Give to the Max in its fourth year – now for public schools, too

GiveMN‘s “Give to the Max Day” has become an annual fundraising marathon for Minnesota nonprofits.

This Thursday, public schools across the state also have a chance to get in on the action.

GiveMN Executive Director Dana Nelson says up until this year many schools (either charter schools with a non-profit status, or schools that have a nonprofit PTA) have been able to participate, but some public schools were left out.

“There’s been this small island of schools that haven’t been able to use GiveMN and our online fundraising. And online fundraising continues to grow as a great way to find new donors and efficiently raise money. So now finally we’ve been able to come up with a solution and add them to our website.”

The solution involves some new software which downloads data from the Minnesota Department of Education, similar to how GiveMN accesses nonprofits’ 990 tax forms to create their web pages.

“It’s a slightly different process. Non-profits don’t have to sign up, they have a process where they update their pages, but they’re already on GiveMN. However public schools are not automatically on the site – they do have to register. They have to sign up and get a principal or superintendent to sign off.”

Nelson says RAZOO, the technology company that powers GiveMN, is now looking at using the Minnesota model for schools nationwide.

“So Minnesota, once again a leader, out in front,” cheers Nelson.

GiveMN is also doubling the number of “golden tickets” it issues throughout the day. Last year a donor was selected at random each hour and given $1,000 to pass on to the nonprofit of his or her choosing. In addition one person was given a ticket worth $10,000 to donate.

This year two tickets will be given out each hour, one to be given to a non-profit, the other to be given to a school. Similarly, two tickets will be issued for $10,000.

As in past years, there is a 2.9% processing fee taken out of donations to cover credit card and disbursement fees. And the Mall of America will be the headquarters for Give to the Max Day from 9am – 9pm.

Some school principals are volunteering to ride the mall’s roller coaster for hours at a time to help inspire giving.

And artist Eyenga Bokamba will paint and assemble 24 canvases at the mall over the course of the day.

“It’s the first time we’ve tried this,” explains Nelson. “And why this is important to us is, I think it’s challenging to express the magnitude of what happens on that day and how much is given and how many people give. It’s a huge thing but people are doing it on computers and on their phones – and all around the world – making an impact in Minnesota. So what Eyenga is attempting to do is express that through this public art piece, with the 24 canvases representing the 24 hours.”

Of the thousand of Minnesota nonprofits in existence, Nelson says only three have formally requested that GiveMN take their name off the fundraising site. Nelson attributes the organization’s popular success with its focus on simplicity:

“Our strategy is to make it as easy as possible – Give to the Max Day is at the right time of year, we put out tools, and help nonprofits figure out how to promote it via social media while being strategic about it, too.”

Nelson says Minnesota nonprofits have taken ownership of Give to the Max Day, turning it into a sort of nonprofit holiday.

Last year people gave a total of $13.4 million to close to 4,000 Minnesota nonprofits – the most ever given on a single day in an online giving event.

Will people be as generous this Thursday as they were last year? Nelson can’t say.

“Our goal is very big and broad. Our hope is that we raise millions of dollars for thousands of nonprofits and schools in one day. We hope for big results like last year but we’ll be pleased with really whatever happens. In all honesty if it’s five million, ten million – it’s all so good!”

This is the first time that Give to the Max Day has taken place on the heels of a presidential election, so it remains to be seen whether people’s political donations of the last few months have an impact on their giving to schools and non-profits on Thursday.