Minnesota nonprofits are aiming to drum up more than $21 million by the end of the day Thursday on the state’s unofficial “giving holiday.”
This is the 11th year of Give to the Max Day, and if nonprofits and schools surpass the $21.06 million raised in 2018, it will be the fourth year in a row the online giving marathon has trumped the previous year’s record.
“A day like this can bring new people to the table,” said Jake Blumberg, executive director of GiveMN, the organization behind the giving day, adding that about 5% of donors are giving their first charitable contribution.
Give to the Max Day started in 2009, raising $14.5 million, and has since grown to become the state’s largest annual one-day fundraising event. Last year, more than 70,000 donors got online to donate to nearly 5,500 charities and schools, registering more than a transaction per second, Blumberg said.
It’s pegged as a 24-hour philanthropy marathon, but the total donations tallied at the end of Thursday actually count any donations to a nonprofit through GiveMN since Nov. 1 — much like early voting in elections, Blumberg said.
As a result, many nonprofits flood their social media accounts and e-mail lists with requests for people to donate.
This year, GiveMN is trying to boost that online buzz, starting “Tweet to the Max” on Wednesday and Thursday. People can post their support for a nonprofit using the full 280 characters allowed on Twitter along with #TweetToTheMax, and GiveMN will then draw 20 winners who will receive $280 for the nonprofit they mentioned. It’s part of more than $100,000 in prizes awarded throughout Give to the Max with funding from the Bush Foundation.
It’s also the second year GiveMN has worked with technology partner Virginia-based Mightycause after experiencing technology issues in 2016 that resulted in seven hours of website problems. GiveMN charges a 6.9% fee for donations online, but donors can opt to pay the fee in addition to their donation — something 85% of donors do, Blumberg said.
Other nonprofits are hosting kickoff events to boost interest and reward donors with prizes, free treats or even free beers. Of 36 events listed on GiveMN’s site, a third of the events are at taprooms across the state, with some releasing special beers to benefit a nonprofit — tapping into a trend in the booming brewery scene.
Bitty Kitty Brigade, a year-old Twin Cities rescue group for orphaned kittens that are up to five weeks old, held its first-ever event and fundraiser for Give to the Max Day at Boom Island Brewing in Minnetonka on Wednesday. The nonprofit enticed potential donors with the chance to cuddle with a kitten for 15 minutes if they donated $25. They also sold kitten calendars and pints of special release Belgian beers, with proceeds benefiting Bitty Kitty Brigade.
“Give to the Max is a great opportunity for a nonprofit to tap into that collective spirit of giving,” said Stacy Kabele, a volunteer with the nonprofit.
She added that Give to the Max helps small nonprofits amplify their message and boost giving since it has become such a well-known event in Minnesota. She also attended one of the free workshops that GiveMN held across the state earlier this fall to learn how organizations can develop fundraising campaign strategies.
Huge Improv Theater in Minneapolis participates in Give to the Max because GiveMN provides the infrastructure for tracking donations and awards prizes, said Sean Dillon, the theater’s managing director. Participating in Give to the Max with a kickoff event — 28 hours of continuous improv that began Wednesday and runs through Thursday — is the only formal fundraiser for the theater’s operations each year.
For nine years, the “Improvathon” has helped the theater rally donors, increasing donations from $15,000 in 2011 to $72,000 last year, topping the Give to the Max leaderboard for organizations of its size. The theater, which has an annual budget of about $600,000, relies on grants and donations to make up a third of its revenue, funding class scholarships for students in need and helping pay artists for their work while keeping ticket prices low.
“The whole thing keeps getting bigger and bigger each year,” Dillon said. “It’s just this one big day [for donations] so we don’t have to go after people all year.”