Minnesota nonprofits had plenty to celebrate during Thursday’s annual “giving holiday.”
Before midnight, a record of almost $22 million had poured to thousands of nonprofits and schools for Give to the Max Day, the state’s largest annual one-day fundraising event. And like any holiday, the day was marked with festivities statewide — from beer specials to shows, all in hopes of drumming up extra cash.
It's the fourth year in a row the online giving marathon trumped the previous year’s record, with the 2019 total announced at $21,668,705. Last year, Give to the Max Day brought in $21.06 million for nonprofits and schools.
“It fuels us for the entire year … that’s why you see us go all out,” said Allison O’Toole, CEO of Second Harvest Heartland, a food bank that was among the top large organizations for how much it raised after “doubling down” on social media this year and holding a 24-hour food packing event.
Many nonprofits flooded social media accounts and e-mail inboxes with requests for donations, racing to score cash prizes from GiveMN, the organization behind the 11th annual giving day.
“We’re excited to be starting the second decade of Give to the Max Day,” said Jake Blumberg, executive director of GiveMN. “Every donation counts, every gift counts, every donor counts.”
More than 5,000 nonprofits and schools participated in the giving day — about a third of the more than 15,000 nonprofits that solicit donations in Minnesota.
While small nonprofits bring in a fraction of the dollars that large organizations like Second Harvest haul in on the annual giving day, it’s still a big boost for their fundraising efforts.
In Minneapolis, the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance only has seven staff members and no development director or fundraiser on staff to help bring in revenue to back its $1.5 million annual budget. But participating in Give to the Max Day brings a targeted audience from all over the state and helps engage regular supporters, said Kathleen Gavin, the executive director.
“It’s become an even bigger thing as the years have gone by,” Gavin said. “It does put a spotlight on philanthropy. It does encourage people to give.”
In fact, about 5% of donors to Give to the Max are making their first charitable contribution, Blumberg said, and the website got more than one transaction per second throughout the day Thursday. GiveMN charges a 6.9% fee for donations online, but donors can opt to pay the fee in addition to their donation, which is all tax-deductible; Blumberg said 85% of donors chose to pay that fee.
Give to the Max Day started in 2009, raising $14.5 million that year. Last year, more than 70,000 donors logged in online to donate to nearly 5,500 charities and schools.
No tech glitches were reported Thursday; it’s the second year GiveMN has partnered with Virginia-based Mightycause after experiencing technology issues in 2016 that resulted in seven hours of website problems.
This year, GiveMN tried to boost the online buzz, starting “Tweet to the Max,” offering $280 prizes to 20 people who tweeted out support for a nonprofit — part of more than $100,000 in prizes awarded throughout Give to the Max with funding from the Bush Foundation. The #GTMD19 hashtag was trending on Twitter locally throughout the day.
Give to the Max is pegged as a 24-hour philanthropy marathon, but the total tallied Thursday actually counts any donations to an organization through GiveMN since Nov. 1 — like early voting in elections, Blumberg said.
From Sauk Rapids to St. Paul, nonprofits also held events to spur interest and reward donors with prizes, free treats or even free beers. Of 36 events listed on GiveMN’s site, a third were at taprooms all over the state, with some releasing special beers to have proceeds benefit a nonprofit — tapping into a broader trend in the booming brewery scene.
In Minneapolis, the YWCA encouraged people to sweat to the max, pairing fundraising with a mashup of fitness classes on Thursday. Likewise, in Woodbury, the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance spun up some donations and awareness about ovarian cancer at a cycling class.
And in Minnetonka, Secondhand Hounds held a puppy party at a brewery.
“It’s like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day and Fourth of July combined for me,” said Rachel Mairose, the executive director of Secondhand Hounds. “It really can propel an organization forward.”
For her nonprofit, which has a $2.7 million budget, the day can bring in nearly 20% of her revenue for the year. Secondhand Hounds was among the organizations that received the most donations Thursday, along with Second Harvest Heartland, Feed My Starving Children, Save the Boundary Waters, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Huge Improv Theater in Minneapolis.