Nonprofits across the state are again asking Minnesotans to step up their generosity this year after offering extra support in 2020.
GiveMN, the organization known for hosting Give to the Max Day each November, is putting on a second statewide online fundraiser, which began Saturday, to rally support for nonprofits and schools.
"We're not yet done with the pandemic and likely the impacts of it are going to be felt for a long time," said Jake Blumberg, executive director of GiveMN.
The fundraiser, called Spring Forward MN, takes place through May 11, encouraging Minnesotans to help nonprofits, especially those that are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic or are led by people of color, groups that have been historically underfunded compared to white-led nonprofits.
GiveMN surveyed about 1,000 nonprofits in the state and found 70% wanted a spring fundraiser in additional to the usual fall event. GiveMN also held a spring fundraiser last May, drawing $5.2 million for nonprofits and schools affected by COVID-19 and the economic downturn.
Now, museums and arts organizations shuttered by the pandemic restrictions are reopening. But many nonprofits are still bracing for a worse 2021, fearing the boost in donations, grants and federal aid that came in 2020 won't continue as they begin a slow path to recovery.
"There's a lot of catching up they need to do," Blumberg said. "Some organizations have been asked to meet more needs than ever before."
In the northwest metro, Heather Kliewer is hoping to bring in $25,000 during Spring Forward MN to pay for expanding her one walk-in cooler at the Community Aid of Elk River (CAER) Food Shelf. The cooler is so crammed with carrots, milk, eggs and other fresh produce that Kliewer has to turn away donations.
"We get so much fresh produce ... but we don't always have the means to store it," she said.
Last year, Kliewer, the food shelf's executive director, canceled a 5K benefit race and golf tournament due to the pandemic and relied on online fundraising. Across the sector, virtual galas became the norm for safely fundraising in 2020. This summer, Kliewer is restarting the golf tournament but is wary about organizing any other big in-person events.
Many groups are sticking with virtual fundraisers even as more Minnesotans get vaccinated and COVID-19 restrictions are being slowly lifted. Greater Twin Cities United Way's free virtual event will broadcast live from U.S. Bank Stadium on May 6, and the Constellation Fund's first-ever free benefit will be livestreamed from First Avenue on May 20.
Last November, donors flooded GiveMN's site with $30.5 million for Give to the Max Day, setting a record in the 12 years of the event.
In fact, 2020 spurred unprecedented levels of generosity across Minnesota, with millions of dollars coming in from individuals and foundations amid the pandemic and in response to George Floyd's killing. Food shelves and food programs in particular saw a surge in aid to help a record number of Minnesotans; donors also supported rebuilding businesses damaged in civil unrest after Floyd's death.
"I don't think we'll ever see a year as good as last year," said Jonathan Palmer, executive director of the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center in St. Paul. "There was an outpouring of support."
He also switched to virtual fundraisers during the pandemic. The nonprofit isn't participating in Spring Forward MN but did a drive-through drop-off event in April to collect food and money.
During Spring Forward MN, GiveMN has added search filters to help people find organizations that address basic needs or equity issues, hoping to inspire people to find new groups to support, Blumberg said.
In south Minneapolis, Little Earth Residents Association started participating in GiveMN's fundraiser last fall after long relying on just government and foundation grants. During the spring event, Executive Director Joe Beaulieu is hoping to raise more individual donations for new youth and adult programs in the American Indian community.
After the unrest destroyed nearby grocery stores last summer, Minnesotans from all over rallied to help Little Earth and other Minneapolis neighborhoods, filling Little Earth's community center with boxes of cereal, diapers and other items. A record for individual donations — $100,000 — also poured in, all unsolicited.
But after a few months, the public attention had receded.
"It really dropped off," Beaulieu said. "We're still here."
Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141