As I write this, the ticker at GiveMN states $5,532,363 has been give since 8am to 2,206 Minnesota non-profits. Now that's a great day by any standards, so congratulations the folks at GiveMN, and their supporters.
However I'm a little concerned that people still think that if they give money to a non-profit on the GiveMN site today, their donation will be "matched" - i.e. a $25 pledge will earn the non-profit $50. This is simply not the case.
As I wrote yesterday, a group of foundations gave GiveMN $500,000 in to use as "matching funds" to inspire people's generosity. That set amount is being spread out over all the donations made today.
So as of 1:30pm, that $500,000 equals approximately ten cents on the dollar. As the number of donations accumulate, that ratio will drop further. Yet the main page on GiveMN continues to state that "all donations will be matched!"
You have to scroll down and look at the detailed writing to find these words:
Every donation made on Give to the Max Day will receive a portion of a $500,000 match. The exact amount matched per dollar donated will be determined after Give to the Max Day concludes, and the $500,000 in matching funds will be divided by the total donation amount raised over the 24-hour period.
It should also be noted that while Executive Director Dana Nelson says she hopes GiveMN will always be free to participating non-profits, that depends entirely on funding. In addition to relying on its funding partners, GiveMN is soliciting donations today right along with all the other non-profits.
A couple of people have asked me "so does this mean that foundations are paying for credit card transactions with money that would have gone directly to non-profits?" I put the question to Dana Nelson. Her response? Minnesota foundations view GiveMN as a lucrative investment that will inspire more people to give more generously to more non-profits. They're thinking of it as seed money, and as such, money well spent.
Nelson says she's overwhelmed by the response that's come in so far today. Her hope is that word continues to spread about the generosity of Minnesotans, and even more are inspired to join in.(14 Comments)
A couple of years ago Curt Ellis (left) and his friend Ian Cheney decided to teach themselves about agriculture by planting, growing, harvesting, and selling an acre of corn in Iowa. They filmed it all of course and released a documentary about the experience called "King Corn."
The neophyte farmers travelled the country with their movie which explored the impact of subsidies on US farms, and on food choices for American consumers.
Now they are back with a sequel. Curt Ellis admits that's a little unusual in the documentary game.
"I think that's probably for good reason," he laughs.
Yet they have done it all the same.
"I guess from the minute we finished 'King Corn' we had a realization we hadn't told the full story. 'King Corn' is really the food story of one acre of Iowa farmland, and we spent a year growing one acre of corn and following our harvest off the farm. But by the end of the year, having learned our harvest was going to become high fructose corn syrup and corn-fed confinement-raised meat, we realized there was something else at least as valuable as the corn we had grown, and that was the land we had tended and the way we had tended it."
Ellis and Cheney went back to Iowa and explored the ecological impact they'd had on their acre of soil, through the way they had plowed it and applied various chemical herbicides and fertilizers.
"We really only spent two hours over the course of the year actually farming," he says. "And most of that time was spent spraying things, injecting anhydrous ammonia, or spraying a cocktail of herbicides on our field of corn that had been genetically modified to make it withstand a direct spray. So there was clearly a chemical process as much as a biological process going on. "
Ellis and Cheney followed the run-off from their land through the watershed and into the Mississippi. They also talked to various experts about the health impact of modern farming methods.
"The goal of the "Big River" film was to create a follow-up to "King Corn" that would introduce people to these consequences that are hidden behind our everyday meals," Ellis says. He talks about the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico caused by the flow of fertilizers in the run-off from Midwestern farms, and about reports of cancer clusters in some farm communities.
Ellis will bring both films to a screening at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis on Wednesday. Several local organizations are sponsoring the show, which will include a panel discussion of some of the issues raised.
He says at other similar events there have been a number of farmers in the audience and there has been a great discussion. He expects that to be the case in Minneapolis too.
"It's not always friendly," he says. "But I've been pretty amazed by how friendly it is. Both "King Corn" and "Big River" are pretty moderate films. We are not taking a finger-wagging approach to these problems. You know we are really all in this together. The reality is our food system is in trouble right now, and the only people who can fix that are all of us coming together."
"Big River" is just 30 minutes long and Ellis hopes it will have use as an educational tool in schools and for environmental advocacy groups.
Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis look to the future in "Big River" (Image courtesy WickedDelicate Films)
Ellis laughs when asked if there will be a King Corn III, but then mentions the next big project will be called "Truck Farm" which is about how the two film makers took the rust 1986 Dodge pick-up truck which appeared in "King Corn" and put a roof on it so they could grow vegetables. In time they turned it into a community supported agriculture subscription farm serving 20 people. This maybe the only farm which can actually drive around town.
"It started just because Ian and I moved to Brooklyn after we finished our film projects and we wanted to grow food, but we didn't have any land, so we turned to the only open space we knew of which was the bed of the old pick-up truck."
You can see episodes from the project at WickedDelicate films. Ellis sees it as a fun way to spur discussions of the very real problem of so-called 'food deserts,' areas in cities where healthy food is hard to find.
"We had a neighborhood kid who kept eating the parsley down to a stump," Ellis says. "So that was our only pest problem."
The hour-long version of "Truck Farm" will probably premier next spring. They are also working on a film about light pollution from urban areas.
You can hear our conversation here: Listen
Earlier this afternoon I took a look at the top ten ranking for non-profits in GiveMN's "Give to the Max Day." 1st place: Second Harvest Heartland. 2nd place: Animal Humane Society. 3rd place: Desiring God Ministries.
Now the first two I'd heard of, but the third didn't ring a bell. My colleague Bob Collins brought me up to speed. It turns out the man at the pulpit of Desiring God Ministries, John Piper, is pretty adamant when it comes to homosexuality. Here's an excerpt from one of his sermons:
We want to be a church where homosexual people can either overcome their sexual disorder, or find the faith and courage and help and love and power to live a triumphant, joyful, celibate life with the disorder.
My immediate reaction was "do Minnesota foundations realize they are supporting this sort of worldview with the GiveMN site? And that this organization may end up winning an extra $1,000 for generating so many donations today?"
I called the Bush Foundation to find out its stance, and was connected with C. Scott Cooper, Director of Engagement and Communications. He said situations like this are bound to come up.
This is democracy in action - it's people deciding for themselves where to put their dollars and our focus has really been on making sure that it's as easy as possible for people to make their contributions when non-profits are providing all sorts of critical services in the community and are suffering because of the economy.
Certainly there are non-profits that do all kinds of different things, some of which we may love or we may hate, but the idea behind GiveMN is to make it as easy as possible for people to give and have their dollars go farther.
Fair enough - so some people may give to Desiring God Ministries, while others may give to Planned Parenthood.
Meanwhile, as I write this, GiveMN's total donations ticker registers $8,583,342. Only the non-profits themselves know how much they've made today - that information is not readily available to other users. So I can't tell you who's making the most off of this.
However I can calculate that non-profits stand to gain less than six cents on the dollar in todays "match." I asked Cooper about the confusion surrounding the match, and how some donors, and some arts organizations were expecting at least a 50 cent match on the dollar for every donation made. Cooper says it's unfortunate that some people didn't get the message clearly.
The initial plan had been to give away this five hundred thousand dollars in matching money to the first million dollars in contributions during the day. But then some concerns were raised about the volume of traffic that would happen at 8 oclock in the morning and so the decision was made to spread the money throughout the day and the amount of the match would depend on the amount of contributions made in the course of the day.
Cooper says the irony is that Minnesota's generosity is what's caused the value of the matching funds to go down.
Because it's going so well, a huge amount has been contributed - it is going to be a smaller amount per contribution. It's actually a great problem to have. When you think about it, the combination of these things, the covering of the transaction costs, and the partial match means instead of making a contribution and having 95 cents of your dollar get to the organization, this organization is getting maybe 1.08 for every dollar you give, which seems like a good thing and a good reason to give today.
"Give to the Max Day" ends at 8am tomorrow morning.(1 Comments)