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


Online Fundraising and Natural Disasters

By Dana Nelson, Executive Director at GiveMN

It has been heartbreaking to watch news of the earthquake in Nepal and the humanitarian crisis that has followed. As a mom, my heart breaks for those families ripped apart and for so much loss of life. As a citizen of the world, I’m heartened by the speedy response of rescue workers, citizens, and organizations. As the leader of an online fundraising organization, I’m in awe of the generosity of donors who were fundraising and distributing donations literally within minutes.

What has been fascinating about the online fundraising response in Nepal, as compared to other disasters like Haiti, Katrina, or even here at home with the 35W bridge collapse or North Minneapolis tornado, is that the most effective fundraisers seem to be individuals, rather than organizations, compelled to help.

While GiveMN’s focus is on making giving simple, rewarding, and fun in Minnesota, there is a whole ecosystem of online fundraising tools aimed at international relief. One that I follow is Crowdrise, and the response of their community has been amazing.

Mallory in Nepal Relief Effort   mallory in nepal relief effortOne example that was particularly remarkable, and showed the power of online fundraising, is Mallory’s story. Mallory had raised money to go to Nepal to support a specific program that fights poverty. While she was en route, in the air, the earthquake hit. Upon landing and seeing the destruction, she built a new donation appeal to raise $10,000 for sanitation aid and emergency supplies. She took video and photos and built the campaign from Nepal. The response has been remarkable—over $23,000 raised to date—almost all coming in gifts of $50-100.

Why have individuals fundraising for Nepal overshadowed organizational fundraisers? I have three theories:

  1. Speed. There is little time between when an individual gets inspired to help and when they can have a page up and fundraising. Organizations are often slower to respond.
  2. Trusted Networks. Individuals share characteristics with their networks and their friends and colleagues know that if someone like Mallory is behind it, it’s worthy of support.
  3. It’s Personal. The tone of the fundraisers is often more emotional and driven by a singular story. Research shows that donors respond to more emotional appeals versus appeals that include a lot of numbers and statistics.

Nepal Earthquake Relief   GiveMNThis kind of fundraising is happening in Minnesota too! Jeff Achen (a former GiveMN team member) and his friend Troy are riding their bikes from Grand Forks to Winnipeg, Manitoba this Sunday (May 31) to raise support for victims of the Nepal earthquake. You can give to their page on Donations will go to American Red Cross Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund.

You don’t have to wait for a natural disaster to raise money for an important cause. Whether you are an individual who is passionate about a cause or a nonprofit working on a need in the community, you can leverage the power of fundraiser pages on GiveMN and inspire more giving by leveraging the three points above. There are critical needs and great causes in Minnesota. It’s up to us to help people act on the urge to help, tap into the generosity of their network, and tell inspiring stories of need in our community. I encourage you to use GiveMN fundraiser pages as a powerful tool to do so.

Best Kept Secret on Revealed

By Dana Nelson, Executive Director at GiveMN

Birthdays are big time at our house. I LOVE my birthday because it means doing something special. I ate cake for breakfast, had lunch with my grandma, and heard from my friends all day that they were making donations to my son’s school!

As GiveMN’s Cheerleader in Chief, I decided my birthday was the perfect time to reveal the best kept secret on and create a fundraiser page for one of my favorite causes.

I was blown away by the generosity of my friends and family, and by how easy it was to raise nearly $850! I’ve been talking about fundraiser pages as an easy way to ask for donations in lieu of birthday presents, so it was time to try out this little-known tool myself. It was rewarding, challenging, and illuminating, but most of all—it was fun!

Here’s what I did and what I learned. Let’s call it Ten Tips for Fundraising on Your Birthday:

  1. HeaderButton-FundraiseI clicked on the big orange fundraise button in the banner at the top of
  2. I logged in to my GiveMN account. It was easy to do using my email and password.
  3. I typed in the name of my cause—my son’s school, Venture Academy—and the page name I wanted to give my fundraiser: 450 Dollars for 45 Years – My Birthday Wish for Venture Academy.
  4. Venture AcademiesThen I was ready to create my fundraiser page! I included a picture that the school sent me and my personal story about why Venture Academy is important to our family.
  5. I went through my email list and Facebook friends and made a list of people who might consider making a donation. It was longer than I thought!
  6. I wrote my first email. This was the hardest part of the whole process for me. I had to think about why I was fundraising for Venture in a way that people outside of my family might care about. And I had to be okay if they didn’t respond or if they said no.
  7. I sent personalized emails. They weren’t long, but I made sure they were unique and heartfelt.
  8. I shared the link on Facebook and tweeted about it, which is easy from the Share This Page area of your fundraiser. I was delighted when friends saw it on social media and made a donation!
    @DanaCN's Birthday Tweet
  9. I let the organization know what I was doing. They amplified my efforts by sharing the fundraiser page with their email list of parents and supporters. This lead to a few more donations!
  10. Dana's MomI sent personal thank you notes to each person who gave–sometimes by email, sometimes a handwritten note, and sometimes a kiss (Thanks again, Mom!).

The GiveMN fundraiser page worked swimmingly. Okay, I did forget to click Update once and lost my first draft, but it was EASY to do and a great way to raise money for an awesome school. I raised nearly $850 that will help to pay for a few special year-end field trips.

Asking for a donation in honor of my birthday or in lieu of a present was as special as cake for breakfast and was a great way to connect with even more people to share the mission of Venture Academy.

So there you have it. The secret of GiveMN fundraiser pages is revealed! They are great for inspiring your kids to raise money, an easy way to fundraise for a fun run, or start a friendly fundraising competition with your friends in the neighborhood or on that board you serve on.

I’m excited to hear how you will use a fundraiser page to help the organizations you love! Send me your ideas at and I will send you a GiveMN Selfie Stick!

Thanks for igniting generosity and growing giving.