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Donations pour into Maryland nonprofits on #GivingTuesday

Maryland charities hope to exceed $9 million raised last year on #GivingTuesday.

The Baltimore Dance Crews Project set an ambitious goal Tuesday: By posting step-by-step video tutorials, the fledgling group hoped to get 5,000 people dancing and raise $5,000.

Brian Gerardo, the group's director, said momentum from #GivingTuesday brought them dozens of new followers on Facebook and Instagram, and put them on track toward raising the cash they need to offer after-school programs and workshops to more local children and teens. By late Tuesday, they had raised nearly $3,000.

"It goes to show us, our story is leaving an impression on people," Gerardo said."Hip-hop dance is what we love, and what we do. But it's also a hook. We can help our students … gain the skills they need, to learn how to work with others, how to communicate and how to set goals."

Maryland charities were working to eclipse the estimated $9 million donated last year in dollars and volunteer hours on #GivingTuesday. The national online fundraising blitz has grown rapidly since it was created four years ago by a New York City nonprofit. Estimates put fundraising totals across the country at $12 million in 2012, $27 million in 2013 and $45 million in 2014. The 92nd Street Y, a 141-year-old cultural center, came up with the concept to counter the commercialism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Allison Albert, a spokeswoman for Maryland Nonprofits, said more than 2 million gifts poured into charities across the state Tuesday. The group did not know how much money had been raised, but will tally the amount by end of the week.

"It's one day to celebrate philanthropies and charities and generosity and giving," she said. "That's what the holiday season is supposed to be about. It's making good go viral."

About 450 nonprofits signed on to the #MDGivesMore campaign, which has a goal of helping Maryland become known as the most giving state in the country, Albert said. While no state will officially win that designation, she said the nonprofits hope the campaign will drive a friendly competition and showcase the generosity of Marylanders.

She pointed to the success of a fundraising campaign in Baltimore in 2013 on #GivingTuesday that raised $5.6 million in a single day and was regarded as one of the most successful drives that year.

Beverly Greenfield, a spokeswoman with 92Y, as the New York City group is known, said in addition to refocusing communities at the start of the holiday season, the blitz also encourages people to think differently about what it means to be a philanthropist.

"It really isn't just about donations," Greenfield said. "It's about giving in all kinds of ways, giving time, sharing expertise, sharing talents, holding coat drives and blood drives. It's about encouraging people to give what they can."

Across Maryland, tutors helped schoolchildren develop their reading skills, 150 callers raised more than $1 million for The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, a local philanthropy, and students and faculty at the University of Baltimore pinned bright blue bows on a statue of Edgar Allan Poe to signify each donation that was made.

Jeffrey Zwillenberg, who runs Reading Partners in Baltimore, said the nonprofit had multiple events planned this week, including a drive to collect 3,000 "gently used" children's books for students in kindergarten through second grade. The books will be given to students to take home and keep after tutoring sessions — an initiative dubbed "Take Reading Home." Last year's drive, held over the same period, collected 2,400 books.

"We like to think about #GivingTuesday as a way to shine a spotlight on what we're doing every day in the city," Zwillenberg said.

Jon Davidov, co-chairman of The Associated's fundraising effort, said callers were expected to work the phones from the Jewish Community Center in Northwest Baltimore from morning until night.

"A lot of charities are looking at it as a way to raise awareness about giving back to the community," said Davidov, a senior vice president at Morgan Stanley. "It cuts across religions and causes. It's important that we can have at least one day a year where people can put aside some of their own needs and go a little out of their comfort zones to raise awareness for good causes."

Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this article.

ywenger@baltsun.com

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