Year-end charitable giving could reduce your 2015 taxes

Although Give to the Max Day is one of Minnesota’s most charitable days each year, the last two days of each calendar year are generally the busiest days for online giving nationwide, as people take a look at the opportunity to make the most of their year-end tax situation.

Should you consider “year-end giving?” Any day is a great day to give, but we’ve put together a short Q&A list to help you decide whether to make a gift by the end of 2015…and how a free account on GiveMN.org will keep you from searching for paper receipts!

How could year-end charitable giving help my tax situation?
At the end of the year, tax filers have a clearer picture of their individual tax situations. If you are near the cutoff between tax brackets, charitable gifts may help you lessen your tax burden for when you file in early 2016. Additionally, with the amount saved in owed taxes, you can stretch your dollar farther to help your favorite cause!

Who stands to benefit the most from year-end giving?
Only individuals who itemize their tax deductions will receive the extra benefits of donating before the end of the year.

What type of organizations should I donate to in order to qualify for charitable giving?
All certified 501(c)(3) organizations are eligible to receive tax-exempt donations. In addition, most churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and government agencies are considered de facto eligible to receive tax-exempt donations. All organizations listed on GiveMN.org are eligible.

How may I make a donation?
You may make a cash, check, or credit card donation. Just make sure you receive a receipt. By using GiveMN.org, you can search tens of thousands of Minnesota nonprofits and schools by keyword or location and make an immediate donation using your credit card and receive an immediate email receipt. 

What are the benefits of using GiveMN.org for making my donation?
GiveMN.org is Minnesota’s front door for charitable giving! You’ll find thousands of eligible nonprofits and schools when you search by keyword or location. Upon making your donation, you will receive an immediate email receipt. Better yet, we’ll provide one report detailing all of your charitable giving for the previous year early in 2016. You support your favorite cause, and we handle all of the boring financial stuff!

Simply create a free account on GiveMN.org to track your giving.

What is the deadline for charitable gifts to count for my 2015 taxes?
Donations using credit cards must be transacted on or before December 31, regardless of when the credit card bill is paid. If you decide to mail a check, it must be placed in the mail in 2015.

Are there limits as to how much I can give?
There are some limits to charitable giving tax benefits, but they are pretty high. Read the IRS guidelines. 

What types of records do I need to keep? You will need to keep some sort of documentation issued from the organization displaying the name of the charity, date of contribution, and amount of contribution. This typically comes in a receipt either mailed or emailed to you from the organization. By using GiveMN, you receive an email receipt immediately. Additionally, by creating an account, you can download a report of all of your charitable giving on GiveMN.org near the beginning of 2016.

What about gifting stock?
Gifting appreciated stock is one of the most effective means of tax savings available. According to RBC Wealth Management First Vice President and Financial Advisor Darla Kashian, the benefits are threefold:

  1. The satisfaction of knowing your money is invested in a cause important to you.
  2. Capital gains taxes on the stock are avoided.
  3. You will be eligible to receive an income tax charitable deduction for the full fair market value of the stock at the time of the gift.

Kashian reminds that to qualify for these special tax advantages, the security must have been held for at least one year.

What else should I consider for charitable stock gifting?
Kashian provides more information on other benefits of gifting stock: “While you might think that only people who itemize their taxes will benefit from year-end stock gifting, it’s worthwhile to consider a stock gift if you have a concentrated position in a stock as a way of reducing that concentration.  It is also a way to potentially make a larger gift by thinking of the cost of the stock as the dollar amount of your gift, rather than the current value.  For example, if you’re planning to gift $1000 in cash, you might stock that has a cost basis of $1,000.  But truly, it is the clients, members, and beneficiaries of your cherished charities who will benefit most from your generosity.”

If you would like to make a charitable gift to count as part of your 2015 tax returns, remember to make the gift by midnight on Thursday, Dec. 31! Want to make a quick gift to a Minnesota organization or learn more about worthy causes in your community? Visit GiveMN.org to search by keyword or location, find an organization or school (or more!) you believe in, and make a gift in seconds!

Read more IRS tips for year-end giving.

Give to the Max Day 2015—A seven year tradition continues to evolve

BY JAKE BLUMBERG, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT GIVEMN

Jake BlumbergThe first two weeks of a new job are always about learning—where the coffee pot is, who the best resource in the office is for a lunch recommendation…and in my most recent experience, what raising over $18 million from more than 62,000 donors in 24 hours looks like.

My eighth day as the executive director of GiveMN was Give to the Max Day 2015 (well, actually my eighth and ninth days, as I was awake for nearly 48 hours straight.)  As a fundraiser for multiple organizations here in Minnesota previously, I knew what Give to the Max Day looked like as a participant. Seeing it from the inside as more than 5,600 organizations processed gifts from generous donors was a different experience entirely.

Here are the moments I’ll remember most looking back on #GTMD15:

  • As a fundraiser, there may be nothing more intoxicating than watching donations roll in online; it is the type of immediate gratification many of us in our sector rarely get to have. Watching more than 127,000 donations roll in over 24 hours at an average of more than one per second through GiveMN.org? It was basically the fundraising equivalent of the new Star Wars movie debuting! (OK, Star Wars fans, calm down.  I know that sounds like blasphemy—but it really was AMAZING!)
  • Organizations in every county in Minnesota received gifts during #GTMD15—and donors from every county in Minnesota, every state in the United States, and dozens of countries supported nonprofits and schools in Minnesota. If I had ever wondered what a group hug from more than 62,000 folks might feel like—this was it!
  • Margaret Mead knew what she was talking about when she encouraged us to “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world…” Watching the small but mighty GiveMN team (there are four of us) along with our technology and community partners work directly with thousands of nonprofits, schools and donors leading up to #GTMD15 and throughout the day, I couldn’t have been more impressed and proud to see the incredible impact our community made together during Minnesota’s giving holiday.

principals_300Those takeaways, among many others, are already informing our direction as an organization as we look to 2016 and beyond. I am humbled by the opportunity we have in front of us. GiveMN has already helped to make an incredible impact across the state and nation, helping to generate more than $140 million in donations for organizations since our founding in 2009, while also leading a national evolution of what online giving looks like.

My predecessors Dana Nelson—our founding executive director—as well as Interim Executive Director Andy Goldman-Gray, have partnered with members of our board of directors, staff and funders to build an organization that has connections with thousands of organizations and hundreds of thousands of donors. I couldn’t be more grateful for the work that has been done to build GiveMN up to this point. Now, we have a chance to write the next chapter of philanthropic innovation for Minnesota­­—an opportunity that gets me almost as excited as watching all those gifts pour in on Give to the Max Day!

What will that future look like? One way or another, it will include increased collaboration with our nonprofit and school partners, robust resources for our donors, and innovative ideas to ignite generosity in new and different ways throughout the state. Look to this space, as well as our other communication channels, for more details in 2016—and if you have an idea, please email it to info@givemn.org so you can be part of the dialogue.

Thanks for all you do for Minnesota, and stay tuned—we can’t wait to partner with you in making our communities a better place!

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

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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, GiveMN.org, enables charitable giving any time and any place.

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

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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 GiveMN.org ($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

BY ANDY GOLDMAN-GRAY, INTERIM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT GIVEMN

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 info@givemn.org.

Ignite generosity. Grow giving.