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Give MN: A gift for Minnesota's nonprofits

This week marked the launch of Minnesota's largest online giving surge, bar none: this created all the buzz. Googling "Give MN max" provided 631,000 results, and raised $14 million for 3,434 Minnesota nonprofits in one - ONE- day. If you were under a rock this week, here's additional information.

Facebook updates continually zinged throughout my network - "I gave to the max, did you?" or "Get your donation matched by supporting our cause." The flurry in my email box was no different. Messages from 38 of my favorite nonprofits (read: 38 nonprofits to whom I subscribe by email). And of course with anything so public, mass media did its job with coverage from both supporters and critics. Clearly any campaign this public will have its fair share of critics, and a few reporters were working the beat.

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/news_cut/archive/2009/11/charitable_fallout.shtml#comments

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/news_cut/archive/2009/11/charitable_fallout.shtml#comments

http://www.startribune.com/local/70323477.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUUsZ

Critiques included the lack of clarity around the foundation matches, usability and transparency of the web-based platform, and the support of religiously-based organizations. Of course one can't expect consensus or perfection from such a public course of action, and I'd argue that these skeptics raise the public debate and help us do our work better. But my humble opinion is that Give MN is a gift to the nonprofit sector, at both the individual and community levels.

First, let's consider the individual benefit. It's a one-stop shot for nonprofit and philanthropic giving. The convenience for donors is irreplaceable. I would guess the majority of the population doesn't want an intimate engagement with every nonprofit it donates $50 to. Take for example "The Marketing Mama" who shared on Give to the Max day that she and her husband gave all their yearly giving and encouraged her network and blog followers to do the same. One click. No credit card fees, no administrative overhead, no phone call from the nonprofits. No hassle. Done. With convenience like this it can only encourage diversity of donors - particularly new ones - to give across Minnesota. 38,778 donors. One day.

Now consider the benefits to our nonprofit and philanthropic communities. Give MN equalized nonprofit messaging. Often small and mid-sized organizations have challenges competing with the extensive resources and multi-staffed communication and development departments at larger organizations. Here, everyone is equal. Everyone has a space and an opportunity to tell their story. Call it virtual equality?

Tuesday also made me feel like I was part of a movement--a tangible collective commitment to making the world a better place. Unlike in the political environment, I (and many others) often feel isolated in nonprofit work. It's my organization against the ills of the world. David vs. Goliath. But Tuesday provided me a sense of out joint accomplishment like "Yes, we can!" Rarely do I feel that in the nonprofit sector. But on Tuesday, yes. Yes, we did. And that's impact. It gives us power and voice. It's an artifact of our collective power.

Give MN is also a tool to democratize philanthropy - equalizing the power and decision making of the causes to be supported. Key foundations pledged an initial gift to generate buzz based on top number of donors and matched gifts. Foundation representatives trusted the will of the people (while providing incentive to decide where dollars should be spent). Sure, you might have issues with a specific nonprofit, but the critical mass decided. Philanthropic democracy in action.

All in all, Give MN is a relevant example of changing times within our sectors. I for one am proud of Give MN and for being ahead of the tide. We could all stand to learn more than a little from this visionary and impactful tool.


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The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs or the University of Minnesota. The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by the University of Minnesota or the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.