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‘Tis the Season for Giving

by Darci Congrove

I read some amazing statistics today on Forbes.com.  Last week (November 28 to December 2), online sales for the holiday shopping season grew 15% over last year to a record $5.96 billion.  Three of the days that week had more than $1 billion per day in online spending.  As a person who remembers life, and holiday shopping, before the internet, these numbers are staggering to me.

Meanwhile, there are some other amazing statistics being posted right here in Columbus, some of which you may have heard, and some that might be a surprise.  These numbers bring a little perspective to the insanity of the holiday shopping season, and tell a different story about the power of online buying.

On November 11, 2011, the Columbus Foundation sponsored The Big Give, a day of giving to benefit central Ohio nonprofit organizations.  The Foundation offered a matching gift of $1 million that was matched pro-rata to all gifts received online during a 24-hour period.  At the end of the day, the tally was more than $8.7 million contributed on behalf of 507 nonprofit organizations.  $8.7 million.  In one day.  You probably read about that.

However, you might not have read anywhere that 2010 was the second-best year for gifts in the 68-year history of the Columbus Foundation, despite a still shaky economy.  Current and legacy gifts totaled $109 million, and the Foundation ended December 2010 with a record $1.06 billion in assets.  $96.1 million in grants were awarded to support 6,592 nonprofit organizations during the year.  In a quiet office on East Broad Street, a group of pretty low-key people are managing $1 billion for the benefit of our city.  Billion, with a B.

Meanwhile, a few miles away and at the same time, a relatively new nonprofit announced their fundraising results.  Pelotonia, a bicycle ride in August of this year, raised $13,108,639, a 68% fundraising increase over 2010.  In only its third year, Pelotonia has raised more than $25 million to support cancer research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.  Most of these gifts were received online, and most of the riders used online tools to reach potential donors.

4,986 riders from 38 states and 4 countries rode this year, including a team from GBQ, of which we are quite proud.  Approximately 1,700 volunteers worked throughout the year on behalf of the organization.  And, most impressive of all — Pelotonia’s funding partners cover all of the operating costs, so that 100% of the money raised from the ride goes to OSU.

The power of electronic commerce today is amazing.  Twenty years ago, we would not have thought it possible.  It’s hard to imagine what will be possible 20 years from now.  Let’s hope, when that day comes, that we are still giving, in addition to shopping.

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