Growing Online Giving is helping nonprofits raise money online—and it’s breaking fundraising records.

Fundraising Web site was only two weeks old when it broke the record for the largest one-day online fundraising event in U.S. history.

On “Give to the Max Day” in November, the organization raised $14 million that benefited 3,434 Minnesota charities.

At a time when many nonprofits are falling short of their fundraising goals, has bucked the trend with its user-friendly Web site, social media tools, and unique training for nonprofits.

“There’s really nothing like this that exists,” says GiveMN Executive Director Dana Nelson. The Web site, which launched November 2, provides donors with information about organizations that share their philanthropic goals and allows them to make online donations to any U.S. nonprofit by credit card.

Although donating online isn’t a new concept, GiveMN—which operates out of St. Paul—allows donors and charities to take action in new ways with social networking and online tools. The extensive media campaign and nonprofit training leading up to “Give to the Max” day also made use of these tools.

Before launching the Web site, GiveMN created buzz across the state with the help of Minneapolis-based public relations firm Padilla Speer Beardsley, which created a multi-layered media campaign. Celebrity fundraisers including arctic explorer Will Steger and singer Tim Mahoney created fundraiser pages for the GiveMN site, and an online video channel was set up on YouTube to promote the “Give to the Max Day” fundraising event. Several days before the event, a live television program featured foundation and nonprofit leaders speaking about their organizations’ work and getting people excited about the fundraiser.

GiveMN, which maintains a blog online, used its Web site to keep donors up to date and excited as the “Give to the Max Day” event unfolded. That day, it also held a “tweet meet” on social networking site to connect with participants and build excitement. GiveMN has its own Facebook page that keeps donors and nonprofits in-the-know about fundraising activities, and it was also used throughout the “Give to the Max Day” campaign; during the last step of the online donation process, GiveMN lets donors post a comment to their own Facebook pages, letting their contacts know that they support charities through GiveMN.

All registered 501(c)(3) nonprofits in Minnesota have a basic page on GiveMN, but once they log on and “claim their page,” Nelson says, they can upload images, videos, and other information to spruce up their presence. Prior to the event, MAP For Nonprofits, a St. Paul-based group that provides management consulting and board recruitment services for nonprofits, helped teach Minnesota’s charitable organizations how to take advantage of the GiveMN tools by hosting Webinars demonstrating how they can be used for fundraising. MAP also provided call center support to nonprofit employees and donors who had questions about the event.

Individuals can also use the GiveMN site to fundraise for their own causes. For instance, donors who are running a marathon to raise money for charity can quickly create a page on the site telling their personal story and why they support a specific charity. The page is then linked to one of the 501(c)(3) organizations in GiveMN’s database so that contributors can be sure that their money goes directly to the nonprofit. Nelson says these tools turn donors into advocates and fundraisers for the nonprofits they support.

“Giving online on GiveMN is super easy, it’s more efficient, it’s greener, and it’s cheaper for the nonprofit,” Nelson says, because it cuts down on the cost of direct mail marketing and paper, and it reduces the workload of people processing donations. Currently, GiveMN doesn’t charge donors or nonprofits for credit card processing fees and instead does its own fundraising to offset that cost.

Online fundraising is an idea whose time has come, Nelson says. “Our goal is to be the most efficient way for nonprofits to fundraise online.”


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