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Local charities take in $1.59M during third annual day of giving

Human Resources
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(Updated at 5:15 p.m. with comments from spokesman for online fundraising platform Kimbia.)

Ash Little, marketing manager at Harvest Hope Food Bank, had lots of reasons to follow the donations leaderboard during Tuesday’s Midlands Gives charity event at Spirit Communications Park.

Ten thousand reasons, in fact.

Last week, Columbia doctor and Harvest Hope volunteer Dr. William Neglia pledged a matching $10,000 donation to the local charity.

“It was total shocker,” said Little, manning a food bank information table at Spirit Communications Park on Tuesday with longtime organization volunteer Judy Ison.

Service dog Casper sits in front of his owner Dori Tempio at the Able South Carolina booth at the Midlands Gives event at Spirit Communications Park. (Photo/Jeff Blake)

Reaching the fortuitous tally took longer than expected because of technical problems encountered by Kimbia, the online fundraising platform that processed donations from Columbia and around 50 other cities during the national Give Local America event.

Kimbia apologized for the technical glitch, which it blamed on a third-party hardware issue. The company, which supports more than 19,000 organizations including the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association, said the problems stemmed from a hardware issue on one of the company’s hosted database nodes.

The hardware issue “caused a cascading effect,” said a status update on the Austin, Texas-based company’s website at 9:15 p.m. CST on Tuesday, and “was further exacerbated by new functionality related to leaderboards, prizes and mobile applications.”

That additional functionality – including the mobile app, new in 2016 – and the hardware issue “came together to create a perfect storm,” said Mary Anne Gunn, Kimbia vice president of marketing. “It was absolutely not a volume issue. We have a very scalable platform. … We prepare for multiple scenarios, and this is one that we really couldn’t imagine.

“We’re devastated by this. We prepare and get excited all year.”

Midlands Gives began accepting donations to 383 nonprofit organizations in the 11 counties served by the Central Carolina Community Foundation at midnight Tuesday. The technical troubles, which began around 11 a.m., resulted in the extension of the original deadline from midnight Wednesday to noon and in the establishment of an alternative donations website.

The foundation said that as of 1 p.m., $1.59 million had been raised, and that final contribution totals to each nonprofit would be available at 5 p.m. Thursday. listed $1.59 million raised via 12,531 donations. Totals were not available from alternative giving site, set up in response to the technical problems.

Kimbia’s online update said it had ruled out a security breach and promised a full review of the issue, which “did not arise during multiple weeks of high-volume testing leading up to the event, or in prior events utilizing this same functionality.”

Gunn said the company’s findings will be shared with all the organizations involved with Give Local America.

The event is “our passion project,” said Tuesday’s status update. “Yet, the past 10 hours have been some of the most painful of our lives.”

Despite the technical difficulties, the initial Midlands Gives totals bested 2015, when $1.54 million was raised via 11,372 donations.

“It reflects the generosity of our community and the willingness of folks in the Midlands to support organizations large and small,” said JoAnn Turnquist, president and CEO of the Central Carolina Community Foundation.

Harvest Hope met its pre-match $10,000 goal, netting $12,142 via 139 donations as of this afternoon.

Other charities didn’t crack the top spots on the leaderboard, but still made an impression.

Mary Ellen Tobias stood behind an information table – one of 70 on display Tuesday at Spirit Communications Park – featuring a stuffed Cocky with a small oxygen mask strapped to its furry face. The charity Tobias and co-founder Nena Sinclair represented, The Pet Oxygen Kit Project, Inc., works to provide all fire departments in South Carolina with oxygen kits to resuscitate animals found unconscious in structural fires.

Inspired by local television coverage of a gray cat revived after a fire in Olympia, Tobias and Sinclair finance the purchase of the kits by selling Pet(s) Inside stickers, which alert firefighters of a pet’s presence. The women have equipped fire stations in Richland, Lexington, Kershaw and Fairfield counties, as well as parts of Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley, with the kits, and get regular updates from firefighters about animals they’ve rescued.

As of this afternoon, the Pet Oxygen Kit Project had received $1,895 via 24 donations. Clubhouse leader St. Peter’s Catholic School had received $19,675, while Historic Columbia had 143 donations.

Contributors made minimum donations of $20. Money raised goes directly to the selected organization, minus credit card and processing fees. Any 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization in Calhoun, Clarendon, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lee, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg, Richland, Saluda and Sumter counties in good standing with the Secretary of State is eligible to register.

In 2014, the event’s inaugural year, charities received almost $705,000 via 5,186 individual gifts. Last year’s 11,372 gifts ranked Midlands Gives seventh out of 90 participating communities nationwide, surpassing larger areas such as Tampa and West Palm Beach, Fla., Turnquist said.

Nationwide in 2015, 375,000 donations totaled more than $68.5 million.

“Folks have come to realize that you don’t have to be rich to be a philanthropist,” Turnquist said. “Together, gifts of $20 topple the million-dollar mark pretty quickly.”

Contact Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.

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