A new online giving event modeled after March Madness is pitting 64 Twin Cities charities in a friendly fundraising fight.

The format of Brackets for Good is nearly identical to the NCAA tournament, with the nonprofits that raise more money than their opponents in the allotted time advancing to the next round. The charity that wins in the championship round, ending on March 31, is awarded $10,000.

"Our mission is to help people discover and participate in philanthropy," said Matt McIntyre, executive director and co-founder of Brackets for Good. "We are shining a spotlight on philanthropy in a really fun way. It's a chance to win and engage supporters."

Dollars donated to the 64 charities during the monthlong tournament go to the nonprofits, minus a 4.7 percent credit card processing and administrative fee. Brackets for Good also charges a 30-cent fee for each donation.

Brackets for Good, an Indianapolis nonprofit started in 2012, runs tournaments in 11 U.S. cities and a national tournament with a $100,000 grand prize. This is the second year for the Twin Cities tournament, after the nonprofit was persuaded by the charitable giving team at SuperAmerica to come here.

Twin Cities charities raised $280,000 last year through Brackets for Good. The median donation was $30.

This year, more than 130 Twin Cities nonprofits applied to compete. Brackets staffers, with the help of the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, used a variety of metrics to determine which nonprofits made the cut.

Minnesotans have proved their passion for online giving. Give to the Max Day, a 24-hour giving marathon each November run by Minnesota nonprofit GiveMN, raised $20.1 million for hundreds of charities last year.

McIntyre said Brackets for Good and Give to the Max are not direct competitors. While both promote philanthropy, they employ different playful strategies at different times of the year.

"Pepsi-Coke scenario"

"This is the Pepsi-and-Coke scenario. People like one or the other," McIntyre said. "More events are necessary in all kinds of shapes, fashions and forms to get people to give."

This year's contenders include the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota, Special Olympics Minnesota, the American Refugee Committee and last year's champion, Spare Key, which raised $75,000 in the competition.

Phil Jenni, executive director of the Wildlife Center, said he's a big basketball fan, so rallying donors around a creative March Madness theme seemed like a winner to him.

Jenni said Brackets for Good and Give to the Max both offer creative ways to recruit new, often younger donors who don't respond to mailers and annual galas the same way more established donors do.

"We know there are a lot of younger potential donors we may not be reaching with our mailings and fundraising appeals," Jenni said. "We are trying to make sure we stay relevant and explore as many of these new platforms and games and other ways to connect with donors."

McIntyre and two other co-workers at an Indianapolis tech firm came up with the concept in 2011 while watching the NCAA tournament. Butler University, a small private school in Indianapolis, had advanced to the championship game.

"Everyone was a Butler fan," McIntyre said. "We thought, 'How can we bottle this energy for something good?' "

Shannon Prather • 612-673-4804