The True Meaning of Give to the Max Day

gtmd.jpgGive to the Max Day is an annual charitable giving event hosted by GiveMN. The event draws attention to the thousands of nonprofit organizations and schools serving communities throughout the state and encourages philanthropic giving. Last year, Give to the Max Day raised over $17 million for Minnesota organizations in 24 hours.

Give to the Max Day has become something of a holiday for me. I race to my inbox early on the morning of Give to the Max Day to tally up donations to my organization the same way I used to race downstairs to see what Santa had brought me. The energetic buzz around my office on Give to the Max Day is infectious—coworkers shout over cube walls when big gifts come in and create complex high five gestures to congratulate one another. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

As can be the case with holidays, the true meaning of Give to the Max Day has been obscured. For those of us working at nonprofits, Give to the Max Day is surrounded by words like “strategy”, “outreach”, “multichannel” and “leverage”. It has become an essential part of any nonprofit’s fundraising strategy, and for good reason. For many organizations, that 24-hour period constitutes a large portion of their annual revenue. But in the rush to make the most of the day for the organizations we serve, I think we’re all missing the point a bit.

A few years ago I was chatting with a colleague about plans for Give to the Max Day. He was working to create a series of videos wherein staff from his organization explained why they gave…to a different organization. This approach may seem counterintuitive from a fundraising perspective but his explanation was simple: “We want to encourage people to give to the causes they care about. If that’s us, great. If not, we want them to find another way to support the community.”*

That, to me, is the true meaning of Give to the Max Day. It’s a time for us to come together to make a difference—not as individual organizations or even as a sector—but as a broader community. Leaderboards and grand totals get in the way of what makes Give to the Max Day so successful: it’s a chance to be a part of something bigger, no matter who you are or how much you’re able to give. That is the true purpose of philanthropy.

Give to the Max Day is a convenient way to handle your year-end giving in just a few clicks, but this year, I encourage you to think about the day more broadly. Browse for a new organization to support. Join a mailing list of an organization that piques your interest. Share your cause of choice in your social networks. Whether or not you work in the nonprofit sector, take a moment to consider what Give to the Max Day means to you. I think you’ll find that it’s less about making a donation and more about contributing to a movement in philanthropy and community. After all, ’tis the season to give!

*This is by no means a direct quote; the conversation happened three years ago and I’m doing my best to paraphrase.

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