36-Hour Giving Challenge raises $2,401,601

vmannix@bradenton.comMarch 29, 2012 

MANATEE -- Luz Corcuera did not begrudge Manatee Players Inc., or any nonprofit that did well in the 36-Hour Giving Challenge.

The program director at Healthy Start Coalition of Manatee County Inc., was genuinely glad for them.

Even if her agency only got $875 in donations.

"Everything that comes your way from a generous heart is a blessing," Corcuera said. "I'm not disappointed. I'm grateful."

That amount left Healthy Start among the last of 100-plus area nonprofits participating in the online initiative that ended Wednesday.

By 6 p.m., Manatee Players led with $188,091 in donations.

Saint Stephen's Episcopal School was fifth with $63,301.

"Everybody's trying to raise money, and it will go back into the community," Corcuera said. "It's a noble cause."

The Giving Challenge raised $2,401,601, more than twice that projected by officials. The initiative reached $1 million at 6:18 a.m. Tuesday and $2 million at 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Though the Patterson Foundation's $334,000 matching funds were gone early Tuesday, $167,000 put up by the Manatee Community Foundation, Community Foundation of Sarasota County and Gulf Coast Community Foundation remained for matching with qualified donations.

"It's blown our expectations out of the water," said Susie Bowie, director for The Giving Partner at CFSC. "We're

thrilled with the outpouring of support."

The event's future is to be determined. "We hope to do it next year," she said.

Bowie was also aware of Manatee County nonprofits that fared like Healthy Start, which works with pregnant women and young mothers.

For example, the Manatee Community Action Agency (MCAA) got $1,625.

Manatee Glens got $701.

"This may not be the right vehicle for some organizations. Or they may have limited amount of time. Or different priorities," Bowie said. "Or they may get a greater percentage of funding from government sources."

Healthy Start is in that category, though Corcuera appreciates the Giving Challenge.

"We did what we could to let people know, but we don't have same tools as organizations who are experienced at fundraising," she said. "It's a learning process for us. Next year we'll do better."

Mary Ruiz, president and chief executive officer at Manatee Glens, had the same sentiment.

"It caught us at the wrong time. Our philanthropy department is in transition and we weren't able to embrace it the way we wanted," she said. "With what's happening to government funding, we do see philanthropy as an important part of our expanded services.

"We'll be in better position to participate next year."

Barbara Patten hoped so, too.

The MCAA faces the same funding crunch, the executive director said.

"We've always been able to operate with state and federal money, but as those dollars are shrinking we are now beginning to fundraise within the private sector," Patten said. "If we're invited we'll be delighted and develop a donor list so we can play with the big boys."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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