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Give Smart: Giving, equity should be priorities in 2021

GiveMN emphasizes the importance of donating to BIPOC-led organizations, as they are 24% less funded than white-led organizations.

MINNEAPOLIS — As many people struggled to get by in 2020, many also opened up their hearts and checkbooks to support organizations they care about. So much so that record-breaking generosity happened last year in Minnesota, according to GiveMN, a digital platform and independent nonprofit organization working to connect donors with nonprofits.

Jake Blumberg is the Executive Director of GiveMN.

Blumberg said their numbers show in 2020, $50 million was donated through the organization, smashing 2019 donations by 40%.

"That was directly in response to the dual pandemics that we’ve really been living in as a community," Blumberg said. That is, the COVID-19 pandemic and the uprising that followed the killing of George Floyd.

Blumberg said in May, a GiveMN giving campaign in response to COVID-19 saw donations of more than $5.2 million.

The death of George Floyd brought even more light to systemic racism. GiveMN saw $9 million donated in the month following Floyd’s death. That is 30 times the amount given during the same time in 2019. Blumberg said much of it was given to organizations serving BIPOC communities, but he said there’s still a long way to go when it comes to contributing to BIPOC-led organizations.

"A study in the Chronicle of Philanthropy in 2020 showed that when you compare a white-led and BIPOC-led organization together, BIPOC organizations are 24% less funded than white-led organizations," Blumberg said. "So you cannot separate the systemic racism and the impact that it has on our communities when you are discussing the needs of organizations, no matter what their mission is."

What were people giving in 2020? GiveMN shows 79% of donors who responded to a survey also gave "in-kind" gifts like food and clothing. It found 52% volunteered their time and 47% donated their influence.

But that doesn’t mean the people who gave were well off, Blumberg said. In fact, he said income levels – historically – don’t indicate a person’s level of generosity.

"In particular, lower income folks are willing to give a higher percentage of their income than wealthier individuals are and so we often think about giving as something wealthier people can do or choose to do when in fact it’s the opposite," Blumberg said.

Blumberg said those numbers are a good snapshot of what donors are focused on. But he reminds people that just because we turned the page on a year, doesn't mean needs are gone. As we look ahead in 2021, he said there are a few things to remember. Keep on giving, Blumberg said.

"While also being smart about who we're supporting, making sure that BIPOC-led and serving organizations are at the top of our list," Blumberg said. "We need to really, I think, lean into the fact that the shoes that we walk in could easily be someone else’s and we need to give as if we were experiencing this recovery differently," he said.

GiveMN also found that what can prompt people to donate is as simple as being asked by an organization they care about.

Next in our KARE11 Give Smart series, a look at intentional ways to donate and volunteer.