Minnesotans recognize the obstacles facing their community, and they’re consistently stepping up to the challenge through volunteering and donations. In 2015, WalletHub named Minnesota the 10th most charitable state in monetary donations and fourth highest in percentage of people who volunteer. That devotion to giving coupled with creativity inspired an even bigger way to give.
In 2009, Minnesota Community Foundation, a partner of Minnesota Philanthropy Partners, developed Give to the Max Day. It was conceptualized as the answer to donors asking for a set date for giving, an annual reminder to automatically donate to the organizations they cared about. “[By 2009], online giving was growing quite rapidly, but only the larger nonprofits had access to this growth sector. We sought to democratize online giving for all nonprofits across the state,” says Jeremy R. Wells, vice president of philanthropic services at Minnesota Philanthropy Partners. “We created a platform to help celebrate and grow philanthropy for Minnesota through a very aggressive marketing and public awareness campaign.”
Since then, every November in Minnesota, Give to the Max Day promotes friendly competition online and through marketing campaigns between local nonprofits and schools to get the most donations. The top contenders are eligible for additional monetary prizes. The day brings in huge donations. In 2015, Give to the Max Day brought in more than $18.5 million to local nonprofits and schools.
Beyond this dedicated day of giving, nonprofits rely on financial contributions throughout the year. Planned giving is often a one-time legacy donation to organizations a person cares about, but it can also be a recurring financial contribution. These financial gifts keep Minnesota at the forefront of medical technology, provide education and tools for youth programs and development, and help the community at all levels.
Enriching Kids’ Lives
Shriners Hospitals for Children is a network of 22 hospitals located throughout the United States that treats children with limb differences and other non-cancer-related disorders. Families never see a bill from Shriners for a child’s medical care and the emotional support patients and their families receive.
“What’s unique about Shriners is that we treat the whole child,” says Jennifer Sutch, director of development at Shriners Hospitals for Children-Twin Cities. “We wrap everything—the entire care team—around the whole child and the family. We have rehab therapy onsite, occupational and physical therapy, and we also have camps and other kinds of fun programs.” And Shriners has been doing this exceptionally well since it began in the Twin Cities 93 years ago.
Beyond the scope of medical care, the hospital has programming for kids to interact with others facing similar physical challenges and help them transition to adulthood when they’ve outgrown Shriners. Summer camps are designed for different age groups, interests, and abilities to boost kids’ confidence through friendly competitions, adventure trips, expressive theater, and special events. For kids 15 to 18 years old, Shriners hosts prom night, with formalwear and minor alterations provided by the hospital. Sutch adds that kids aged 16–20 are invited to Camp Real World with the Child Life Department to learn life skills like balancing a checkbook, what to look for when finding an apartment, how to apply to colleges, and what to ask when looking for health care in other states—especially since Shriners kids may need specialized medical care beyond 18.
“The Child Life folks are great; they’re certified and fully licensed in different recreational therapies and have worked with kids for so long that they can tell right away if someone is having trouble,” says Sutch. The department hits the ground running with kids, like coming to classrooms with prosthetic limbs to teach and answer questions about limb differences. The team is also there for external resources for families looking for support. “All of these programs are funded through contributions and gifts,” Sutch adds. Shriners also uses contributions to fund updated technology for patients.
“Right now, we are trying to raise money, about three-quarters of a million dollars, for new X-ray technology: EOS imaging. It allows for full-length, full-size imaging in 3-D, which reduces radiation up to 90 percent,” says Sutch. It’s not uncommon that kids at Shriners need X-rays nearly a dozen times a year as their bodies grow and wounds heal. “That’s a lot of radiation exposure—especially in girls who are developing. So this particular imaging system would reduce that exposure. And you can walk into the room while someone is being scanned,” which is ideal for parents with kids afraid of scans.
Enabling World-Renowned Medicine
Shriners isn’t the only hospital in town in need of funding for new medical technology. The University of Minnesota is consistently at the forefront of medical breakthroughs. In September, the U of M was one of eight centers in the country chosen for a substantial grant that will enable a team to develop ways to improve the lives of those suffering with Parkinson’s disease. And the U of M was in national news in October when a team of researchers and physicians discovered a way to potentially restore memory loss in those with dementia. These accomplishments wouldn’t be possible without financial donations.
“Last year we received $116,924,238 in new planned gifts, which includes gifts to support various campuses, colleges, and programs at the U,” says Jane Godfrey, assistant vice president of planned giving and estate administration at the U of M Foundation. Godfrey estimates that for the past three years, the U of M has received an average of 226 new planned gifts, with average amounts ranging from $10,000 to $5 million.
These substantial gifts allow the U of M to create subgroups devoted to specific causes. Dr. Gwen Fischer, critical care physician at U of M Masonic Children’s Hospital, saw a need for kid-sized medical devices and tools rather than modified adult-size ones for every procedure. So in 2011 she founded the Pediatric Device Innovation Consortium, which comprises a team that develops kid-sized medical devices. One of PDIC’s recent accomplishments was developing a tissue-engineered heart valve that grows with the child, especially important for very young kids who have heart surgery and will have many years of growing to do.
Health care is so multifaceted and donations are always needed, especially for organizations like the American Diabetes Association. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8.1 percent of Minnesotans were diagnosed with diabetes in 2014, not far below the 9.3 percent national average. Organizations like the ADA exist to educate the public about this preventable disease and explore ways to lower existing risk factors, manage symptoms, and improve lifestyle for those with the disease.
“Today, people live healthier, longer lives thanks to advances in diabetes research,” says Corey Gordon, chief development and stewardship officer of the American Diabetes Association. “The Association is the leader in advocating for increased government funding for diabetes research and programs, and for public health policies to protect health insurance coverage needed to manage the disease, to support diabetes prevention and to prevent employment discrimination, among many more issues.”
Gordon says Pathway to Stop Diabetes is one of the programs using ADA funding for research and equipment that enable breakthroughs in understanding, treating, and improving the lives of those living with the disease. In February, a Pathway scientist discovered a potential trigger for Type-1 diabetes, which could lead to finding a cure. And in June 2015, a scientist created a patch that could potentially replace daily insulin injections. These medical breakthroughs wouldn’t be possible without funding, 10 percent of which is from planned gifts to the ADA.
“[We] continue to pursue partnerships and opportunities to harness advances in technology to improve the lives of people with diabetes,” says Gordon. Funding toward the ADA enables the organization to continue to grow and work toward finding a cure.
Impacting the Community
Reaching more than 50 million people throughout 1,800 communities around the world, United Way assists people on a variety of levels. Every October, Greater Twin Cities United Way holds its annual giving campaign. “We focus on the greatest need: folks who are living at or near poverty, which is about one in four people in our community,” says Kittie Fahey, CRFE and vice president of major gifts at Greater Twin Cities United Way. “We work a lot with jobs, particularly job training, education—from zero to graduation—and then we also work in Safety Net.”
More than 730,000 people living at or near poverty in the Twin Cities experience hunger, homelessness, domestic violence, and health-related issues. Safety Net, a free service accessible by going online or dialing 211, connects those in need to thousands of resources when they need help keeping the electricity or heat on or getting their family a meal. “We have over 500,000 visitors to Safety Net per year,” says Fahey. The 24/7 hotline has connected people in abusive relationships to shelters nearby that have open beds for the night and bus lines that will pick them up. “It’s a very scary feeling, especially for those who don’t experience this very often. Particularly in a domestic problem or food situation where they’re not always in need but something has happened—someone is laid off or a medical issue happens—that one accident can make a big impact for a family,” says Fahey.
Aside from crisis care, United Way recognizes the other important challenges facing the community. About 75 percent of jobs in Minnesota will require a post-secondary education by 2020. “And we simply do not have the workforce, so we’re working closely within high schools on a program called Career Academy that’s getting students ready to get into these roles—either through a two- or four-year degree.” Career Academy preps high school students by offering college-level courses to help them earn credits before graduation so they’re jump-starting post-secondary education and learning valuable work skills.
Setting Up a Planned Gift
Answers to six key questions about planned giving to help you navigate your own donations.
1. How should I decide where to give? “I always suggest clients begin with a review of their personal or family values to ensure their giving aligns with those values and provides meaningful engagement,” says Angela Fahmy, regional fiduciary manager at Wells Fargo. She recommends clients ask themselves: If I could change anything today, what would I change? What concerns do I hold for the society in our world?
2. Are planned gifts typically a one-time contribution? While planned gifts are generally one-time donations made after someone has passed away, there are certainly other planned giving options. “For people who want to make gifts on a regular basis, a donor-advised fund may be a useful vehicle,” says Fahmy. “In contrast to a testamentary legacy, the donor-advised fund can provide an opportunity to engage other family members in the giving process and allow the donor and their family to see the impact of their generosity.”
3. What’s the average planned gift amount? “Deciding on how much to give is a very personal matter. Each donor’s individual family circumstances, tax situation, and financial goals will dictate the amount they have available to give back to the community,” Fahmy says.
4. How many organizations should I make a planned gift to? “Deciding how many organizations to support will depend upon how much you have to give and whether you’d like to make a larger targeted gift, which might have a bigger impact to a single organization,” says Fahmy. “Or if you give multiple smaller gifts, [it] enables you to widen your reach.”
5. Who needs to be involved in setting up a planned gift? When you’ve determined where you want to donate a legacy gift, you’ll want to get advice from a few others. “Your financial advisor, attorney, and tax advisor can help you ensure your giving complements your personal tax situation and accommodates the rest of your goals for retirement, education funding for future generations, and family inheritance,” Fahmy says, adding that community foundations and planned giving officers at charities you want to support can also advise you.
6. What are five questions someone should ask a financial advisor, attorney, or tax advisor before donating?
- How much can I afford to give and still accomplish the rest of my financial goals?
- How will my desire to give affect my retirement and the amount of money I wish to leave my heirs?
- What are the different methods available to me to ensure I maximize my tax deduction?
- What research or due diligence should I be doing to understand the mission, strategy, and efficiency of the organizations I intend to support?
- What conversations should I have with my family to ensure that they understand, support, and are engaged with my giving and legacy?