Giving Back

The economic downturn has been hard on non-profits, but some savvy organizations have turned to the web for innovative strategies to attract both donations and volunteers. Instead of solely relying on the large donations of a few, groups are now promoting smaller donations to specific projects that can be highlighted on the web. People looking for organizations to give their time now often have web-based lists of positions across a number of organizations to choose from.

The Arts and Science Council of Charlotte created Power2Give in summer of 2011 to support the numerous organizations under the council’s umbrella. Its approach is based on the reality that most organizations have needs that can be met with many small donations. In two short years, the program has expanded to 14 communities: it’s currently in the six largest metro areas in North Carolina; two in Florida; and the rest in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Texas and Wisconsin.

Donations must be recognized by the receiving organization, and can be as simple as a thank you note to a listing in the event program to seats at a performance. A community music school that successfully raised money to by the students metronomes offered tickets to a future performance to donors of $50 or more.

So the website that has hosted over 1,000 projects and raised almost $2 million from 8900 donations invites organizations to make their needs known. When a rural farm museum needed a new hay baler, it posted the project and was funded by the target date. And repairs needed to the dragon boats were fully supported. Some individual donations are matched by corporate funds, giving both donors credit for the project.

Non-profits have depended on a loyal corps of volunteers that found them – generally through a personal connection The web raised general awareness, but most organizations still neglected to emphasize the need for time commitments, preferring to highlight fund-raising.

In 2005, ActivateGood was created by two young social innovators to “connect and match individuals, groups and companies to volunteer needs of local non-profit partners at no cost.” Over 100 both new and established organizations have registered service needs. Volunteers have responded to needs for ushers at an established regional theatre; positions to support homeless families and individuals; and docents for a childrens’ museum.

Non-profit partners must agree to confirm volunteer hours and impacts to measure service – a reminder of the value of these commitments. They also agree to use social media to broadcast their needs to a wide audience. In return, the partners have attracted over 2300 volunteers.

Organizations that understand the power and value of the web are strengthened by the ability to raise money from more donors and find more volunteers. The next challenge is to embed that success in the organization and build on it: update the donor lists; summarize the project on their web site; plan the next project. Funding and volunteers are the heart of every non-profit!


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