Valentine's Day is nearing, and for many people that means opening their wallets as well as their hearts.

Giving Hearts Day, the annual event of matched fundraising, is set for Feb. 14. Every participating nonprofit is responsible for finding an entity or donor to match $4,000 or more of what the organization raises that day. Impact Institute, Dakota Medical Foundation and Alex Stern Family Foundation are hosts of the event.

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Emilia Hodgson, executive director of the Grand Forks Foundation for Education and Alumni Network, participates in Giving Hearts Day annually. This year, the foundation is raising funds for "Secure a Seat," a campaign to purchase a large transit vehicle to transport homeless, foster care and at-risk students to and from school.

This week, Hodgson talked with the Herald about Giving Hearts Day:

Q: For those who are unfamiliar, what is Giving Hearts Day?

A: Giving Hearts Day is the largest 24-hour giving event in North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota. Each year, thousands of people rally around hundreds of nonprofits in our community. It is one of the first and longest-running giving days in the country. It started in 2008, with a handful of charities raising more than $400,000 dollars. The event has raised more than $55 million since 2008. It's not just the dollars raised that makes Giving Hearts Day successful; charities are trained to make an even greater impact with their missions. And because the money goes directly to the charities, donors have the peace-of-mind that the money is directly funding those missions.

Q: What's the best thing you've seen come out of Giving Hearts Day?

A: There have been countless stories of the impact Giving Hearts Day has had on the hundreds of charities that participate. For the Grand Forks Foundation for Education, in our first two years participating, we raised nearly $50,000 to run our Little Red Reading Bus. Our library on wheels is a free program that runs through the summer months. We deliver books to the children of Grand Forks and have checked out over 20,000 books during our first three summers. Last year, we raised $50,000 in the 24 hours that enabled us to build a playground at the new Head Start location at 4000 Valley Square. Collaborating with our friends at Valley Memorial Foundation (another Giving Hearts Day participant) we've been able to bring the young, and the young at heart, together... an innovative, intergenerational learning experience right here in Grand Forks.

Q: What is your favorite part of Giving Hearts Day? Why do you like being involved?

A: I personally love the "friendraising" that takes place during Giving Hearts Day. It is a great way to reach donors you haven't met yet. The Giving Hearts Day platform connects donors with their passions. Also, the day is simply fun and fulfilling. It is wonderful to see the success my nonprofit colleagues have. Love is truly shared during the 24-hour period.

Q: Are you expecting a large turnout for donors this year?

A: The team at the Impact Foundation has a goal of 50,000 giving hearts (donors) this year, and I believe that is reachable. There are well over 400 charities participating in Giving Hearts Day, and I know we all are working hard to reach as many people as we can before the big day. Also, the benefit of knowing your donation may be matched is a motivating factor to many donors.

Q: How big of an impact does this have on area agencies?

A: Not only do local agencies raise money to move their mission forward, they also have a platform to share their story with people who they might not have reached if not for Giving Hearts Day. The ability to share that story with as many potential donors as possible, without question, leads to future donors and long-term support for the organizations.

For more information on Giving Hearts Day and a full list of participants, log on to