Bob Collins at News Cut talks about yesterday's Give to the Max Day in Minnesota, which raised more than $12 million for local nonprofits yesterday. Commenters there and at this story weighed in with their confusion (and in some cases, disappointment) over the fact that $500,000 can't be a dollar-for-dollar match if there's more than $500,000 in contributions.
The blame for this confusion is largely laid on the GiveMN organizers, but I fear it really reflects the weak state of financial acumen and development sophistication at too many non-profits.
I can't speak for the sponsoring foundations, but I think all the discussion about the match and whether the day attracted new money misses the larger point. I'd argue the day was about creating statewide awareness and increasing donor comfort with giving online.
Organizations and the members upset about their tiny match need to look at the bigger picture. GiveMN.org handed these organizations a new fundraising tool that otherwise might have been beyond their ability to implement. It spurred many of them to use the web in new ways to reach donors and considerably raised the profile of online giving.
For years, I've been using and recommending Network for Good — which appears to be affiliated with the "giving marketplace" that provides the GiveMN platform — as a way to manage one's charitable giving. For people who write just a few checks a year, a tool like this may be more than you need, but as more transactions of all types move to the web, non-profits must be able to move there, and use it effectively. This is tough to do on your own, especially in small, very resource-constrained organizations.
GiveMN also harnesses social media in ways that go beyond Network for Good, allowing donors to declare their support for organizations and share it with their personal networks — which is really how non-profits need to build their donor base.
I doubt that many organizations found new donors or raised much new money through Give to the Max Day. For most, I suspect that the annual appeal dollars and year-end giving from people figuring out their taxes might have just moved up in time.
But the dollars raised should not be the measure of success. Smart organizations will be using this day as a learning opportunity and this platform as a way to move their donor relations into a new realm.
UPDATE: A comment by Bruce at the News Cut post sheds some more light on how the confusion arose.
In their webinar presentation to charities some weeks ago, GiveMN.org reps said the $500K they secured from local foundations and other funding "partners" was to be allocated for underwriting the 4.75% fees charged by their processing "partner" Networkforgood.org until the money ran out. Then it was changed to a 1:1 match, then 1:2, then (and finally) proportional. The move to proportional came too late to effect the "buzz" of the 1:1 or 1:2 matches that were communicated prior to Nov. 17th. As late as Tuesday afternoon non-profits that one would think would know better were still representing "double your gift to us" through blast e-mails.
And the Strib comes out with a "Charitable Giving Guide" supplement on November 18th, the day after GTM Day!