Four area community foundations saw thousands of dollars given to support community projects and non-profits in last week's statewide Give to the Max Day. The day-long fundraising bonanza for non-profits, schools and other charitable organizations saw a record $17 million given throughout the state. This number was achieved despite the main giving website, Givemn.org, crashing for five hours on the Nov. 14 afternoon. Had the site been fully functioning for the entire 24 hours, millions more may have come in. Despite the technical difficulties, the Preston, Harmony, Spring Valley and Rushford Area Community Foundations were still able to raise nearly $37,000.

"It went better than we had hoped or anticipated," shared Harmony Area Community Foundation Chairman Vicky Tribon. The youngest of the four foundations involved in Give to the Max Day-challenges, Harmony raised the most money of all four, generating $13,380 in just 20 hours.

"It was a wonderful show of support for the Harmony area," Tribon stated.

In addition to the donations made online, over $5,000 was donated via check to the Harmony foundation from individuals and businesses which became members of the Founders Club.

Tribon explained the foundation had planned on making their first membership drive in conjunction with Give to the Max Day and it turned out to be a great strategy. Approximately 40 donors contributed online and the foundation gained 20 new members.

"It's what we pushed for. It was very successful," expressed Tribon.

Each community foundation has goals to build stronger communities and serve the surrounding areas through community projects. These projects are usually funded through interest earned from a foundation's endowment fund. These funds are managed by the umbrella 501(c)3 organization Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, which is the fiscal manager for 23 community foundations in southern Minnesota. Most of the money generated for the four foundations on Give to the Max Day went into their respective endowment funds.

In Rushford, donors were able to designate donations to specific projects including the endowment fund. Rushford raised $3,325, which Chairman Jennifer Hengel said was double that of what they usually raise through normal campaigns. Give to the Max Day occurred during their membership drive as well, which means they raised more than what showed up on the website. Hengel said some of the money raised last Thursday will go toward mini-grants for teachers at Rushford-Peterson Schools.

Although both foundations were pleased with the money they were able to fundraise, both were in it to win it. Prior to Give to the Max Day, Harmony had challenged Rushford to see which community could raise the most money. Through a deal with Miken Sports in Caledonia, the winner would receive three bats and the loser, two equipment bags for their respective schools. Since both communities would receive money and sporting equipment, all-important bragging rights would also be on the line. Since the Harmony foundation won the first friendly challenge between the communities, Fillmore Central will receive their equipment at a future home game.

In the case of Fillmore Central athletics, the rich keep getting richer. The school will be receiving double the sporting equipment because Preston won its second Give to the Max Day Challenge against Spring Valley.

"It was so close!" exclaimed Sue Kolling from the Spring Valley Area Community Foundation. After raising $5,420 in last year's competition with Preston, over 90 donors came together to raise $9,995 this year. Things were looking really good though close throughout the day.

"I was watching it all the time," said Kolling about monitoring the donations that were coming in on the website.

Last year, Spring Valley had been doubled up by Preston due to a dollar-for-dollar match by Dan Christianson at F&M Community Bank of Preston. That match for Preston was in play again this year, but Spring Valley upped their game as well. Kolling explained their efforts to get donors by email and Facebook. By all accounts, they had succeeded. Spring Valley had the most donors contribute of any community. They even had donations coming in out of state from New York and Florida. It was a nail-biter. Though SMIF allowed donations to continue for one hour past the midnight deadline to compensate for when the website was down, Spring Valley lost to Preston by $140.

"There were no losers," admitted Kolling, saying that the foundation had gained a great amount of awareness. "We are a positive influence on their lives today and they are remembering that and writing a check. They want that to continue."

This means Spring Valley will have to make the trek to the Preston gymnasium at a future sporting event to present the winning prize from Miken Sports to Fillmore Central. The Preston community raised $10,135 from approximately 40 donors. "They're awesome," expressed Preston Area Community Foundation member Sheila Craig, describing the residents of the community and surrounding area.

Quoting an email she had received she said the residents "have big hearts when it comes to donating to local projects."

It is not known just how the website crash affected fundraising efforts. Craig and Tribon said they had received calls and emails from people saying they could not access the website. Some of those people may have donated later that evening and some may have not, but the numbers speak for themselves. Give to the Max Day for local community foundations was a success.