'Giving Hearts' donations set new record, push all-time fundraising total over $100 million for regional nonprofits

About 42,000 donors chose to support charitable organizations in North Dakota and northwest Minnesota

On Giving Hearts Day, Feb. 11, nearly $22 million was raised to support about 500 nonprofit organizations in North Dakota and northwest Minnesota, according to the Dakota Medical Foundation, which oversees the annual 24-hour giving marathon.

That revenue pushed the amount of total funds raised since Giving Hearts Day began in 2008, to over $100 million, said Amber DeKrey, director of Giving Hearts Day.

“That’s a huge milestone for us,” she said, noting that it reflects the generosity of people who live in this region.

The outpouring of financial support by almost 42,000 donors, who gave 88,740 donations, was not diminished by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, DeKrey said, nor did she and others at the foundation predict it might be.

Leading indicators suggested that this year’s giving day would be more successful than last year, she said. The total amount of match dollars, which donors contribute ahead of Giving Hearts Day as an incentive for others to give, was higher than last year, and other gifts coming in before that day, but could count towards Giving Hearts Day, had also increased.


“We were tracking other large giving days across the United States -- in Minnesota, Colorado and north Texas -- and all of them were over” last year’s giving levels, DeKrey said.

Giving Hearts Day is a program of the Dakota Medical Foundation, the High Impact Institute and the Alex Stern Family Foundation, based in Fargo. Donations are matched by the DMF. Before this year, Giving Hearts Day had helped charities in this region raise more than $90 million from an ever-increasing community of donors.

The preliminary figure of $22 million raised this year topped the roughly $19.1 million raised in February 2020 from 34,565 donors, which was about $3 million and 4,000 donors more than in 2019.

Warsaw beneficiary

Among the many organizations benefiting from Giving Hearts Day is St. Gianna’s Maternity Home in Warsaw, N.D.

“It’s been a huge blessing for us,” said Mary Pat Jahner, director. “It gives us a huge, huge boost.”

The home raised about $270,000, well beyond the $200,000 goal that was set for this year, and about $50,000 to $60,000 more than last year, Jahner said.

“We’re above where we’ve ever been,” she said, noting that Giving Hearts Day is a “central part” of the home’s fundraising effort, accounting for about half of its annual budget.

“It’s taken us to a whole new level,” she said, but involvement in Giving Hearts Day goes beyond fundraising, by encouraging nonprofits to interact with donors and “share what we do with people so they understand (our mission).”


The number of donors who have given to St. Gianna’s Maternity Home this year -- about 1,100 living in 47 states -- represents an increase of 300 or 400 over last year, she said.

The funds raised allow Jahner and her staff to focus on caring for mothers, who have little or no other support and have ranged in age from 12 to 39, and “not worry about paying the light bill,” DeKrey said.

St. Gianna’s Maternity Home occupies a 9,000-square building that’s more than 100 years old, so its upkeep is a continuing concern, she said. But funds are also needed for programming, education, and meeting the physical and emotional needs of the women who reside there.

Jahner credits the success of Giving Hearts Day to the training the Dakota Medical Foundation provides to nonprofits and their “staff members, boards, volunteers, anyone who wants to be involved,” she said. The training includes webinars designed to help charities with goal-setting, managing end-of-year donations and other aspects of fundraising and building a network of support.

The training “changes your whole outlook on fundraising,” Jahner said. “They want you to keep growing -- and we have, thanks to them.”

She also said raising the home’s increased presence on social media, including Facebook and Instagram, this year also increased awareness of the home’s mission and, ultimately, more donations.

New features

This year, some new features were added to the Giving Hearts Day platform to inform and inspire donors. They included the opportunity for donors to read “charity profiles” to learn about the organizations’ missions, sign up as volunteers, and pledge to give new and used goods, as listed by the nonprofits.

A total of 769 volunteer pledges and 234 goods pledges were made during the recent Giving Hearts Day, DeKrey said. “We were thrilled to have additional ways that people could give.”


The additional giving options made it possible for families, who may not be in a position to give financially due to setbacks caused by the pandemic, to be “just as connected and included in Giving Hearts Day,” she said.

Employees at several businesses have commented on “how being able to come to a single website and search across different needs was a great tool,” DeKrey said.

Also new this year was a sweepstakes giveaway whereby donors were selected at random to receive prizes provided by businesses. The grand prize, a 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 pickup was purchased by Gate City Bank and awarded to Brian Olson of Fargo.


Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at or (701) 780-1107.
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