MANATEE -- The 24-hour 2015 Giving Challenge, where donors can shower gifts on their favorite local nonprofits for 24 hours straight, ended Monday with more than $6.6 million collected.
As of noon, Saint Stephen's Episcopal School had raised the most money: $78,703. Next was the Cat Depot, with $76,690.
Donors visited GivingPartnerChallenge.org to give. Some organizations have matching challenge grants.
As of noon, the website showed that 36,417 gifts worth a total of $6,674,839.10 had been made.
Last year, the Challenge raised $3.2 million, said Roxie Jerde, president and chief executive officer of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.
Officials with more than 440 Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and DeSoto nonprofits were working hard for donations.
"I'm going to get my digits dialing the phone," said Dana Pounds, executive director of Manatee County's Nature's Academy at 3655 Cortez Road W., Bradenton.
Nature's Academy, which raised $525 in the first six hours on 13 donations, plans to use any money raised from the Challenge to help take roughly 3,000 Manatee County fifth-graders to Coquina Beach this school year to teach science literacy.
"The challenge not only raises money but raises awareness," said Pounds, whose organization raised $5,500 last year. "Since we are a relatively new challenge member, every $25 dollar donation we get is matched by the Patterson Foundation and becomes $50, which teaches science literacy to one student this year."
Friends of the Florida Maritime Museum, another nonprofit looking to raise awareness, took in $3,400 the first six hours on 28 gifts.
Like Nature's Academy, this nonprofit is looking for a strong finish.
"We are very happy to be where we are," said Amara Nash, supervisor of the museum in the Cortez Fishing Village, which is known for its shell collections and boat models. "We are fundraising for a campuswide improvement project."
The Florida Maritime Museum, which offers a glimpse into the life of a historic fishing village, hosted between 7,000 and 7,500 visitors last year.
Local donors can follow Challenge results at the website or at The Community Foundation of Sarasota County, 2635 Fruitville Road, Sarasota.
"Absolutely, the public is invited to join us as it unfolds," said Susie Bowie, vice president of philanthropic education and marketing at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.
The Community Foundation set up a large monitor in its donor lounge so the public can watch the totals until the event ends, Bowie said.
There was plenty of activity from 1-3 p.m. as the Foundation played host to animal, arts and education nonprofits.
At 1 p.m. the Foundation had representatives from Fuzion Dance Artists Inc., Van Wezel and WUSF, Bowie said.
"At 2 p.m. we got a visit from Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center Inc. of Bradenton Beach and Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary of Sarasota," Bowie said.
Big Cat Habitat received 72 donations totaling nearly $6,500 even before it arrived at the challenge.
The Community Foundation of Sarasota County administers the Giving Challenge as a service to donors, nonprofits and the community, Bowie said. It partners with The Patterson Foundation, Manatee Community Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and William G. and Marie Selby Foundation.
"We are not focused on the numbers as much as being interested in seeing how the community is responding overall," Bowie said. "It's not so much the amount. It's the participation.
"We would love to see everyone who cares about a specific cause come out so they can feel they own a piece of the campaign," Bowie added.
Small gifts such as $25 do matter, said Marilyn Howard of the Manatee Community Foundation.
"A high percentage of the donations in the past were less than $50 and they add up," Howard said.
Over the last three years, the challenge has infused more than $8 million into the local community.
"This is our fourth Giving Challenge and what is exciting and unique about this year is that the Patterson Foundation is matching up to $250 for any new gift to an organization and that is to inspire people," Jerde said.
For more information email Bowie at Susie@CFSarasota.org.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.