Yesterday, November 16th, was Give to the Max day in Minnesota. By most accounts it was a great day for nonprofits in Minnesota with over $13 million donated to some 3,978 organizations. As a 25 year fundraising veteran, I’m all for any effort that increases donations to the nonprofit sector, especially during these difficult economic times. However, I’m concerned that focusing so much energy and time on one single donation event could diminish ongoing individual fundraising activities in the sector by creating an impression that Give to the Max Day is THE day to give.

The reality is that way more than $13 million is given in individual donations each and every day in Minnesota.

Here’s some data to support my concern:

In 2010, individuals donated $211 billion to US nonprofits. That means on average, every day in 2010, individuals donated over $578 million to nonprofits in the US. If you divide that equally between the 50 states, each state would have over $11 million each day in individual donations.

Now we know that the number of nonprofits in each state is not equal. Minnesota has around 50,000 registered nonprofits or about 3.3% of the 1.6 million registered nonprofits in the US. So 3.3% of $578 million is $19 million.

So, using just averages, Minnesota nonprofits would receive over $19 million in individual donations each day of the year.

Looking at Give to the Max Day from another perspective, $13 million was donated to 3,978 organizations. That means that less than 8% of the nonprofits in Minnesota received contributions through the site. Of those 3,978 organizations, the top 10 received over 12.5% of the total given. Congratulations to those 10 organizations for getting their donors to give in large numbers and large amounts.The top 39 organizations, or 1% of organizations that received a donation, took in over 22% of all donations.

I don’t know what impact Give to the Max Day has to ongoing individual fundraising activities. I would encourage each nonprofit that participates to do their own analysis of that. Some of the questions to ask are:

  • Are the people giving to us through Give to the Max the same people that otherwise give to us? If so, has their annual given increased or decreased?
  • How many new donors do we get through Give to the Max and do these people renew at the same rate and same amount as other donors?
  • How much effort do we put into asking our supporters to give on Give to the Max Day and how do the returns on this day compare to our other solicitations?

Give to the Max Day was a great donation day for Minnesota nonprofits. But let’s not forget that everyday needs to be a give to the max day.

Ever Onward –

Chris Hanson
The Fortunate Technologist and CEO of thedatabank, inc.