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 GiveMN.org. 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 GiveMN.org 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 GiveMN.org 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 GiveMN.org.
  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 info@givemn.org and I will send you a GiveMN Selfie Stick!

Thanks for igniting generosity and growing giving.

March Millions is #TrendingPhilanthropy

By Dana Nelson, Executive Director at GiveMN

MarchMillions1The past 12 months have been a time of change for GiveMN. Less than a year ago, at the MCN Technology and Communications Conference, we announced our new strategic technology partnership with Kimbia and just a few short months later re-launched our website to power even more giving in Minnesota.

I have learned more in the last year about data migration, systems testing, and development sprints than I could have hoped for! And while I am always grateful to learn new things, the developers at Kimbia are excited to have me back on my real job—igniting generosity and growing giving (a.k.a. the big picture!). So we’re reactivating The GiveMN Blog and will theme posts as #TrendingPhilanthropy, looking at the forces that are influencing where and how donors give online.

Last fall, the trustees of the Otto Bremer Foundation asked GiveMN to facilitate a creative way for the foundation to be introduced to a new region for responsive grantmaking—Southeastern Minnesota. They were interested in making a BIG matching gift ($1 million!) to area organizations to learn about the causes the community values most. After a quick check with the people who keep me technologically honest (the GiveMN team), we agreed to partner.

It was an easy yes for me because if there’s one failsafe way to ignite generosity it’s matching gifts. The evidence is all around us, from Buy One Get One promotions at local retailers to Yale/University of Chicago research across a wide swath of charities showing that the presence of a dollar-for-dollar match increases donor response rate by as much as 19%.

MarchMillions2We worked with the very fabulous Lue Her and his colleagues to create Otto Bremer Foundation’s March Millions for Southeastern Minnesota and they selected just over 100 organizations from the region to participate. In addition to the $1 million in matching funds, one lucky donor was selected each day in March to win a $1,000 Bremer Boost prize grant for their organization and a Mega Bremer Boost of $10,000 will be awarded on March 31, randomly drawn from all March Millions donations.

Before the campaign went live I asked the GiveMN team to guess how much the campaign would generate. The stakes were high—a fancy Italian dinner for the closest guess.

MarchMillions3Dan, our data geek, guessed $358,034. Deepta, outreach coordinator extraordinaire, went middle of the road at $750,000 and I guessed we would help organizations raise the full $1 million. Darryl, our second outreach coordinator and self-professed gamer “who knows nothing about nonprofits” (his words) guessed $1.7 million! We all chuckled at his optimism and I hoped that he was right. It turns out he had his finger on the pulse of generous donors more so than any of us ‘seasoned’ fundraising experts.

Though the campaign isn’t over yet, next week we’ll announce that March Millions has generated more than $2.2 million in total donations in just one month. Remember Dan’s guess? In all twelve months of 2014 all of the nonprofits and schools in the eight-county March Millions region raised $358,034 through GiveMN.org, including Give to the Max Day. And now in just 31 days that has nearly quadrupled!

So why has this campaign been so successful? Here are three key factors that have helped inspire more than 2,100 unique donors to make a donation:

  1. MarchMillions4The generous matching gift from Otto Bremer Foundation. $1 million is the largest matching gift to be offered competitively on GiveMN ever! It was first come, first served (or first given, first matched) across all participating organizations and it got the attention of nonprofits, media, and donors. We like to call matching gifts “Minnesota’s BOGO for Good!”
  2. The 102 participating organizations. They got creative about how they promoted March Millions, whether it was right out of the gate in the race for matching dollars or rallying later in the month around winning those Bremer Boost prizes. There was a sense of community and “we all win” among the nonprofits that swooped into action with less than a month to prepare for this campaign.
  3. The media coverage. GiveMN and Otto Bremer Foundation, with the support of FleishmanHillard, have done a small paid media campaign and a successful earned media campaign, raising the visibility of the March Millions effort across the region.

So when the campaign wraps at the end of March, our optimistic gamer gets dinner at Pazzaluna for knowing that donors are no different than any of us. They like a deal. And I win, too, because I get to take him to dinner. The Otto Bremer Foundation won. And clearly 102 organizations won as well.

I give big props to the whole GiveMN team for creating this campaign on a dime. They did outreach to organizations in the region, created new training materials, and hosted training sessions to ensure that every nonprofit could be as successful as possible—not just in March, but year round on GiveMN.org.

A special post script: Since making his winning guess, Darryl has left the GiveMN team where he served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member and has joined the United States Air Force. We will have a bittersweet farewell dinner, but we thank him for his continued service to our country.