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Cali Owings, Published February 11 2014

Nonprofits get ready for Thursday's Giving Hearts Day, one of their biggest fundraising pushes

FARGO – More than 165 charitable organizations throughout North Dakota and Minnesota are gearing up for one of the biggest fundraising days of the year.

Giving Hearts Day – an annual 24-hour online fundraising drive sponsored by the Dakota Medical Foundation and the Impact Foundation – is Thursday.

Last year, participating organizations raked in more than $3.7 million in a single day.

Now in its seventh year, Giving Hearts Day has become a powerful tool for charitable organizations to boost their dollars.

First, participating organizations receive Impact Foundation fundraising training leading up to the event.

“Our ultimate goal is to teach people to become excellent at fishing,” said Dakota Medical Foundation President Pat Traynor, citing the old adage, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

On top of that, many donations throughout the fundraiser are matched by the Dakota Medical Foundation or other funders.

This year, Traynor said the Dakota Medical Foundation is providing a match to about half of the groups. The matching aspect adds a sense of urgency to the fundraiser.

The awareness level built on Giving Hearts Day also amplifies the number of donations. Traynor said the average number of donations per donor is 1.9 – meaning many people are giving to more than one cause.

“Everybody helps each other one day,” he said. “[Donors are] made aware by their favorite charity, but then they saw some other group, too.”

About 30 percent of the donations made on Giving Hearts Day are made by first-time donors to that organization, Traynor said.

Donors can go to http://www.impactgiveback.org/ for a complete list of nonprofit charitable organizations involved in Giving Hearts Day. They can make their donations on the website.

“More and more folks are getting involved with organizations that they never have before,” he said.

Though it’s largely a virtual fundraising effort, groups are also required to submit their plans for building awareness leading up to and during Giving Hearts Day.

Many local charities use offline events to drive donations.

Giving Hearts Day is now the largest fundraiser for Creative Care for Reaching Independence, which provides services for people with disabilities.

“Not only does it give us the opportunity to raise dollars to support our mission, it’s just so awesome to see what our community does in this time frame,” said Shannon Bock, executive director.

This is the second year the group has hosted an event on the day of the fundraiser.

This year’s event – a polar plunge in the parking lot of Mick’s Office in Moorhead – has “raised the bar,” Bock said.

Starting at 3 p.m., local celebrity plungers Jesse James and Pike from Big 98.7’s morning show will kick off the plunge that also includes North Dakota State University running back John Crockett, the NDSU cheer team, F-M RedHawks pitcher Jake Laber, and representatives from the Fargo police and fire departments.

They’re matched up to $150,000 for the day, Bock said.

In a video gaining a lot of laughs online, Unseen Ministries is promoting a one-man 5-kilometer race. Their mockumentary-style video follows Stephen Appel – the lone runner training for the world’s smallest 5K in downtown Fargo on Thursday.

Like the runner in the video, many of the small organizations the group works with are run by only one person, said Than Baardson, Unseen Ministries’ executive director.

Since it started, the group that provides media services and training to other charities throughout the world has partnered with 29 groups.

This will be Unseen Ministries’ second Giving Hearts Day and it has a $20,800 match for donations.

Baardson said the group was “blown away” last year by the community’s response.

“I don’t know if we could have done some of the things that we’ve done in such a short time if we weren’t located in this community,” Baardson said.

To donate:

Go to http://www.impactgiveback.org/ for a complete list of nonprofit charitable organizations involved in Giving Hearts Day

If you go

What: World’s Smallest 5K

When: 5 p.m. Thursday

Where: 125 8th St. N., Fargo

Info: Support Unseen Ministries by watching this one-man 5K race on Giving Hearts Day.

If you go

What: Creative Care for Reaching Independence Polar Plunge

When: 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday

Where: Mick’s Office parking lot, 10 8th St. S., Moorhead

Info: Raise $75 to take the plunge; additional information available on CCRI’s site: www.creativecare.org/polarPlunge/

Readers can reach Forum reporter Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599