GiveMN raises over $5.5 million

As I write this, the ticker at GiveMN states $5,532,363 has been give since 8am to 2,206 Minnesota non-profits. Now that’s a great day by any standards, so congratulations the folks at GiveMN, and their supporters.

However I’m a little concerned that people still think that if they give money to a non-profit on the GiveMN site today, their donation will be “matched” – i.e. a $25 pledge will earn the non-profit $50. This is simply not the case.

As I wrote yesterday, a group of foundations gave GiveMN $500,000 in to use as “matching funds” to inspire people’s generosity. That set amount is being spread out over all the donations made today.

So as of 1:30pm, that $500,000 equals approximately ten cents on the dollar. As the number of donations accumulate, that ratio will drop further. Yet the main page on GiveMN continues to state that “all donations will be matched!”

You have to scroll down and look at the detailed writing to find these words:

Every donation made on Give to the Max Day will receive a portion of a $500,000 match. The exact amount matched per dollar donated will be determined after Give to the Max Day concludes, and the $500,000 in matching funds will be divided by the total donation amount raised over the 24-hour period.

It should also be noted that while Executive Director Dana Nelson says she hopes GiveMN will always be free to participating non-profits, that depends entirely on funding. In addition to relying on its funding partners, GiveMN is soliciting donations today right along with all the other non-profits.

A couple of people have asked me “so does this mean that foundations are paying for credit card transactions with money that would have gone directly to non-profits?” I put the question to Dana Nelson. Her response? Minnesota foundations view GiveMN as a lucrative investment that will inspire more people to give more generously to more non-profits. They’re thinking of it as seed money, and as such, money well spent.

Nelson says she’s overwhelmed by the response that’s come in so far today. Her hope is that word continues to spread about the generosity of Minnesotans, and even more are inspired to join in.

  • Trisha

    I’m also concerned about a few things regarding this campaign- first of all- they started out with the message of a .50 cents on the dollar match starting at 8 am- then changed it becuase they feared the site would crash.

    Small organizations that saw this as a huge opportunity to grow their donor base made investments to communicated the message through mailings and dedicated staff time to get their donors and volunteers to take action early in the day to take advantage of the match.

    Then a week before, they changed it so that everyone gets a portion. If my math is correct, at 7 million- every dollar get’s a .06 cent match. The leaders on the top are largely organizations that have a big year-end fundraising campaign turnout anyway. I feel these foundations would have been wise to set a budget limit of 500,000 or so- so that the colleges and biggest nonprofits wouldn’t dominate the pot.

    Oh well- I hope they take lessons learned from this forward next year and continue to pool their resources to develop a match every year! This WAS a big driver for donations for the small nonprofit that I work for- I just am concerned that donors are NOT getting what they stepped up for- the MATCH.

  • As the leader of a Minnesota non-profit participating in this event, I am appalled that this aspect of the GiveMN day was not made clear. Our friends and members were led to believe that their donations would be worth double the original amount today. Will GiveMN tell them this disappointing news? Nope. We at the non-profits will have to. What was once a great opportunity now has a pretty sour aftertaste.

  • Jess Hendricks

    First thing this morning, I eagerly logged on to GiveMN to ensure that my favorite organization got its matching funds. As the day goes on, and I hear more and more about the organization, I’m getting a little frustrated by this Give to the Max day. Shame on me for not reading closer and on GiveMN for not posting more clearly that the matching funds would be divided afterward.

    I was also a little frustrated with the donation process itself. I’d much rather donate directly to the organization via PayPal.

    I’d love to see an in-depth story about GiveMN

  • Theresa

    I think the motive behind this was positive. I just want to point out as an owner of a nonprofit….pay pal also charges you. Sometimes this type of campaign gets the word out there. I am sorry if people felt misled….I think the initial intent was honorable.

  • Michelle

    I am very disappointed with this Give to the Max day and The donation page of the non-profit for which I volunteer mysteriously disappeared today, after we sent out an email to our members that there was a great opportunity to have their donations matched. is working to fix the error says that the page will be working again in 24 – 48 hours, long after hope for earning any “matching” money we may have received.

    In any other context matching is understood to mean a dollar-for-dollar amount unless clearly stated otherwise. Shannon (commenter above) is right. We are the ones who will have to smooth this over with our members, not

  • Susan

    I, too, am a leader of an area nonprofit, and while I was clear on the disclaimer and we tried to share the info as we promoted this event, I’m still very concerned. It’s down to $.06 on the dollar which hardly constitutes any version of “matching” — with 15 hours remaining in this event.

    I really hope that GiveMN and their partners will find a way to grow that matching fund. Otherwise, this is the kind of thing that leads to disappointment among donors and may ultimately result in dampened enthusiasm in the future. And it’s our organizations that will pay the price.

  • Adam

    Perhaps MPR should disclose their funds raised during this specific event in the interest of full disclosure. It’s one thing to report on the event as a third-party observer, another to report on something MPR is also receiving matched funds from as well.

  • paddler

    In contrast to most of the other comments here, I think the “Give to the Max” day has been wonderful. I work for a participating nonprofit. And no, we are certainly not one of the big ones or anywhere near the top. Sure, the actual “match” has been reduced to almost nothing, but the way that this has inspired our existing donors to give, and to give as big as they can, and the effectiveness it has demonstrated in bringing in first-time supporters can not be underestimated.

    I’m sure there are cynical ways to look at this, but all I know is that I and my colleagues understood very clearly when the rules of the game were changed a week ago. GiveMN communicated that clearly, but of course you had to actually read their communications and pay attention to what they were saying.

    It certainly hurts to lose the $.50 match, but if they had made it a first-come, first-served program, we’d all be losing out on millions in donations when the match was used up in minutes (in Dallas, the match was gone in nine minutes) and donors had no further special incentive to give.

    We have had a very good day at my group and I bet a lot of other nonprofits like us, with six figure budgets and limited resources to both raise money and do good work have also seen a nice bump in their donations today.

  • Susan

    paddler, I’m glad this has gone well for you and your organization, but I think you have missed the point that I and others have tried to make.

    And, to be clear, this isn’t cynical. I’m sincerely concerned that certain kinds of “promotions” like this can do more harm than good when people feel frustrated or, worse, misled. This is particularly true for nonprofits where we live and die on the goodwill of donors. They typically donate to organizations based on trust, but if they learn they need to examine the fine print for a “catch”, they’ll just say “why bother?” and ignore the appeals.

    Yes, people had the opportunity to read the fine print, but the main headline still says “matching.” In what arena does a 6% contribution mean “match”? Donors may very well feel some sense of having been had, and it’s the ORGANIZATIONS (and those who we serve) that will suffer as a result.

    I really hope GiveMN has a Plan B to counteract potential blowback.

  • I also hope that the sponsoring foundations will increase the match fund by some significant amount in response to the huge outpouring of support for GiveMN and the successful launch.

    However, saving the 4.75% transaction fee plus whatever the final single-digit match is still puts the nonprofits out ahead of where they would be with a donation through any alternative online payment like PayPal, and possibly even farther ahead of their costs per donor for more traditional fundraising mechanisms like direct mail or events.

    Everyone who donates today can be happy they have helped move their organizations beyond where they would have been.

  • Wendy Helgeson

    I was extremely disappointed in my experience on so many levels. I wrote about it on my blog at OR


  • Jeff

    As a development officer for a nonprofit I also had concerns about this campaign, the timing was clearly intentional as this is the time for year end appeals, the fact that it wasn’t clear about the match, who is are they legit and who was really behind the campaign. I see its Razoo and Network for Good who will receive and distribute the funds. How do we recognize our donors if the gift is not given directly to us but rather through Network for Good? Network for Good issues the donation receipts.

    The short notice on timing, and the lack of clarity on the match became evident as I began to see the communications coming out from other nonprofits in Southern MN. I saw some nonprofits in our area promote this as if each dollar would be matched 100%. It was clear they were unable to take the time necessary to understand the campaign prior to getting their email notices out on the day of or the night before it started. I did for courtesy sake notify some of them that that they put out incorrect and misleading information as I didn’t want to see them hurt by this.

    Though I understood how the match worked as a fundraising professional its my job to understand it. That’s not the case for many small volunteer driven organizations. For those organizations that do not have professional fund raisers on staff or executives who are not keen in this area I do think the information, as put out by Razoo, could have been more clear about the match. They obviously didn’t research and have an understanding of their target audience in small nonprofits.

    Executives are all very busy whether volunteer in the organization or paid staff. Many of us received notice of this less than 1 week out so giving this the necessary time to due diligence and determine what affect this would have on their organizations was not a reality. They had to move quickly because there are other things going on and this was not figured into th plan. So they glanced at the information, saw the word “match” and online and thought good! Easy way to bring in extra $$. Like another commenter above stated people see “match” and they assume 1 for 1.

    In our current economic situation with financially tight budgets, most NPO’s are working under these conditions want to take full advantage of any and all opportunities, the word match in nonprofit world especially now stating the word “match” is like driving a fuel truck into a conflagration not knowing there’s a fire even burning. NPO’s start hearing every other nonprofit is getting on the band wagon in the area, the local media just picked it up and they ED’s know they’ll be grilled by their board members if they don’t involve their organization in the effort. There board members however don’t know themselves how this might impact positively or negatively any other fund raising efforts their doing because they often view donors as ATM Machines, which they aren’t.

    The Ed’s not wanting to be roasted, at the next board meeting over this, quickly prepare a communication to disseminate the information as they understand it. Since they didn’t have time to really do due diligence mistakes are made in the communication. Donors believe this is 100% match, because that’s what was said. We all know from communication experts that our newsletters afre read by less than 3% of our supporters and we are lucky if they read more than the first paragraph of information. So the email gets sent off, the direct mail piece is sent or the info is incorporated into an appeal that’s already being prepared to send. Voila, there is a frenzy of donations being given online, which we would all like to see increased anyway. I do think Razoo and Network for Good should have been much more clear with their message to organizations and distributed it our much sooner than it was. So proper due diligence could have been done, and proper questions asked by each organization how this would benefit or negatively impact them as a result of their participation.

    I also saw this as a way of getting more people to give to their organizations online. Its been a challenge to figure out how to do this for many organizations. Online giving can be much more efficient for nonprofits thus there are positives that will result for organizations from this effort. This certainly exposed many Minnesotans to online giving which otherwise may have taken many years to get them to this point.

    More specifically I feel Network for Good and Razoo were attempting to get a foothold in being the medium or middleman for online giving. It was a clever approach though I’m not sure how much integrity there was with the planning and process of how it all played out.

    I feel this campaign coming at a time when many organizations have either started their end of year appeal or will be soon may have an impact they either didn’t expect or won’t like. Especially organizations such as the one I work for who are working on our own matching opportunity for our year end appeal effort. Individuals who would normally give through to our organization at the end of year have given through this GiveMN campaign and gave significantly. Its unlikely they will give another gift for a more significant match, but who knows. I really don’t want us to consider asking them when its so close to the gift they just gave. The unfortunate thing is that the match from GiveMN is statistically insignificant, we’ll be lucky to receive 3.7 cents on the dollar raised. How will our end of year appeal come out now our ED asked me? I have no idea, I said.

    I would like to see a follow up story by MPR and other news agencies as to how the match came out and investigation and discussion with nonprofit executives, specifically fund raisers in these organizations as to what their perspectives were and how they feel this either helped or hindered their efforts.

  • Wendy Helgeson

    Jeff – I absolutely agree with you. I am very frustrated by the response of and its cheerleaders consistently using the excuse “the nonprofits didn’t communicate it correctly”. If is suppose to assist and help our giving community flourish – why the hands off approach when dealing with criticism? For all the reasons you mentioned – if your initial campaign promotion included the wording “dollar for dollar” that is all most people will read or hear. I believe the rules and parameters were changing hourly – causing even the most seasoned fund raisers to be confused and unclear.

  • Bruce Chris

    Clearly, we’re Too generous. GiveMN raised $14 Million, (see Google) while GiveTexas only raised $4 Million. Proportional to population, we should only have raised $845,000, which would have paid us 59 cents on the dollar.

    When comparing Minnesotans to Texans, please consider the types of people involved.