle, and kickoff the launch of The Big Give SA, San Antonio’s first ever 24 hour, city-wide giving day on May 6, 2014.

Amid the growing anticipation and palpable energy felt throughout the room the most telling sign that this giving “holiday” is set to become a staple in the fabric of out “city on the rise” was the explosion of tweets with the #strongertogether.

The Big Give SA kick off at the Oblate School of Theology. Photo tweeted by SA2020.
“There might be a couple of people here. @TheBigGiveSA #strongertogether” Tweet/photo by SA2020.

It was this exact kind of energy, excitement, and spirited nature of camaraderie that made me jump at the opportunity to work with The Big Give S.A. project team. I was asked to join by Executive Director of the San Antonio Nonprofit Council Scott McAninch in August.

Modeled after a growing “giving day” movement around the country, The Big Give S.A. works by harnessing the power of local crowd funding to incentivize individual donations through prizes and matching grant opportunities over the course of 24 hours.  These local giving days rapidly bring millions of dollars communities and provide an opportunity for individuals to research and discover the impact local agencies have on their community.

The idea is to drive individuals to The Big Give S.A. website through social media and word of mouth where they can then donate online to the agencies of their choice.

Think of the event like a much more structured, hyper-local Giving Tuesday with prize incentives and business sponsored matching dollars available to the participating nonprofits.

YouTube video

Throughout the day, as the clock ticks down and the digital leader board counter continues to move up, prize money will be given away to participating nonprofits based on their ability to rally gifts at particular times and bring in the most unique donors and new donors both hourly and by the end of the day.

While other communities around the country have been hosting giving day events for several years, The Big Give S.A was born when Linda McDavitt, President and CEO of the Genevieve and Ward Orsinger Foundation, watched  her home city of Austin put on their own giving day (Amplify Austin) and not only bring in $2.8 million for 300 local agencies but also over 20,000 distinct individuals givers, many of whom were first time givers to organizations.

If the success demonstrated in Austin isn’t enough to get you excited about the possibility of what we can do here in San Antonio, then consider that over the past year alone Omaha Gives 24 brought in $3 million, Miami Giving Day raised $3.2 million, the 4th Annual Give Big Seattle brought in $11 million and the 5th Annual North Texas Giving Day broke the national record, receiving  $25 million in 24 hours for 1,200 participating agencies.

To top it off, there is reason to hope that we can equal the output of some of these other cities because according to a 2012 article by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, San Antonio is the 19th most generous metropolitan area in the country, seven spots ahead of Miami, 13 in front of Austin , 21 spots ahead of Seattle, and well above 224th-ranked Omaha.

While the prizes, incentive money and matching grants are certainly likely to bring out the competitive nature of everyone involved, the true focus of The Big Give S.A. is to unite San Antonians behind the causes that matter the most to them, encourage philanthropic activity across all demographics and civic sectors and to mold our city’s future together through collective impact.

Big Give SA logo Blue

This is where social media and #strongertogether come in.

While our agencies all compete against one another, we will also be united together as a city in competition with hundreds of other communities across the country  in Give Local America’s largest single giving day in history.

Although the Twittervese and Facebook are sure to explode with event updates, stories and hashtags  not all of the fun will be left to digital sphere.  All of the The Big S.A. monetary transactions occur online, but agencies across the city plan to host parties and celebrations throughout the day while they keep tabs on the leader board and organize their donors en masse.

As the day comes to a close, everyone will be invited to join in the fun, meet and mingle with representatives from local nonprofits and watch the final figures roll in as we host a city-wide, inaugural Big Give S.A. party.

So, pick a nonprofit, spread the word, and let’s show the rest of the United States how we do it in San Antonio.

For more information on The Big Give S.A. and the agencies involved, visit

Or follow The Big Give on Facebook or Twitter @TheBigGiveSA.

John Burnam is the Associate Director of the Louise Batz Patient Safety Foundation and a nonprofit consultant currently working with The San Antonio Christian Dental Clinic, I Care San Antonio, and The Big Give SA. Interested parties can learn more at his website:

Related Stories:

Chefs For Chefs: A Brunch to Help Those in Need 

How One Strong Woman Promotes Early Mammogram Screenings

The Fast and the Furious(ly Fasting)

Daniel Does It: $467,000 Raised, ‘Man of the Year’ Title Well-Earned

Architects ‘Canstruct’ Hunger Awareness

Local Cancer Survivor Vies for 2013 Man of the Year

John Burnam is the co-founder and principal of Burnam | Gray, a nonprofit consulting firm that seeks to help agencies ignite and scale best practices.