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Virtual 'Giving Tower' Visible on National Mall

Marker for the Giving Tower. (Courtesy Trust for the National Mall)

Visitors to the National Mall can point their smartphone or tablet at a new structure Tuesday, and a holographic, multicolored tower will appear on their screen, representing charitable donations made on "Giving Tuesday."  

“I think that the interesting and amazing thing about the National Mall is it is this open and diverse place where the Park Service is getting more creative about how its used," Caroline Cunningham, president of the Trust for the National Mall, said Tuesday in a phone interview. "I do think [the tower] is a new way to engage people who visit the National Mall.” Giving Tuesday is a global day of philanthropy  on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. The effort began in 2012 to encourage giving after the post-Thanksgiving shopping days known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  

The Trust for the National Mall partnered with CrowdRise, an online fundraising platform, to host the tower in the District of Columbia. Each time someone makes a donation to an organization on CrowdRise, they are given a virtual brick featuring their name and face, which becomes part of the tower.  

As of Tuesday afternoon, the virtual tower was nearly 1,000 feet tall, composed of more than 6,500 bricks, amounting to more than $770,000 raised for charities. The Giving Tower will only be visible on the National Mall until late Tuesday afternoon, as the marker will be disassembled before nightfall due to the inclement weather.  

Visitors can view the virtual tower on using an app. (Courtesy of the Trust for the National Mall)

Visitors can view the virtual tower on using an app. (Courtesy Trust for the National Mall)

Currently, a marker for the tower sits on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and the World War II Memorial. By downloading the "Giving Tower" application on a smartphone or tablet, users can point their phones at the marker, and the tower will appear on their screens.  

The Trust for the National Mall hosts its own site on CrowdRise, encouraging visitors to make a donation to the trust, which is used for restoring and maintaining the Mall. So far, the effort has raised $370.  

"Breaking into the grassroots funding is not only critical and important to us but also to the representation of the National Mall,” Cunningham said. “I like the new media aspect of it. I think that there’s a shift in the way people focus their attention in using social media. And I think the opportunity to do things like this and new things like this is really exciting and allows us to reach a new generation of donors.”  

But the Mall isn't the only place Americans can view the virtual tower. The Giving Tower will also be featured on markers at Worldwide Plaza in Manhattan and at United Terminal B at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas.  

Donors can also use the app to view the tower in their living rooms. By directing their smart devices at a dollar bill — yes, any old dollar bill — the tower will appear on their screens on top of the bill, giving users a sense of the scale of Giving Tuesday.  

CrowdRise developed the tower concept to encourage philanthropy in the growing Giving Tuesday movement.  

"We felt that people really liked the idea of seeing in a tactile, in a fun way, what the impact of their giving is," CrowdRise co-founder and actor Edward Norton told the "Today" show .  

Cunningham also said that visualizing the contributions creates a personal connection for donors.  

"It personalizes contributions, too," she said. "So it connects the donor to the cause that they like in a way that shows all their community what’s important to them. … I think there’s an interesting growth in civic mindedness, and demonstrating your civic interest through this platform is really cool.”  

Cunningham later added, "I think Giving Tuesday and CrowdRise is really a great way to focus people’s attention on the need to restore the National Mall."  

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