Four years ago, nonprofit organizations in Minnesota decided to try something new to educate people about their needs and to raise more funds. They created Give to the Max Day, and last year Minnesotans donated more than $16 million to charities on that one day alone.

Inspired, the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits and the Arizona Grantmakers Forum decided to try something similar and created Arizona Gives Day, said Clint Mabie, president and chief executive officer of the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona.

That day is today.

Up until 11:59 tonight, people throughout the state can go to to find a cause or organization close to their hearts and donate.

There are 850 Arizona nonprofits on the website; 189 of them are located in Southern Arizona, Mabie said.

"It's a game-changer for our community," Mabie said. "It allows nonprofits to set up a website and talk about their organization, and people can donate year-around."

Mabie hopes Arizona Gives Day will generate at least $2 million in donations.

Ethan Smith Cox, director of development for the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation, is thankful the state is "shining a light on philanthropy" and the importance of giving.

His organization is just one of the nonprofits hoping to benefit from the event. People who donate to SAAF can expect their funds to go toward housing, a home-delivery food program and a variety of other services that are provided to the organization's 1,100 clients.

Emerge Center against Domestic Abuse is another organization participating in the event.

"Philanthropy is something people often think about during the holidays, but it's needed all year long," said Kim Thompson, vice president of philanthropy at Emerge.

Emerge donations would go toward the organization's emergency shelter, 24-hour, bilingual crisis line, child-care center and other programs, Thompson said.

Mabie said every nonprofit will be eligible to win cash prizes. The eight organizations that attract the most donors will receive prizes ranging up to $20,000, and the eight organizations that bring in the most dollars will win up to $15,000.

Prizes will also be given to the organization that lands in the 48th and 101st spots in those categories. Arizona is the 48th state and Arizona is celebrating its 101st birthday.

Every hour a cash prize of $1,000 will be given to the nonprofit with the most donors that hour, and the two rural organizations with the highest number of unique donors will win $5,000 or $2,500.

Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or