State makes the most of 'Give to the Max Day'

With $14 million given in 24 hours, Minnesotans set record, and 3,400 groups reap benefits.

Minnesotans set a national record this week when the "Give to the Max Day'' triggered an avalanche of $14 million in charitable donations in just 24 hours.

Until today, Dallas had set the one-day record at $4 million, organizers said.

From Tuesday morning to Wednesday morning, thousands of Minnesotans sat down at their computers and made 45,000 donations to more than 3,400 charities, churches and nonprofits.

The top 10 recipients ranged from the Animal Humane Society to Second Harvest Heartland, a St. Paul hunger relief organization, to Desiring God Ministries of Minneapolis as of late Wednesday's unofficial totals.

The rush to give, however, had its downside. A matching $500,000 grant was slated to be divided among donations. The match now is about 4 cents on the dollar, organizers said.

"I'm sitting here with my jaw dropping,'' said Beth Kanter, a visiting scholar at the California-based Lucile and David Packard Foundation, and one of the country's leading bloggers on nonprofits and philanthropy.

"You had a critical mass, a good strategy ... and a very charitable state,'' Kanter said. ''You've set the bar.''

About 50 nonprofits raised more than $40,000 each through the online fundraising blitz, which took place on a new website called GiveMN.org, said Jennifer Ford Reedy, a vice president at the Minnesota Community Foundation. Another 351 nonprofits raised $10,000 or more.

The Animal Humane Society of Golden Valley found itself $66,000 richer yesterday.

"I'm speechless,'' said Katie Nelson, vice president of development at the society. "We didn't do much of anything.''

But many of the top donation getters had launched major awareness campaigns. The College of St. Benedict, which wound up with $110,000, had sent multiple e-mails to 15,000 alumni and their parents, and was tweeting all day about Give to the Max Day, said Diane Hageman, spokesperson for the college.

"The only quiet time [when no donations came in] ... was from 2:20 a.m. to 6:50 a.m.,'' she said.

The online giving hummed along without a hitch, said Ford Reedy. But politics crept in by Tuesday afternoon, when both Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota and Desiring God Ministries found themselves on the top 10 donor list.

"Some people -- on both sides [of the political spectrum] were saying, 'Do these organizations reflect your values?''' said Ford Reedy. "But this was about letting donors decide.''

Desiring God Ministries pulled in more than $139,000 during the day, according to its website. John Knight, senior director of development at the church, attributed the flood to the 40,000 e-mails and tweets the church sent around the world.

"It was a remarkable thing,'' said Knight. "Some friends of the ministry, connected with Razoo, the architects of the website, alerted us to this about 10 days ago. ... It's the marvel of this technology.''

About 10 communities across the country have experimented with 24-hour online giving blitzes in the past year, said Ford Reedy, most in the past year.

It's unclear whether the money raised this week was simply early holiday giving, said Dana Nelson, executive director of GiveMN. Nonprofits will be able to analyze their donor lists and look for trends, such as number of new donors, she said.

"This was a great opportunity for nonprofits to get money earlier [in the season], regardless of whether it was new money or not,'' Nelson said.

GiveMN.org will release the final totals this morning, she said.

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511

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