Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Giving With Impact - The Benevolent Way

I've blogged endlessly about the importance of storytelling in fundraising. Last month I wrote specifically about the human need to feel and show empathy for others, and its relationship to fundraising.

Yesterday the connection between empathy and giving was demonstrated again in an article on Bloomberg Businessweek about the online donations going directly to the victims and families impacted by the Boston Marathon bombing (Bombing Victims Get Millions as Internet Redefines Giving).

I'd like to point out one quote from that article from Kevin Berg Kartaszewicz-Grell, a research director for Crowdsourcing Inc., that really got to what I've been thinking and writing about:
"It is easier for you to understand the impact of your dollar if you give it directly... With traditional sources, your money goes into a pot with a lot of other people's money. You're impact is larger when you go directly to the people in need."
That concept - direct giving, from person to person - is the idea behind a new fundraising site, Benevolent.net. Previously, only major donors ever really got to know the full impact of their gifts. Now, with the growth of crowd sourcing and micro-philanthropy, even a $10 or $20 donor can see and feel the value of their gift in very meaningful ways.

Benevolent connects small dollar donors directly to low-income individuals with one-time needs that can help set them on the path to self-sufficiency. Each need is verified (and posted by) a local nonprofit that knows the individual in need, and is responsible for ensuring that donations are used as directed.

The needs can be anything from uniforms or tools for someone to start a new career, to computers or books for a returning student, or even dentures or eye glasses that are needed to turn a life around. The dollar amounts range from a couple of hundred dollars up to a $700 maximum.

The real power of Benevolent lies in the stories. Needs are presented in the first person by the individuals themselves. There is great dignity in the way they explain their current situation, and great pride in explaining the steps they are taking to correct it. Once somebody gives to a need, they are sent updates as the need is fully funded and again when it is fulfilled.

And now for a little announcement: I believe in the Benevolent model so much that I have joined the team. I am now a Community Engagement Manager for Benevolent.net, and will be working to help Silicon Valley and Bay Area nonprofits take advantage of the website, using social media and crowd sourcing, to meet the one-time needs of their low-income clients

While Benevolent will be taking up the lion's share of my time and efforts, I will also still continue some of my consulting on the side, such as grantwriting workshops at Santa Cruz County Community Foundation, and other "done in a day or two" projects, such as board retreat facilitation.

I'm excited to be a part of this important turning point in fundraising, and to be working with such a great team. Please check out Benevolent.net and let me know what you think!

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