The Minnesota Community Foundation has their second annual “Give to the Max Day” last week and once again it was a spectacular success.
The first giving day was last year. I had a chance to talk to the chief architect at the Minnesota Community Foundation, Jennifer Ford Reedy, a few months ago for my Social Good podcast for the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
It was a terrific example of a foundation forming partnerships with dozens of local nonprofits and a dozen other funders, creating an open source platform for giving (it was open source to enable and encourage other foundations to replicate the effort.) And at the end of the day, that first go round, the day generated 38,000 donors giving $14,000. I remember seeing those numbers on Beth’s blog and thinking that there had to be a typo. In the depths of the recession it was astounding to see that Minnesotans had given that much money to charitable causes. But, then, again, it’s Minnesotans, the most generous people in the world.
Jennifer posted a summary of this year’s event on the Council of Foundation’s blog last week. Jennifer outlined a key difference between this year’s event and last year’s. They decided this year to focus on increasing the number of donations not the size of the donations. They were successful in doing this, their bottom line this year was 42,000 donors pledging a total of $10 million.
As Jennifer writes, “we created an incentive system that rewards organizations for turnout.” The incentive were grand prizes of $20,000 and $10,000 to the nonprofits that raised the largest number of donors during the day.
This all raises a very interesting question: should nonprofits be aiming for more donors or more money?
Smart people like Kim Klein have been arguing for years that building a broad base of supporters is critical to long term sustainability for nonprofits.
But what if the needs are so great, winters in Minnesota are brutal after all, that losing $4 million hurts local people and communities in the most need right now?
I think part of the answer has to be what happens to these donors after they give on the big day? Blackbaud reports that donors who give online give more over time than their traditional counterparts. However, we reported that after the first America’s Giving Challenge sponsored by the Case Foundation that the winners didn’t know what to do with their online donors once they had them. That was three years ago, maybe we’re collectively getting better at learning how to build relationships with our online friends and turn them into long term donors now.
Maybe. At least I hope so! Katya, Kivi and Rebecca provide hopeful insights here on how to retain online donors.
This is, I suppose, the heart of our biggest challenge for the next few years; creating online friends, building stronger ties with a portion of them, asking them to give in real, authentic ways — and getting them to give again.