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Giving Tuesday, a fundraising force for a bounty of charitable causes in Buffalo and beyond

Tradition started less than a decade ago has turned into a fundraising phenomenon boosted by social media and online pay services.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Giving Tuesday was a day for many people to get involved with charities around the nation and across the world.

Hundreds of worthwhile causes have come to count on the generosity of others in what's become a fundraising force that took root less than ten years ago, and has skyrocketed since.

Participation has grown over those years to involve individuals looking to raise funds for their favorite charity, major companies adopting a charity for the day and making matching donations, and charities and other not for profits who use the day to highlight their work and ask for donations.

Runners to the Rescue

The Buffalo Marathon won't occur again until next spring but it was off and running on Tuesday with an effort to assist more than a dozen animal rescue agencies.

"This our way to make another impact on the community and we're really happy to do it," said Greg Weber, Executive Director of the Buffalo Marathon, which partnered with Tito's Homemade Vodka, which agreed to provide a dollar for dollar match up to $13,000.

Helping Others Get Back on Their Feet

17 years ago Natalie Barnhard was beginning her career as a physical therapist assistant when a 600 pound exercise weight machine fell over and landed on top of her, causing a spinal cord injury resulting in paralysis. 

Like any quadriplegic, a major struggle was ahead but she credits her faith in God to help her begin a new life, which eventually led to her launching the Motion Project Foundation (formerly Wheels With Wings Foundation,) and the Natalie Barnhard Center for Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation and Recovery Center in Buffalo.

The state of the art facility, unique to Western New York, now assists people who suffer catastrophic injury without having to travel hundreds of miles for services.

However, most insurance doesn't cover them long enough for the intense therapy they need to get them back on their feet.

"What we're trying to do through the foundation is offer subsidized grants so that we can give people discounts because it is out of pocket pay," said Barnhard, in describing  their Giving Tuesday effort through a "Just $1 Challenge" where, according to Barnhard a generous supporter agreed to match up to $3,000.

It's Not Always Money

That gifts do not have to be monetary was a lesson learned by children at several Western New York schools which were visited on Tuesday by Buffalove Apparel.

The company, amid an Erie County imposed mask mandate in response to rising Covid cases, gave masks from their fall collection to students and staff at four schools and to their bus drivers as well.

"We've given about a thousand masks to the schools that we've been to," said Patty Watson, the owner of the company. "The idea is to embrace having to wear these in a light hearted way and make it somewhat pleasant through a little hometown love, to make the best of it, and have a little fun with it."

"We're so excited to receive these," said Hillary Weir, Vice Principal at Mill Middle School in Williamsville. "But one of the things that we talked about and made sure our students know is that it's important for them also to give. So, they're working on a variety of activities so they can give back and pay it forward too."

Fundraising Phenomenon

Since the initial Giving Tuesday began at a New York City YMCA and raised $10 million, to last year when $2.47 billion was raised for tens of thousands of charitable causes throughout the U.S., Giving Tuesday has proven to be a fundraising phenomenon 

Part of the reason is the explosion over those years of social media platforms through which causes are often called to your attention.

"There are a lot of appeals that are coming right to you through social media and email lists that didn't ten years ago," said Melanie McGovern, Communications Director for the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York, who noted that with the advent over those same years of online and mobile payment systems, donating is easier than ever.

She also warns however, that amid such bountiful and charitable seas, there will always be sharks.

Give Wisely

"We recommend, as we do for online shopping, that you use a credit card so if there is a case of fraud you have a lot more protection than just using your debit card," said McGovern, who notes that scammers often set up fake charities and use names that sound like legitimate organizations.

"There are hundreds of thousands of charities across the country with the word 'cancer' or 'children' in their names, and while everyone wants to donate to worthwhile causes, we need to make sure that we're giving to the right charities with the right mission and not a charity with a look alike or sound alike name that might be doing something in the  background that they're not supposed to be doing." 

The BBB, which has guidance for giving, also says that if someone is not sure about the legitimacy of a charity they should wait until they can check them out.

"Legitimate charities will be happy to answer questions and show you how money is used...and they don't pressure you to give on a deadline. They will accept your donations any day of the year and not just on Giving Tuesday," she said.