State of the Arts Blog

Give to the Max Day raises $17m despite major technical flaws

In a day marked by slow service, computer crashes and frustration on the part of both donors and organizations, Minnesota nonprofits and schools still managed to raise more than $17 million on Give to the Max Day, according to early estimates.

The fifth annual day-long fundraiser got off to a strong start, but by midmorning many visitors to the GiveMN website complained it was moving painfully slowly.

Some people lined up several donations only to have all the information disappear; others were charged multiple times for one transaction.

Then over the noon hour the site crashed. It stayed down for approximately four hours. When it did come back, access was still intermittent.

GiveMN issued a statement saying that the volume of transactions simply overwhelmed Razoo's servers. Razoo is the technology partner for

"We encourage people to keep donating and appreciate their patience throughout tonight," the statement said. "We will take the time to review the best options for awarding the prize grants, given the unexpected, disappointing interruption of service. We again thank all Minnesotans for their generosity and patience on what has been a frustrating, yet incredible, day."

Scott Pakudaitis, an avid theater supporter, lined up donations to 11 organizations, only to realize upon checking out that he couldn't give to more than five charities at a time, and had to delete six of them. That was before the site crashed.

"If I can set up monthly recurring donations directly with the theaters I currently support, I'm going to do that instead of dealing with the GiveMN website next year," wrote Pakudaitis on Facebook. "This year's experience was frustrating."

Many echoed Pakudaitis' sentiment, saying they spent hours trying to get their donations registered. Some said if the site had been working faster, they would have given more.

Others worried about the long term damage.

"I am upset about the length of the outage," commented Betty Tisel on Facebook, "because I know how much time nonprofits spent preparing for this day, many with so few staff. The cost of the outage for the organizations must be in the millions. How can Razoo ever make up for this?"

The technical failure comes just months after GiveMN announced that it was increasing its transaction fee from 2.9 percent to 4.9 percent due to increased costs incurred by its technology provider Razoo.

But on the most important day of the year for the organization, Razoo's technology failed to function for several hours.

Momentum picked up again in the evening, with several million dollars coming in to the site between 9 p.m. and midnight.

The initial tally of $17,145,280 surpasses last year's previous record of $16.3 million. The totals won't be confirmed until later in the day.

GiveMN Executive Director Dana Nelson said her staff will meet Friday morning to discuss how best to rectify the problems for donors and charities.

Levi Weinhagen, co-founder of the theater group Comedy Suitcase, noted it's important to keep things in perspective.

"People are complaining about problems with giving money to things they care about," Weinhagen said. "That's an incredible problem. "