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Ready, set … give!

Philanthropy is like a sport in Sarasota-Manatee. It is no surprise Sarasota has its own Super Bowl of giving. Turn on your generosity engine.

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On a countdown clock ticks off the days, hours, minutes and seconds until 728 nonprofit organizations in DeSoto, Charlotte, Manatee and Sarasota counties get to flex their fundraising muscles on the largest day of giving in our region. 

From noon Tuesday, April 9, to noon Wednesday, April 10, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County will host the 2024 Giving Challenge, a 24-hour online giving event that has provided more than $75 million in funding since its inception in 2012. 

While giving days are common, like Giving Tuesday, a global giving day that occurs annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, the Giving Challenge is unique to Sarasota. What sets the Giving Challenge apart from others is the Community Foundation’s partnership with the Patterson Foundation. It provides an unlimited match up to $100 on all donations given. 

Over the past eight Giving Challenges, the Patterson Foundation’s match has provided a stunning amount of more than $30 million, nearly half of all the funding.

Meant to incentivize donor participation, the Patterson Foundation gave $334,000 in matching funds in the first four minutes of the Giving Challenge’s first year in 2012. A decade later, the Patterson Foundation’s participation evolved to a one-to-one match on all unique donations from $25 to $100 that totaled $6,088,115 in 2022. 

Patterson Foundation President and CEO Debra Jacobs recalls that in its initial year there was much speculation on how the Giving Challenge would work. Some seasoned fundraisers thought it would backfire. 

A direct mail piece from Catholic Charities is one example of how nonprofit organizations are marketing to current and potential donors about the 2024 Giving Challenge.
Courtesy image

“The telling moment was when we did a Giving Challenge during COVID,” said Jacobs. “It turned out to be the smartest thing to do, because we could do a virtual campaign. It was the highest giving ever, raising more than $19 million. Never underestimate giving — givers want to give.” 

The Patterson match has incentivized donors indeed. Realizing the opportunity to double their dollars, Joe and Mary Kay Henson, gave $100 to all 667 nonprofits that participated in the 2022 Giving Challenge, donating $66,700 that became $133,400. In hopes of inspiring others to follow suit, the Hensons have committed again to give $100 to each of the 728 nonprofits participating in the 2024 Giving Challenge. 

The Hensons’ commitment launched what the Community Foundation is calling the “100 Percent Club.” 

Advisers to the Frank G. Berlin Foundation, a component fund at the Community Foundation, and trustees managing the H. Gladstone McKeon Trust have likewise committed to giving $100 to each of the nonprofits participating in the 2024 Giving Challenge. The three gift commitments with the Patterson match will become $436,800. That makes a record-setting start to the Giving Challenge before it even begins.

Roxie Jerde, president and CEO of the Community Foundation, said, “The three entities that have stepped up believe that the nonprofit sector is vital to our community, and they are demonstrating that by supporting every nonprofit participating. It’s very inspiring to me.” 

Jerde also credits the Patterson board of directors and Jacobs for having the courage to provide a match not knowing what the final number will total. 

“It’s an informed risk, with no cap on the match,” Jacobs said. “Every one of those 700 organizations can blitz this thing and then we would have a serious conversation and decision around budget time. It’s giving power to the organizations and people to be as generous as they like only with $100.” 

The matching funds don’t stop there. Many organizations have leveraged additional matching funds from their own donors to increase giving. The Senior Friendship Centers has secured an additional $150,000 from its own donors to triple the impact. 

Friends of Manatee County Animal Services submitted this photo of Manny, a recipient of heartworm treatment during the 2022 Giving Challenge.
Courtesy image

The Bay Park Conservancy is also utilizing a previously announced community challenge match from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation to triple $100 donations, as well as individual donors who have committed to matching dollars raised during specific hours of the 24-hour giving event. (Full disclosure: I serve on the Bay Conservancy board.)

What’s more, plenty of partners are providing prize opportunities. The Community Foundation has partnered with the Manatee Community Foundation and William G. and Marie Selby Foundation and multiple media partners (including the Observer) to provide nearly 200 additional prizes that total $138,400. 

The Observer is hosting the Best Giving Challenge Photo contest that will award a $250 prize each to the 20 nonprofit organizations that receive the most public votes for their 2024 Giving Challenge photo submissions. (See the accompanying box on how to participate.) 

While the Giving Challenge is an excellent opportunity for nonprofits to receive additional unrestricted operational dollars, the Community Foundation holds each group accountable by requiring participating nonprofits to have updated profiles in the Giving Partner. is a searchable, online database that includes information about an organization’s cause area, mission, financials, board governance, etc. The profiles also ensure that the nonprofits are 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) organizations in good standing with the IRS. 

“Nonprofits have to be committed about being transparent about all aspects of their operation,” Jerde says. “It speaks a lot in itself for the nonprofits that take the time and effort to take part in this.” 

The Giving Challenge will last only 24 hours, but the Community Foundation and nonprofits have been preparing for the big day for more than a year. As soon as the 2024 date was announced in March 2023, the Community Foundation has hosted multiple webinars, workshops and open houses on topics such as “Five Mental Fitness Tools to Enhance Leadership Resilience and Raise More Money,” donor stewardship and social media marketing. 

So, get some rest, eat your Wheaties and set your browser’s bookmark to and “be the one,” as the Giving Challenge’s tagline suggests, to help push the 2024 total dollars raised to more than 2022’s $16,204,718. 

Jacobs suggests keeping an eye on the leaderboard that showcases what organizations have raised the most dollars. 

“There’s something enticing about that leaderboard,” she said. “It’s like a potato chip — you can’t just eat one.”



Emily Walsh

Emily Walsh is the president of Observer Media Group and has served as publisher of the OMG’s Sarasota-based publications since 2016. She joined the company in 2001 as Black Tie photographer, later serving as editor of Black Tie and Arts + Entertainment, an advertising sales executive and chief digital officer.

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