In times when Non-profits are forced to do more with less, delivers. GTK #17: Dana Nelson



GTK #17 Dana Nelson (23 min)

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Dana Nelson Givemn.orgDana Nelson is the Executive Director of, a 501(c)(3) supporting organization of the Minnesota Community Foundation,whose mission is to connect Minnesota donors with Minnesota Non-profits (and similar social causes) through a simple and straightforward online donations portal.  Conceived last summer when discussions commenced around harnessing emerging trends in technology to create a service of benefit to all Minnesota Non-profits, launched later that fall on November 2nd, 2009.

When researching the best approach to bringing e-philanthropy to Minnesota in a meaningful way, rather than re-invent, opted to partner with DC-based Razoo who had already developed a scalable platform-complete with payment processing integration through Network for Good.  The result is a privately labeled version, specifically targeted towards the Minnesota Non-profit and donor community, which offered brand visibility across both sites.  Further exemplifying the collaborative spirit, Nelson and her colleagues then helped to form strategic relationships with the Minnesota philanthropy community (at large), acknowledging that “Others could have gone out and built their own means of raising money online directly for their specific purpose, but group buy-in was necessary for this to work on the larger level and thankfully this was widely understood.”

Click. Contribute. Change your world. Give to The Max features a database of every registered Non-profit nationwide and promotes those local to Minnesota. The service allows prospective donors to effortlessly browse the site for Non-profits and niche fundraisings, while individual pages/causes can be created on the fly. From here, donors can make single credit card transactions ($10 minimum, no maximum) or create an account to track their ongoing “strategic donations” and log receipts. “Just keeping all that data in one spot is a handy service for busy donors,” says Nelson.

From the recipients perspective, whether they be full-fledged Non-profits or shorter-term initiatives, is a priceless asset to the marketing department of any social organization. “For many Non-profits, just marketing via e-mail can be a big leap; we took that a few steps further by providing the tools and techniques to serve as an onramp to social media and Internet marketing for those who don’t have strong dedicated resources to the online world,” says Nelson, who see’s as the ideal solution.  “Minnesota’s legacy of giving is incredible. The Minnesota Council on Foundations reports that individual giving is a four billion dollar per year market in Minnesota alone,” says Nelson, adding “ exists to providing the most efficient way for Minnesota Non-profits to raise funds online.” has been financially supported through various parties interested in advancing the mission, including: Greater TC United Way, the Otto Bremer Foundation and the Minneapolis & St. Paul Foundations.  To date, the organization has been covering the 4.75% transaction fee it pays-out to various payment processing agencies, thus passing 100% of gross donations received onto the receiving organization.  However, starting in October, the intent is to start to pay transactional fee’s out of the donations received.

While November 2nd, 2009 marked the official launch of, the real party was two weeks later (Nov 17) when this little known Non-profit venture set the single day fundraising record by raising over $14m on behalf of some 3,400 different charitable causes.  Thanks in part to local PR firm Padilla Speer Beardsley, the nationwide “Give to The Max Day” immediately put on the e-philanthropy map.   Through a simple, yet thoughtful media campaign, leveraged multiple traditional and social media channels to tap an otherwise elusive donor base: those who don’t consider the the typical mailer/checkbook system when making donation decisions. “Having a single day of giving was an easy message to share and spread amongst individual peer and professional networks…it was so simple and tweetworthy,” Nelson mentions in reference to the networked effect.  And viral it was-permeating the Twittersphere and Facebook circles though “celebrity cause” pages by the likes of Will Steger, Tim Mahony, Senator Norm Coleman and Mayor R.T. Rybak . Meanwhile, “tweet meets” fostered friendly bursts of competition as momentum gathered throughout the day.

If last years Give to The Max Day was the splash, then the ripple continues; one recent success was raising over $33k for the Wadena Tornado Relief Fund in June. News is already surfacing of’s 2010 Give to The Max Day – now set for Tuesday, November 16th.  Like any worthwhile accomplishment, the challenge is often raising the (internal) bar–time and time again.  Can they top last years record?  We wouldn’t put anything past the power of technology as a force of good.

Send your Minnesota Non-profit/social tech tips and stories to Tristan.Pollock@Tech.MN