Minnesotans broke a record in philanthropy Thursday, donating more than $18 million to their favorite schools and charities across the state during a 24-hour giving marathon known as Give to the Max Day.
The donations topped the $17.1 million raised in 2013. About 119,000 individual donations were made.
Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, Augsburg College in Minneapolis, and Second Harvest Heartland in St. Paul were among the top beneficiaries, with Cretin-Derham cracking the half-million dollar mark.
Dana Nelson, executive director of GiveMN.org, which coordinates the day of giving, had urged Minnesotans to dig deep into their pockets and support their favorite causes.
“I am thrilled that we set a new record,’’she said. “From Minnesotans wearing green to flying principals, today has been a tribute to the creativity and passion of nonprofit organizations and schools that make Give to the Max Day an incredible success.’’
One of the most unusual fundraisers took place at the Mall of America, where teachers and principals rode a zip line across the ceiling of Nickelodeon Universe to drum up donations for their schools.
Bruce Vento Elementary School in St. Paul had one of the most vocal sets of young cheerleaders standing below. The students had been holding “penny wars” to raise money for their school. Now it was their teacher’s turn to pitch in.
“Miss Tran! Miss Tran! Miss Tran!” they shouted, watching their teacher whiz by in a Superwoman cape and tights.
Phuong Tran emerged triumphant and was surrounded by hugs when she finished.
“We’re the lowest socio-economic school in St. Paul,” Tran said, as other educators passed by in superhero costumes.
“This is all for the kids. They’re at the forefront of everything we do.”
Meanwhile, a tutoring center in St. Paul held a 24-hour dance marathon, with hourly motifs such as Hip Hop Brunch, Baby Jam, and Robot Dance Party.
“We were looking for something fresh,” said Chad Kampe, executive director of the center, called the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute. “It’s been great.”
The day started with volunteers from GiveMN handing out free coffee and breakfast bars at a light-rail station in downtown Minneapolis, reminding commuters to give.
Other events took place throughout the day, ranging from a meet-and-greet with service dogs at Helping Paws of Hopkins to a sneak peek of the latest exhibit at the Minnesota History Center.
This year’s event did not suffer from the five-hour shutdown that last year plagued the website handling donations. However, smaller glitches were reported throughout the day.
Neil Winston of St. Paul made a donation to the Merriam Park Block Nurse Program at 7:30 a.m., and soon received a confirmation note. But the donation still hadn’t shown up on GiveMN 10 hours later. The program’s total funding was reported as zero.
That discourages donations to the nurse program, he said, because when potential donors come to the website and see zero donations, “it looks dead.”
Nelson said the main technical problem of the day occurred around 1 p.m., when the tally of donations on the GiveMN Web page froze.
It was up and running again by about 1:45, she said. Donations were not interrupted, said Nelson. She said she had not heard of problems with individual nonprofit tallies.
GiveMN had switched its technology partner this year to the Texas-based firm Kimba to improve its technological performance.
Give to the Max evolved into a day of serious matching grants this year.
GiveMN reported $6.7 million available through hundreds of nonprofits. MicroGrants, a Minneapolis nonprofit that helps low-income folks start small businesses, was staring at a $50,000 challenge grant at the beginning of the day.
Office manager Kristine Barstow spent the day opening checks in the mail, and checking online donations made through the GiveMN website as well as their own. Like many nonprofits, it uses all avenues possible to encourage giving.
“We try to accommodate everyone,” she said.
Schools and nonprofits without generous matching grants added their own incentives. Groves Academy in St. Louis Park, for example, had hour-by-hour bonuses for randomly selected donors, including VIP parking spots at school, student volunteers who would gift wrap holiday presents and lunch with the superintendent.
Throughout the day, Minnesotans were blasted with e-mails and social media alerts, urging them to support causes ranging from children’s services to the environment and animal protection.