Minnesotans donate nearly $3 million during statewide spring fundraiser

·4 min read

Minnesotans donated nearly $3 million this month to bolster nonprofits and schools statewide.

For the second year in a row, GiveMN, the organization known for hosting Give to the Max Day each November, held a spring fundraiser because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has contributed to rising costs and declining revenue at many of the state's nonprofits.

This year's event, called Spring Forward MN, started May 1 and ended Tuesday, generating donations for more than 2,000 organizations. Last May's event raised $5.2 million.

"Often, what you see after a disaster, support wanes..." said Jake Blumberg, executive director of GiveMN. "Need has expanded from these crises that is not likely to go down to previous levels anytime soon, and so for all of us, we need to consider and continue to be as generous as we can."

May is a key time for nonprofits to hold galas and fundraisers. This year, many are continuing with virtual galas that have become the norm during the pandemic despite the increase in vaccinations statewide and the state's lifting of crowd restrictions.

Cookie Cart, a nonprofit bakery, is holding an online-only fundraiser in July but planning its first in-person event in October. Michelle Edgerton, Cookie Cart's director of advancement and the president of the Minnesota chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, expects most nonprofits will continue relying on online events before starting hybrid events at year's end.

"We had to do more to raise money during this time. Trying to make an event that was in-person virtual, that was hard work," she said.

GiveMN surveyed about 1,000 nonprofits and found that 70% wanted a spring fundraiser in addition to the usual fall event at givemn.org.

Spring Forward MN helped Cookie Cart meet its goal of raising $35,000 to reopen its Minneapolis bakery, which closed during the pandemic.

"This is really proving to be another wonderful resource for us," Edgerton said. "It's really introducing organizations to audiences who did not know them before."

But in St. Paul, East Side Elders, which serves about 650 older adults each year, only generated about $175 during the event, far short of a $5,000 goal for groceries for older adults. Most Minnesotans are aware of the fall Give to the Max Day, said Janet Golden, executive director of East Side Elders, but "unless you're tuned into nonprofits, I don't think that many people knew about" the spring event.

Like other nonprofit leaders, Golden cancelled fundraisers in 2020. The small nonprofit only has three employees and no full-time fundraiser. This year, she's retooled events to be COVID safe — such as a drive-up meal pickup and a planter sale — while trying to increase revenue as the nonprofit serves more new clients in need of help.

In Burnsville, Heather Tidd isn't worried about donor fatigue settling in yet. Tidd, interim executive director of Dakota Child and Family Clinic, reached her nonprofit's goal of raising $1,500 during Spring Forward MN, supporting mental health groups for Native American LGBTQIA youth.

"Right now, it really feels like people are stepping up more," she said. "We know it's a difficult year ... people continue to show up."

2020 spurred unprecedented levels of generosity across Minnesota, with millions of dollars flowing to nonprofits on the front lines of the COVID-19 response and those helping businesses destroyed during the unrest following George Floyd's murder.

Strangers have even left unexpected gifts such as cloth masks and cleaning supplies on Claudia Waring's front porch or at her nonprofit, the Asian Women United of Minnesota, which operates an emergency shelter for women and children. Donors also have contributed cash.

After the shooting in Atlanta,where a gunman killed six women of Asian descent and two white people, Waring's nonprofit, like many organizations supporting Asian Americans and Asian Pacific Islanders, saw a bump in donations again. This month, Spring Forward MN brought in more than $2,000, which will be used to buy bus cards and address other transportation costs for the shelter's clients.

"It's been kind of incredible," Waring said. "I have been so pleasantly surprised by people's consistent and steadfast generosity."

Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141