GiveMN: More questions, more answers

Earlier this afternoon I took a look at the top ten ranking for non-profits in GiveMN’s “Give to the Max Day.” 1st place: Second Harvest Heartland. 2nd place: Animal Humane Society. 3rd place: Desiring God Ministries.

Now the first two I’d heard of, but the third didn’t ring a bell. My colleague Bob Collins brought me up to speed. It turns out the man at the pulpit of Desiring God Ministries, John Piper, is pretty adamant when it comes to homosexuality. Here’s an excerpt from one of his sermons:

We want to be a church where homosexual people can either overcome their sexual disorder, or find the faith and courage and help and love and power to live a triumphant, joyful, celibate life with the disorder.

My immediate reaction was “do Minnesota foundations realize they are supporting this sort of worldview with the GiveMN site? And that this organization may end up winning an extra $1,000 for generating so many donations today?”

I called the Bush Foundation to find out its stance, and was connected with C. Scott Cooper, Director of Engagement and Communications. He said situations like this are bound to come up.

This is democracy in action – it’s people deciding for themselves where to put their dollars and our focus has really been on making sure that it’s as easy as possible for people to make their contributions when non-profits are providing all sorts of critical services in the community and are suffering because of the economy.

Certainly there are non-profits that do all kinds of different things, some of which we may love or we may hate, but the idea behind GiveMN is to make it as easy as possible for people to give and have their dollars go farther.

Fair enough – so some people may give to Desiring God Ministries, while others may give to Planned Parenthood.

Meanwhile, as I write this, GiveMN’s total donations ticker registers $8,583,342. Only the non-profits themselves know how much they’ve made today – that information is not readily available to other users. So I can’t tell you who’s making the most off of this.

However I can calculate that non-profits stand to gain less than six cents on the dollar in todays “match.” I asked Cooper about the confusion surrounding the match, and how some donors, and some arts organizations were expecting at least a 50 cent match on the dollar for every donation made. Cooper says it’s unfortunate that some people didn’t get the message clearly.

The initial plan had been to give away this five hundred thousand dollars in matching money to the first million dollars in contributions during the day. But then some concerns were raised about the volume of traffic that would happen at 8 oclock in the morning and so the decision was made to spread the money throughout the day and the amount of the match would depend on the amount of contributions made in the course of the day.

Cooper says the irony is that Minnesota’s generosity is what’s caused the value of the matching funds to go down.

Because it’s going so well, a huge amount has been contributed – it is going to be a smaller amount per contribution. It’s actually a great problem to have. When you think about it, the combination of these things, the covering of the transaction costs, and the partial match means instead of making a contribution and having 95 cents of your dollar get to the organization, this organization is getting maybe 1.08 for every dollar you give, which seems like a good thing and a good reason to give today.

“Give to the Max Day” ends at 8am tomorrow morning.

  • Sean Kershaw

    I appreciate the reporter’s instinct here to ask good questions, but this seems like a headline in search of a story.

    (Note: I’m the Executive Director of a nonprofit that has participated in this effort today, and I know people who organized GiveMN.org)

    * In our case (the Citizens League), the effort appears to be bringing in new donors, and causing many donors to increase their contribution slightly.

    * One of the under-reported benefits is that nonprofits have had to get their ‘house in order’. For example, we realized that if people were going to be evaluating us against other nonprofits, we needed more financial info on our home page. This should have been done anyway, but if it causes nonprofits to become more donor-worthy, that’s not bad.

    * A LOT of people were talking about giving to nonprofits today — which is a hopeful thing in a year that has been tough for most nonprofits. (We’ll take a 6% match any day, btw.)

    I appreciate that the matching language is important, but I always understood that the match amount was fixed, and would depend on our ability to get a greater share of the whole.

    And as a gay man, I have no problem with subsidy going to a church that might want to “cure” me. My own church was also asking for support through this program. It’s up to the foundations as to whether or not they want to include congregations in this, but the tax code already provides a significant subsity to churches, discriminatory and open both. It is, as Scott Cooper said, part of democracy.

    Rant concluded!

    Sean