Who The Folk?! Jake Blumberg

Thursday is Jake Blumberg’s biggest day of the year. As the executive director of Give MN, he has been preparing his team for Thursday’s Give to the Max Day, which since its founding in 2009, has sparked an online giving surge to Minnesota non-profits (including TC Jewfolk!). Learn about how Blumberg found his way to Give MN and more in this week’s Who The Folk?!

When did you join Give MN?

It’s going on a year; I started eight days before Give To The Max Day last year. It was an incredible gift to have had the opportunity to start then and watch this incredible team do what they do on Give To The Max Day. I was impressed to see all that goes into it. From the outside looking in, you can’t comprehend the scale. It was a successful year that I can take zero credit for, but I’m extremely proud of how my team worked.

Is your background in development?

It’s in communications and fundraising. Originally I’m from Colorado and I got my start in journalism there. I was a newspaper journalist for a while and then started in community and student affairs. Needed to do some fundraising for programs that I wanted to run and got the bug. I moved to DC in 2009 and worked as speechwriter and the associate director of development at the George Washington University Law School. Four years ago, in spring of 2012, my wife and I made the choice to move to the Twin Cities. I got the development director job at Project 515 (working for Ann Kaner-Roth). I was on the Minnesotans United For All Families finance team. My wife had multiple offers of full ride scholarship for a PhD in political science so I knew I’d be searching for a job. We decided to come to the Twin Cities and I ended up getting the job at Project 515. I could be more grateful for the opportunities in the Twin Cities and marriage-equality work.

What have you learned about fundraising in Minnesota?

I think there are a couple things: Here in Minnesota, we like to talk about how engaged we are civically. It’s a point of pride. To see it in action through the number of organizations that are that are supported by Give To The Max Day. There were 62,000 donors and more than 6,000 organizations supported last year. It’s awe inspiring. It’s not a talking point; it’s real. As we’re hitting our stride, the amount of organizations using our GTMD16 hashtag, to see the scale, reach and community investment is great. It’s not something we should just talk about. We should be genuinely proud of it. The other thing that’s so impressive to me is the trend of online giving is only going to grow. It will look different going forward, but there are two stats that point to the way we’re going in a fundraising: 60 percent prefer to gift online over any other philanthropic gift. When we ask millennials what their choice is, it’s 84 percent. It’s hard to judge numbers, but when you get almost 85 percent of anything, it’s a huge, huge clear majority. Last year, our donor data shows that 67 percent of donors on Give To The Max Day were 50 or older. This is not just a strategy for the kids; this is across the age spectrum.

Does this work have ties to how you view tzedakah?

Don’t think it’s explicitly linked simply to my Jewish faith, but I think the general thinking behind tzedakah and the idea behind it there’s language that I identify with. We are here to work on behalf of others who are in need of assistance. It’s the week of Sen. Wellstone’s passing (editor’s note: we spoke in late October), and the whole premise that drives me is his quote that “We all do better when we all do better.” That drives me to do the work I do, and the premise that drives Give MN. Whole premise is to grow the pie. Pie is good; more pie is better. I’m trying to grow the pie on behalf of non-profits and schools in Minnesota. That idea motivates me.

What’s innovative for Give MN this year?

One of things we’re excited about is a feature on our platform that allows donors, when they make a gift, to cover the processing fee. It costs money to raise money and someone has to pay that bill, whether it’s the organization or the donor. We wanted to provide the opportunity to make sure 100 percent of their contribution goes to the organization. It honors that intention and it provides tools for them to do the most good. Give MN is on the forefront of that. It’s not something that everyone offers, but it’s incredibly important and we’re seeing significant levels of adoption so far.

It’s an exciting thing for us to see. We’re optimistic that donors will share that generosity. The beneficiary will be the non-profits and schools.

Favorite Jewish holiday?

I don’t come from a traditional, practicing background, the one thing we always celebrated with extended family was Passover. For me, there’s a lot to like about it. But I have incredibly warm memories with my interfaith families. The idea of inviting people to the table is an incredible one. We’ve been incredibly welcomed at annual seders here. It’s a warm memory for me and we’re making new memories.

Favorite Jewish food?

It’s a toss-up between a really good latke and a really good matzah ball soup. Probably my grandma’s matzah ball soup.

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