Where were you at 12:01 this morning? Admittedly, I was sleeping – and I’m guessing that you probably were, too. In contrast, many dedicated staff members from nonprofit organizations in the DC area were staring at their computer screens, waiting for the first donations to roll in for Give to the Max Day – a 24-hour online fundraising challenge that will end at midnight tonight – organized by the online giving platform Razoo, the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, and the United Way of the National Capital Area.

More than 1,000 nonprofits will collectively try to raise $3 million today from thousands of donors. But for many, it isn’t about the dollar amount raised – it’s about raising the profile of their cause to new donors in the area, sharing stories to inspire action, and experimenting with new tactics through social media and online fundraising platforms.

How does Give to the Max Day work? Nonprofits have an incentive to work hard to “win” this challenge: Give to the Max will reward them for their efforts through a series of prizes for achievements such as the most donors in an hour and in the 24-hour period, and the most money raised overall.

This isn’t the first Give to the Max Day in the country – in 2009, Minnesota nonprofits united to raise $14 million in one day, another $10 million in 2010, and they’re gearing up for their third Give to the Max Day on November 16. We’re pleased to see Give to the Max come to DC, but we’re even more excited to see what it could become if dozens of cities or regions adopted this model.

As many of you already know, at the Case Foundation, we’ve been working for years on efforts to mobilize the nonprofit sector to leverage new technologies and social networks to tap into new dollars and donors. Through our own America’s Giving Challenges, we’ve seen the tremendous potential of campaigns that give nonprofits the moment and mechanism to galvanize supporters, raise awareness, and raise dollars online.

We are proud to be the Social Impact Partner of the Greater Washington Give to the Max Day. This partnership will help support some of the awards provided to participating nonprofits, but more significantly, will underwrite follow-up research that will document lessons learned and best practices for anyone interested in replicating or participating in a similar effort. Following today’s 24-hour flurry of giving, participating nonprofits and donors will be surveyed about Give to the Max Day – because we want to know what worked, what didn’t, and how, and if, this could be replicated across the country – in Massachusetts, Texas, California, or anywhere for that matter. We want to know what made you give – or not give – was it a particular tweet or Facebook post, the best email you’ve ever read, or a phone call from a nonprofit’s executive director? Your feedback will inspire and guide countless other innovators seeking to advance this new form of democratized philanthropy.

We’re thrilled about the potential of today’s Give to the Max events to raise dollars for local nonprofits at a time when they need it most. But we think the real reward comes through the organizations and their donors uniting for a greater cause than their individual ones – the idea that everyone can give no matter how large or small, and that every citizen has a role to play in supporting the organizations that are often the safety net, backbone, and guiding light in our communities from coast to coast.

Watch this space in the coming weeks for more on our follow-up research and reporting. And in the meantime, if you’re ready to give to the max, head to Give2Max.org and pick a nonprofit, or a few, to give to before midnight. Or, you can start a Give to the Max in your own area.