GiveMN launched its “Give to the Max Day” over 6 years ago. It was one of the first 24-hour day of giving that rallies and inspires to donate to charities. On November 13, Minnesotans broke a record Thursday, donating more than $18 million to schools and non-profits. I have been tracking this giving day since its first Giving Day back in 2009 and every year do a debrief post or interview. This year, I was lucky enough to get Dana Nelson, Executive Director to do an email interview. GiveMN and Dana have been a key part of the Knight Foundation Giving Day Learning Exchange that I have had the honor of facilitating. This network of community foundations are actively experimenting and learning how to get better results on their Giving Days and adding to the knowledge in the Giving Day Playbook.
Here’s what Dana Nelson had to say about their dramatic giving day results, their secret to success, and what is next.
1. Hi Dana, congrats on another successful Giving Day in Minnesota. Now, in your 6th year, drum roll, tell us Give to the Max Day by the numbers:
- Total raised: $18,316,626.42 (7% increase over 2013)
- Total gifts: 120,664 (13% increase over 2013)
- Total organizations: 5,544 (a 25% increase over 2013)
- Total donors: 62,607 (a 20% increase over 2013)
While I am thrilled that we broke our record for dollars raised, the growth in donors and organizations are the numbers that I am over the moon about. I am so excited that more organizations are getting donations than ever before on Give to the Max Day! We had a middle school win the $20,000 golden ticket that had never received a donation on GiveMN before – a donor gave to them because their neighbor goes to the school. You better believe they are going to get involved and promote Give to the Max in the future!
2. Hosting a Giving Day is no small feat. And this year, you launched a new website in July and ran the giving day on your new website. Can you share a little bit about how you managed this change?
This has been a huge year for us. We selected Kimbia as our new technology partner in January, launched our new website in July and began an intensive training schedule (webinars, live training, phone and email support) with organizations to get them ready on the new GiveMN.org for Give to the Max Day.
We were introducing a new user experience and wanted people to feel comfortable with the new website before jumping into the intensity of Give to the Max Day. Throughout the summer, we worked hard to provide organizations with ample information about how the new site works, what would feel different and how to get help.
3. You’ve been doing Give to the Max Day for six years now, what was new this year?
Every year, we review our Give to the Max Day promotions to see what we can improve. We don’t aim to do something new for the sake of newness. This year, we got creative with our partnerships. Our goal was to find some ways to directly reach more new audiences. A really unique partnership with Metro Transit, which is Minnesota’s transportation resource offering a network of buses, light rail and commuter trains, allowed us to plug into their engaged audience of commuters.
We had a “prize patrol” of volunteers serving up coffee and breakfast snacks, and handing out GiveMN giving cards and Metro Transit Go-To passes to commuters wearing green. Metro Transit also offered a free ride home to anyone who visited GiveMN.org throughout Give to the Max Day. They reported that 57 percent of people who downloaded the free pass from our website told them that the free ride made them “more likely to participate” in the giving day.
Also new this year, we established headquarters in our offices that served as our communications hub. We had volunteers working the phones and online help desk, monitoring and posting on social media, and a crisis management team ready to address any potential issues. Kimbia also joined us to experience the day firsthand and provide support.
4. I’ve heard you talk about Give to the Max Day and how exciting it is. What was the most exciting moment for you and your staff?
I think we might each answer that question differently, but one of my favorite moments was our Give to the Max Day Principals Challenge. This year, we asked school principals to don super hero costumes and ride the new indoor zip line at the Mall of America. The principals brought their students to celebrate the moment and show their school spirit. This year, we called Give to the Max Day a pep rally for giving, and at that very moment it was the epitome of a pep rally! (And it was a great visual for the media!)
5. Tell us about your overall marketing strategy/campaign. That’s an important piece of these events and they typically integrate paid, earned, social, and digital media. Can you share some of what you did?
Being in our sixth year of this annual event, we have a great campaign template that we adjust each year. The basics of it include strong media relations efforts, a media trade program, strategic communications through our own robust channels and active outreach to organizations. For us, our offline activities are as important as online efforts.
- PadillaCRT has led our earned media strategies since we launched GiveMN in 2009. They are amazing partners who understand our business. This year, we had all four local TV stations cover our morning event and counted 26 live shots in three hours!
- Since we launched a new website this summer, we wanted to make sure people came to the right place for Give to the Max Day so we worked with Fast Horse agency to develop and run a Google AdWords campaign for us. It was a first experience for us, and we were extremely pleased with the results.
- Our media trade program is really about asking for help to promote the day. Minnesota media organizations are incredibly generous and give us great visibility online and in print in exchange for being promoted on our website and in social media. One of our partners provides us in-kind advertising on outdoor digital billboards.
- We also take the extra step of curating and engaging a group of local influencers with large social networks to help us promote Give to the Max Day. They are enthusiastic and positive voices for us.
6. GiveMN started as a giving day and site. Can you tell us a little about your plans for the future?
Give to the Max Day started as the event to launch GiveMN.org when it was new and unknown. The goal was to establish some brand awareness across Minnesota. Interestingly, Give to the Max Day has become its own brand in many ways, and we love the unexpectedness of that. The future is full of opportunities for GiveMN and the year-round brand. We are developing some exciting marketing strategies to ignite generosity and grow giving in the future. Stay tuned!