Minnesotans opened their wallets wide on Give to the Max Day, donating a whopping $13.5 million in 24 hours during the state's biggest online fundraising campaign.
About 48,000 Minnesotans clicked on the "give" tabs on their computer screens on Wednesday, piling on cash for nearly 4,000 charities, schools, religious groups and health projects across the state. A suburban social services group, Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners, took top prize -- scoring $320,000. The Plymouth-based agency received a gift of $75,000 at about 9 p.m. that cemented its place of honor.
"We were absolutely stunned to be in first place," said Lenore Franzen, spokesperson for the agency. "It was a wait-and-see situation ... These funds will support the basic needs of 160 suburban families in the coming year."
Cretin-Derham Hall High School of St. Paul and Second Harvest food bank based in Maplewood came in second and third place, raising $269,000 and $256,000, respectively.
The three nonprofits pulling in the most cash also won prize money from the event sponsors, a coalition of foundations and the Mosaic Co. The top three nonprofits took home $15,000, $10,000 and $7,500, respectively in prizes.
The same amounts went to the top three in a new category for "small" nonprofits with budgets under $750,000.
In the smaller nonprofits category, Jabbok Family Services of Minneapolis took top billing, receiving $103,000. The North American Bear Center in Ely and a Christian Science nursing facility in New Brighton called Beacon Haven came in second and third, receiving $63,000 and $59,000, respectively.
Kathi Eilers, executive director of Jabbok Family Services, said the $103,000 is almost a third of her annual budget. Plus the agency will receive another $15,000 prize for taking first place. It will support after-school programs and child care for low-income families, mainly in the Whittier neighborhood. "For a small organization like ours, the [top] prize of $15,000 makes a big difference," she said.
The $13.5 million in total giving was $3.5 million more than last year, but didn't reach the $14 million that poured in during the first Give to the Max Day in 2009.
Dana Nelson, executive director of GiveMN, the website that coordinates the fundraising drive, said she was thrilled with the results. More and more Minnesotans are aware of the day, she said, and nonprofits are becoming more creative about ways to attract donors.
"I think the nonprofits just went for it," Nelson said. "I think [the $13.5 million] is a combination of nonprofits doing incredible outreach, nonprofits embracing the tools of online fundraising and some incredible media coverage. I think that awareness expanded the audience for giving."
The numbers also reflect Minnesotans' remarkable generosity, she said.
Said Nelson: "Today we celebrate and say thanks to the people of Minnesota."
Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511