GiveMN analyzes what went wrong on Give to the Max Day

GiveMN Executive Director Dana Nelson is focusing on the positive, although she can't help but wonder how many more millions of dollars Minnesota could have raised on Thursday during Give to the Max Day if its website hadn't been plagued by serious technical problems.

Minnesotans managed to donate $17.1 million to more than 4,000 Minnesota schools and non-profits Thursday as part of the fifth annual Give to the Max Day using the GiveMN website. That total breaks last year's record, but donors and non-profits were stymied for several hours Thursday afternoon when the website crashed.

Many organizations have come to consider Give to the Max Day a major part of their annual fundraising effort.

"It's frustrating and it's disappointing" Nelson said in an interview with MPR's Tom Crann. "Nonprofits work all year to make something like this happen, and so I feel like we've let them down."

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Nelson says GiveMN's technical partner, Razoo, was simply overwhelmed by the volume of donations that came in Thursday, but they won't know what was the exact cause of the technical failure for several days.

She says they are also negotiating to waive part or all of Razoo’s fee, given its poor performance. Razoo charges 4.9 percent on each transaction, 2.9 percent of which goes to pay credit card companies.

The remaining 2 percentage points cover Razoo's technical support costs. Razoo stands to earn $342,000 from Thursday's Give to the Max traffic, on a day when its site was crashed for approximately five hours.

Nelson said her team debated adding five hours Friday to make up for Thursday's site crash, but ultimately decided they didn't want to risk the site crashing again, creating an even more frustrating experience for all involved.

In the meantime, Nelson says her staff will be working to build back the trust of donors and charities.

"We'll pick this apart minute by minute for next year's Give to the Max Day," she said Friday. "We're just at the beginning of understanding what really happened yesterday so we can take the best approach for next year. I think we're really going to have to take a look at Give to the Max Day and say 'who can handle Minnesotans' generosity?'"

Nelson says that's the ultimate message she was left with from Thursday's events -- Minnesotan's overwhelming generosity.

"So much more giving happened than $17 million," she said. "We know that the giving kept on going throughout the afternoon, in other ways."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to further clarify GiveMN's transaction fee.