The end of this summer marks the end of a fundraising era


jerrylewisLabor Day weekend has come to be a bittersweet celebration each year. As the state fair winds down and kids get ready for school, we Minnesotans mark the end of summer with backyard cookouts and final visits to the cabin to relax at the lake, wishing summer a fond farewell.

For nearly a half century, millions of Americans have taken part in another Labor Day tradition—the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. Beginning in 1956 with Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin and moving to the Labor Day spot a decade later, this telethon —one of the most notable in the US— saw generations of legendary entertainers join Lewis on stage in front of a nationwide audience, all to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association in its aim to continue to fund research and eliminate the disease.

But this year, there will be no telethon for the first time in decades. After cutting back on and reshaping the broadcast multiple times in the 2000s, the MDA announced earlier this year that they would be refocusing their efforts from the telethon to “new, creative and organic ways to support our mission,” according to President and CEO Steven M. Derks.

When the MDA telethon began so many years ago, they were the most successful example of using broadcast television to bring their important mission and storytelling to homes all across the country. It was a new and untested method of fundraising, and the MDA continued to evolve alongside it through the years, leading them to more than $2 billion in donations to continue their important work.

But now the media landscape is changing, and alongside it, so is the individual fundraising model. Americans spend increasingly more time on computers and mobile devices, with that time eclipsing the amount of time spent watching television in 2014. And with this new technology comes new methods of fundraising, with peer-to-peer interactions being viewed as more authentic and effective than a mass media message direct from an organization.

So instead of one man (admirable and creative as he was) telling the story of one organization’s battle to eliminate one disease, many of us, GiveMN users included, now have the platform to tell their stories and elicit support to improve, fix, eliminate or celebrate the causes they care about most.   The move from one-to-many into a one-to-one model in fundraising is far less about glitz, glamour and even guilt, and more about intimate connection with the causes that touch our everyday lives.

With so much effort required to put on the annual Labor Day telethon, the MDA made the decision to move on without it. If the MDA embraces the new media opportunities to tell their stories, they will have thousands of people to inspire generosity. So instead of viewing the end of the Labor Day telethon as a bittersweet moment for MDA and the people they are in business to help, we can see it as a changing of the seasons for people who want to take action to improve their communities.

I certainly do.

GiveMN allows people every day of the year, not just Labor Day, the opportunity to host a fundraiser for the cause they care about most. GiveMN’s mission is to link donors with organizations that are working to make Minnesota a better place. And our online giving website,, enables charitable giving any time and any place.

Show off your best Minnesota Nice with the GiveMN State Fair Photo Contest!


It’s time again for The Great Minnesota Get-Together! For the 151st year, Minnesotans will be coming together for food, fun and to celebrate all corners of our state.

While you’re at the Fair, you can visit exhibits for all things Minnesotan except for one of our top exports—Minnesota nice. But this year, you can help us change that by documenting all the kind and generous things that happen on the Fairgrounds…and win some pretty cool prizes, to boot!

Here’re the deets.

Take photos of Minnesota nice in action while at the Fair.
Document all the kind, generous, giving moments that will warm our hearts (and car engines) all winter long. Maybe it’s a selfie with friends and family, or catching a stranger sharing his bucket of Sweet Martha’s Cookies. Snap one or take a few!

Post them to Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
Just use #MNStateFair and #MinnesotaNice and we’ll catch them! Enter a little caption so we know what happened…and just like that, you’re entered! (Bonus points if you tag GiveMN!)

Follow GiveMN to see Minnesota nice in action!
We’ll repost the best and send out GiveMN Selfie Sticks to our favorites.

After the fair, vote for your favorites!
On Tuesday, Sept. 8, we’ll post our finalists in an album on the GiveMN Facebook page. Like the pictures to vote for your favorites. The photos with the top three most likes on at noon on Friday, Sept. 11, will win Giving Cards to support their favorite nonprofit or school on ($100 for 1st, $50 for 2nd, $30 for 3rd.)

So now it’s up to you! Help us crowdsource an online exhibit all about the power of Minnesota nice.

Interim Executive Director Busts Four GiveMN Myths


HeadshotAndy-WebsquareAs a nearly 20-year veteran of the Twin Cities marketing and fundraising scene (and having recently joined the ranks of independent marketing and development consultants) I’ve had the opportunity to see the inner workings of a few beloved institutions around town and nationally. I’ve gone behind the screen at the Omnitheater at the Science Museum of Minnesota. I’ve stayed up way past my bedtime working with Northern Spark, our one-of-a-kind overnight arts festival.

And now I have the honor of working with an innovative organization that never stops looking for ways to grow giving in Minnesota.

Last fall, I was asked if I would help GiveMN expand their year-round marketing strategy. Of course, I jumped at the chance. Just six months later, GiveMN’s founding Executive Director Dana Nelson took a new post as the charitable and community lead for the 2018 Super Bowl. The GiveMN board asked me if I would serve as interim executive director, and I am proud to be supporting the “Green Team” and serving organizations across the state as the board carefully searches for their next executive director.

I’m no stranger to GiveMN. I have partnered with GiveMN since its founding in 2009 and previously served on the board. I’m so passionate about the mission—growing giving in Minnesota—a sentiment that has defined much of my professional career. We Minnesotans take great pride in the fact that our home is listed among the most charitable states in the country year after year, and GiveMN strives to keep Minnesota’s undeniable giving culture at the forefront of new technologies and trends.

Even though I’ve been involved since its founding, I have still been surprised to learn new things about GiveMN since I’ve had a glimpse behind the “green curtain.” For my first blog post as interim executive director, I’ve decided to do a little myth busting based on some common questions we’re frequently asked.

Myth #1: GiveMN is a for-profit business or affiliated with state government
GiveMN is actually a nonprofit organization just like the organizations we serve. We are part of the Minnesota Philanthropy Partners family and a support organization of Minnesota Community Foundation. Just like other nonprofits, we have a mission that guides the work we are passionate about. In simple terms, we exist to grow charitable giving in Minnesota, introduce more people to the joy of giving online, and help nonprofits and schools evolve their fundraising strategy to stay on the cutting edge of technology and embrace online giving.

Myth #2: GiveMN is expensive for organizations to use
Every time you use a credit card for a purchase, it costs money to process that transaction. You may not notice it because it is often pretty hidden, but it is a real cost for anyone who accepts credit card payments. That’s why sometimes at the gas station you’ll see an advertised discount if you use cash. Other times, companies build credit card costs into the price of the items you are buying.

These costs apply to online giving as well. GiveMN takes a very transparent approach so that you know exactly where your gifts are going. We have worked diligently to keep processing fees just at 4.9%, comparable to other online giving sites. Some sites may have a slightly lower card processing percentage, but include additional per-transaction fees or even annual subscriptions for organizations that can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. And unlike other online giving sites, GiveMN actually creates marketing buzz for all nonprofits and schools in Minnesota. That’s part of our overall mission to ignite generosity, made possible thanks to our generous corporate and foundation funding partners and individual donors. We are here exclusively to bring together Minnesota organizations and the generous people who care about them. We are based in St. Paul and regularly travel to all corners of our state. We ONLY play Duck, Duck, Gray Duck.

Myth #3: GiveMN only raises money for _________ organizations
Fill in the blank however you’d like. We hear this concern on a regular basis. But at GiveMN, we like to think of ourselves as the Switzerland of giving. We are neutral and enjoy cheering on all of our state’s nonprofits and schools. We consider our mission met when people give online, when they make informed giving choices, and when they are able to connect with new organizations or support a friend’s fundraising efforts. We’ve seen so many different types of organizations find success fundraising here—large and small groups, geographically diverse, and making our communities stronger in many different ways.

Myth #4: I can only give through GiveMN on Give to the Max Day
There’s no doubt that Minnesotans have embraced Give to the Max Day as a statewide giving holiday each November, but GiveMN was built to provide an online giving marketplace 24 hours a day, 365 days a year! And there’s definitely reason to come back! You can build your own pages to fundraise for your favorite nonprofits and schools, keep all of your giving history in one report ready to be printed at tax time, set up recurring payments to sustain your favorite organizations year-round, and much more.

I’m excited to be on-board with GiveMN through Give to the Max Day this fall. And I’ll keep looking for great stories of generosity and #TrendingPhilanthropy to share with you on this blog. If you have ideas for how GiveMN can grow giving in Minnesota or make online giving more exciting, fun, and easy, email me at

Ignite generosity. Grow giving.

Thoughts from my last day at GiveMN

Hanging up the jacketToday, I hang up my GiveMN track jacket for the last time. I have spent the past couple of weeks sorting through and organizing old files dating back to 2009 when we launched GiveMN. This put me in a reflective and very grateful state of mind. I have learned so much with all of you during the past six years.  Here are a few thoughts on my last day in the office:

  1. Involve as many people as you can in your work. Partner with odd bedfellows. Make it easy and FUN for them to work with you. Share the credit.
  2. You can’t make everyone happy. In fact, if you’re doing a good job as a leader, some people should be pretty pissed off at you. Get comfortable with that.
  3. Do stuff. Get stuff done. Move forward.  Make mistakes, course correct (apologize if it is your fault!) and keep moving.
  4. Say thank you. Say please. Ask for help. Say thank you again. If I haven’t thanked you recently, THANK YOU!
  5. Make cupcakes for your volunteers, colleagues and friends. Grandma Nelson says, “pay your favors with homemade treats.” Do this as often as possible. My grandma is usually right.
  6. “Make the work the reward.” An artist said that at a conference recently and I think about it every day. It has been an extraordinary privilege to lead this organization – to get to wake up each day and think about new ways to ignite generosity. Thank you for your support and friendship over the years.  YOU ARE MY REWARD.

There is something very special and rather extraordinary about what we have created together.  GiveMN was the right idea at the right time in the right place. I can’t wait to see how the team continues to grow giving into the future.

I will always remain Cheerleader in Chief in my heart.


A message from GiveMN Executive Director Dana Nelson

Dear GiveMN friends,

Six years ago, I began my journey with GiveMN at its launch. I am proud to say that, together, we have raised more than $114 million for Minnesota nonprofits and schools by rallying more than 260,000 donors. We have ignited the generosity of Dana_croppedMinnesotans and truly made philanthropic history along the way.

It has been an extraordinary privilege to be part of this organization. So the decision to embark on a new journey wasn’t easy. But I’ve been offered a unique and timely opportunity —to serve as executive director of the Super Bowl Legacy Fund for Super Bowl LII. I’m excited to help the state I love shine brightly in the national spotlight. My last day with GiveMN will be July 17.

GiveMN is poised to innovate and grow giving now more than ever. We have an incredible team that is passionate about connecting even more people to the causes they care about. And the GiveMN board is committed to a strong leadership transition that will ensure that Give to the Max Day will continue to showcase Minnesota’s unparalleled generosity and deliver new donors to your organizations.

Andy Goldman-Gray will serve as GiveMN’s interim executive director. Andy is the founder of AGG Marketing & Consulting. He is a seasoned executive and a very familiar face in our organization and among nonprofits. Most recently, Andy created our new marketing and communications strategy, and he’s a former GiveMN board member. Andy is recognized locally and nationally for his knowledge in donor segmentation, promotions and campaign leadership. He previously served as senior vice president at  Greater Twin Cities United Way. GiveMN is in excellent hands.

The GiveMN board of directors has already started the process to select the next executive director, and has retained Ballinger | Leafblad, Inc. to conduct the executive search.

I’ll no longer be the public face for GiveMN in my green track jacket, but I will be always be cheering for you—our Minnesota nonprofits and schools!

Ignite generosity. Grow giving.

Dana Nelson
Executive Director
aka Cheerleader in Chief