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Jan 12, 2013

A Model for Fundraising in the 21st Century

In recent years there have been many innovations that try to broaden the appeal and ease of donating to charitable organizations.  Nationally a well-known online effort is Kiva.  In Central Ohio the Columbus Foundation has sponsored Power Philanthropy as a central database and portal for individuals to learn about and donate to local charities.

These models have some limitations.  Kiva is heavily focused toward third-world poverty, providing little help to the local charities.  Power Philanthropy requires a charity to maintain an extensive database that requires a staff effort that at times can be more than the smallest charities can afford.

An alternative model that is well worth considering is GiveMN.org, a collaborative effort in Minnesota to transform philanthropy by growing overall giving and moving more of it online.  Since its inception in 2009, it has raised over $50 million in donations to 6100 Minnesota nonprofits.

One of the program’s greatest values is how it empowers a nonprofit’s supporters to solicit donations on behalf of the nonprofit.  So many nonprofits have limited ability to employ full-time fundraising professionals.  Imagine the boost they can receive when each of their volunteers can easily become a fundraiser with minimal effort and stress!

To accomplish this, GiveMN lets individuals start their own “campaign” to invite their friends to donate to the nonprofit.  An individual can create a fundraising page on the GiveMN website with video or picture options.  Examples of “fundraising events” which an individual can initiate are birthdays, marathons, memorials, walkathons, or weddings.  One example on their web site is a page set up by “Molly” to celebrate her 60th birthday that resulted in $25,225 donated by her friends to her favorite nonprofit in lieu of birthday gifts.

At holiday time many companies now send a greeting card to their clients with a note that, in lieu of a gift to the client, the company has made a donation to a particular charity.  GiveMN allows a company to have another option.  The company can order bulk prepaid cards to send with their holiday greetings that provide that same philanthropic intent but via the GiveMN website allows the client to choose the nonprofit to benefit from this generosity.

GiveMN has combined the lessons of other efforts to attract individuals to philanthropy to create an excellent program that channels substantial individual philanthropy to a remarkable number of local nonprofits.  It has many advantages over other efforts to enhance local philanthropy.

As nonprofits face continuing reductions in government support, we know that sustainability requires them to become more entrepreneurial and to develop new revenue-generating activities.  To understand this, watch this video.  But even as they do,  developing stronger programs to expand individual philanthropy will remain vital.  Adopting a program like GiveMN.org would be a boon to any community.