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15th anniversary of Give to the Max Day supports UMN groups

University organizations reflect on what this giving day means to them.
Image by Morgan la Casse
$300 million is expected to be raised for Thursday’s Give to the Max Day.

The 15th anniversary of Minnesota’s Give to the Max Day is this Thursday, with an anticipated $300 million to be raised.

Give to the Max Day is when donors participate and give money to organizations and nonprofits across Minnesota, including University of Minnesota organizations like the Gopher Men’s Rugby team, the Raptor Center, the Bee Squad and The Minnesota Daily.

As Minnesota’s biggest day of fundraising of the whole year, Give to the Max Day continues to grow, with over 14,000 organizations receiving gifts and millions of donors from across the United States and the world, according to the executive director of GiveMN, Jake Blumberg.

“It’s a pretty incredible fundraising event and tradition for the state,” Blumberg said. “Donors tell us that they enjoy participating and giving money on Give to the Max Day because it feels like they are a part of something bigger than themselves.”

Blumberg added that Give to the Max Day was originally meant to be a one-time marketing event to get people engaged with raising money online. When over $14 million was raised in the first year, they knew they had to do it again.

According to Blumberg, the University has made Give to the Max Day its own thing.

“We engage folks to do it and the University of Minnesota has really taken that and run with it,” Blumberg said. “What we see with student organizations as well as departments at the University is that the holiday gives them lots of runway to do fun and different things.”

Gopher men’s rugby

Gopher Men’s Rugby has participated in Give to the Max Day for the past three years, according to Vice President Aiden Anderson.

“Since we’re a club sport, we don’t get that funding from the University themselves entirely, so we need to seek other avenues to pay for competitions and stuff like that,” Anderson said.

Give to the Max helped the team a lot, Anderson added. They raised $3,000 the first year and $5,000 their second year.

This year’s goal is to again raise $5,000. The money would go toward needed equipment and gear, along with being able to participate in competitions and nationals.

“We always try to go for broke, go a little bit bigger,” Anderson said. “If we’re going to keep doing those things, we want to make sure we have those opportunities for the new guys coming in too.”

While the rugby team does participate in Give to the Max Day in November, Anderson said they use the same University crowdfunding site in the spring for fundraising as well.

“It’s a good way for us to kind of reach out to our alumni and not only alumni, but like players’ parents and stuff like that,” Anderson said. “People who don’t normally support our team, but would support individual people on our team.”

According to Andreson, a lot of the donors are parents and alumni but it varies. He said the largest donation the team has received was $3,600 from their alumni group.

While the team has not always reached its funding goals in the past, Anderson is still optimistic. He said the rugby team’s donation page does not close all year, but they reset the goals at the beginning of each semester.

“These are all secondary programs you wouldn’t think our campus has, but this makes our campus a place to be, kind of makes our school better by having these options and by supporting these smaller groups,” Anderson said.

Bee Squad

The Bee Squad is part of the University Bee Lab that focuses on research and outreach in the community.

According to Lucy Rogers, who is heading up the squad’s Give to the Max Day efforts, the Bee Squad focuses on community outreach, maintaining bee apiaries, helping with research and running programs such as a veteran and prison program.

Last year, the Bee Squad’s Give to the Max campaign was focused on raising enough money for a new truck, which they succeeded in doing, Rogers said.

This year’s funding will be used more generally, as the squad needs things for the vet and prison program along with equipment and salaries, according to Rogers.

While the team has been successful in other years, Roger said their goal this year is to raise $15,000, along with having two $10,000 matches from donors.

“I really think it is the Bee Squad because they’ve been out in the community so much and people just love what they’re doing,” Rogers said about their past success. “Hopefully they’ll inspire people to give again this year.”

Raptor Center

The University Raptor Center is another organization participating in Give to the Max Day. It is the center’s most important fundraising day of the year, according to Anthony Baffo, the communications coordinator at the Raptor Center.

“Our goal was always to make as much as we can,” Baffo said. “Over the years, we have seen more and more people ‘join our flock’ as we like to call it.”

The Raptor Center is a nonprofit organization, with all of their clinical work being funded through public philanthropy, Baffo said. This year, the center’s goal is to raise $60,000, but they also have a $60,000 matching gift from a donor as well.

“More than 1,000 birds that we treat every year, we’re able to do that because of the support of the public,” Baffo said. “We have a really amazing group of high-impact donors who every year really show up and support us at a really significant level.”

Many of the gifts the center receives are $100 or less, and they receive gifts of all sizes. Five dollars makes a large impact, Baffo said.

With over 1,000 raptors and 28 ambassadors, Baffo said the birds eat over four tons of food every year.

“That comes with a huge grocery bill,” Baffo said. “Roughly $50,000 a year. And like everybody else, the cost of groceries is rising for us as well.”

This year’s donations will be impacting the birds to make sure they receive the best nutrition the center can offer them, Baffo said.

Benefits of helping

According to Blumberg, it is incredible to be a part of an organization that is helping thousands of organizations across the state engage with so many donors.

“Our hope is that we can continue to not only grow giving and ignite generosity in the communities that are currently already engaging, but in particular that we can start to help balance the scales of where money goes,” Blumberg said.

The biggest challenges are related to underfunded and underrepresented communities and organizations, according to Blumberg, who said fundraising is impacted by systems of white supremacy and misogyny in the United States.

Blumberg said the answer to that is for more folks to give as generously as they can.

“A gift of any amount makes a huge difference, even if all you can give is five dollars,” Blumberg said. “When you do that, and thousands of people do that, that becomes a lot of money really fast.”

Each year, GiveMN gives out golden ticket prizes, where at the end of Give to the Max Day, a drawing for one donation happens and $10,000 gets added to the winner’s donation.

“Historically, charitable giving or philanthropy we think of it as old, rich white people who name buildings on a campus who we’ve never met before and that live a completely different life,” Blumberg said. “That’s not what philanthropy is. Philanthropy is helping your neighbor in any way you can and students helping each other, helping their organizations, helping their community, helping their neighbors.”

According to Blumberg, “There’s no time that’s too early or no amount too small that won’t make a difference.”

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