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Minnesota nonprofits put on a show Wednesday to drum up donations for the third annual Give to the Max Day. Coach Chim Gee helped Sage Skally, 3, of St. Paul stretch out before the circus school at Circus Juventas, which hosted a “cirque-a-thon” under its big top in St. Paul during the fundraising blitz.

Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

In 24 hours, Minnesotans gave $16.3 million

  • Article by: JEAN HOPFENSPERGER and ALEJANDRA MATOS
  • Star Tribune staff writers
  • November 16, 2012 - 9:32 PM

The final numbers are in: Minnesotans donated $16.3 million to charities Thursday, blasting past the donation tallies from the roughly 30 other cities and states that sponsor 24-hour giving sprees.

"What we experienced yesterday was a movement," said Dana Nelson, executive director of GiveMN, which coordinates the events. "More than 107,000 donations were made to 5,381 organizations.

"It was National Philanthropy Day yesterday," Nelson added. "What's better than raising $16 million?"

Nelson made the announcement at the philanthropy day celebration at Minnesota's Association of Fundraising Professionals Friday. Many participants were recuperating from the daylong fundraising blitz.

"There's a little bit of a sigh of relief when 12:10 a.m. comes around," said Janelle Dixon, president of the Animal Humane Society, which raised $315,000, the third-highest total in the state.

With time to relax, staff members could reflect on some of the day's memorable donors, she said.

One benefactor, for example, offered to make $1,000 donations in the names of 25 people chosen randomly by the society, said Dixon. A woman who was among those selected was very emotional because she was struggling financially and had wanted to donate more. Said Dixon: "Her e-mail brought tears to your eyes."

Friday was a day of celebration for thousands of nonprofits across the state. It was also a day to put Minnesota's generosity in perspective.

Turns out Minnesota's biggest competitor during its 24-hour-give-a-rama was the Dallas area, which brought in $14.4 million during its most recent annual day of giving, followed by Colorado with $12 million. The numbers then fall swiftly to $8.7 million in Columbus, Ohio, and a similar amount raised in Pittsburgh.

"Minnesota is far ahead of everyone else," said Lesley Mansford, spokeswoman for Razoo, the online giving platform that hosts at least 20 "giving" days. "I'm in awe," she said.

Biggest winners

The top fundraiser was Cretin-Derham Hall, which raked in $377,000. It also won a $12,500 Give to the Max bonus prize.

Frank Miley, Cretin-Derham's development director, wasn't sure the school would make it to the No. 1 slot even though it had hovered near the top much of the day. Cretin-Derham had contacted about 7,000 potential donors, and a group had committed to matching every dollar raised.

"We have a very loyal and generous donor base, and they are very competitive," Miley said.

Late Thursday night, an alum unexpectedly donated $50,000. Said Miley: "That was a whopper. He was watching and really wanted to help us out." The money will fund student financial aid.

Another big winner was Cannon River STEM School in Faribault. The charter school and other public schools were allowed to participate for the first time this year.

A parent who donated to the school held a "golden ticket" that was randomly chosen Friday, awarding the school a bonus $10,000. It was the biggest single donation the four-year-old school has ever received, said Nalani McCutcheon, the charter school's executive director.

"We are astounded," said McCutcheon. "We had just 47 donors, out of a pool of thousands of donors on Give to the Max Day. Now I want the kids to figure out the odds of us getting picked. It would be a great math problem."

Another group of philanthropists took the spotlight Friday, when the Association of Professional Fundraisers presented their 2012 awards to philanthropists Penny and Bill George, nonprofit fundraisers Robyn Hansen and Michael Ferber, and the Carl and Eloise Pohlad Foundation.

The Give to the Max Day donors and the award winners represent the strong spirit of Minnesota giving, organizers said.

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511 Alejandra Matos • 612-673-4028

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