Harnessing the Power of the Online Crowd to Change Our World and Better the Business of Giving
This is a guest post from Liz Deering, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of 121Giving.com
In 2011, when I became the marketing director for a large nonprofit organization in Central Texas, I realized very quickly that the technology platforms and business processes that had fueled earlier successes at startups where I had worked– including Picasa, InnoCentive and EnPocket – were greatly lacking in the nonprofit sector.
At that time, I encountered pushback when introducing new technologies. I felt would improve fundraising efforts, or attempting to incorporate more tried-and-tested business practices into the organization. Challenges presented themselves in other ways, too, whether recruiting volunteers, raising funds, buying operational supplies or convincing companies to care enough about what we were doing to get them truly engaged and willing to donate equally.
That’s when I knew there had to be a much better way for nonprofits to run their businesses. I partnered with my future co-founder, Mark Courtney, who shared the same passion. He envisioned a model that would help nonprofits become more commercially efficient and make an even bigger impact by adopting available technologies that businesses were using successfully, and enlisting corporate support to improve their outcomes.
We set out to build 121Giving.com (pronounced one-to-one giving) and better the business of giving. 121Giving is an online product marketplace and crowdfunding platform that brings together nonprofits that need products to fulfill their missions, companies who want to support those nonprofits in order to help make our world a better place, and givers who are willing to support these transactions, too – especially if they can see exactly where their giving is going.
Unlike many of the traditional crowdfunding platforms that are focused on raising capital for ideas or concepts, 121Giving brings together three distinct audiences – consumers, companies and charities – whose collective power addresses and fulfills specific needs in tangible ways.
Nonprofit organizations across the U.S. can use 121Giving to publicize their needs for products, such as beds, blankets, medical supplies, clothing, nutritional supplements, furniture, pet food, non-perishable items, personal hygiene supplies, pillows – whatever their operations need. Nonprofits can launch product-specific campaigns to buy those products in a matter of minutes, not spend weeks hunting for those same products at discounted prices.
Consumers can search for charities, causes or issues they care about, identify campaigns they want to support, and donate in just a click or swipe to buy the products that nonprofits need to run their organizations more efficiently – and make an even bigger impact on our world.
Socially conscious brands and manufacturers can make their products available at 121Giving, not only to support their own business goals but also to prove to the world that they, too, are part of the solution for society’s challenges. They can make their products available to help support social issues, community needs, the arts, education, the environment, animal welfare, child and family issues, homelessness, disabilities, disaster relief, safety and many other worthwhile causes.
Online crowdfunding can help address so many of the challenges that today’s nonprofits, socially conscious companies and donors face in wanting to make a tangible impact. For nonprofits, crowdfunding provides a new vehicle for creating visibility, awareness of their immediate needs and, of course, fundraising. They can spend more time solving problems instead of raising money for the day-to-day items they need.
Companies, likewise, are able to participate in ways that provide what consumers demand today: results. With increasing skepticism about where donor dollars go, or how companies are making an impact, each product-specific campaign identifies how many items are needed, what the goal is, and how many individuals/families will be helped. 121Giving’s interface logs the progress of each campaign, providing transparency into questions around “Where is my money going? How is it being used?” And donors benefit from the knowledge that their contributed amount – regardless of its size – creates something tangible toward a better world.
In March 2015 during SXSW, our vision finally came to life when we officially launched 121Giving in Austin, Texas.
Since then, we have hosted nonprofit campaigns that address agencies’ uncomplicated, yet profound and immediate needs. New beds and mattress for an HIV/AIDS hospice facility. Move-in kits containing pillows, cookware and silverware for homeless individuals and families. Cases of Ensure nutritional supplements for cancer patients. Wheelbarrows and stepladders for volunteers who repair the homes of low-income families. “House in a Box” kits for 140 victims of a devastating tornado that destroyed their homes.
Each donation is logged, and the website’s campaign tracker keeps supporters updated about how many items have been purchased, how many items are outstanding, how many clients have been helped, and how many days remain in the campaign. Results are visible, transparent and measurable.
Our goal is coming to life at 121Giving: to be the most tangible giving experience online for nonprofits, companies and donors alike.
Liz Deering, Co-founder, Connector and Strategist
Liz Deering is a social entrepreneur, strategic thinker and risk taker whose experiences with both category-disrupting startups and traditional nonprofit organizations provided the skills and fueled her passion to help launch 121Giving (pronounced One-to-One Giving) – a first-of-its-kind digital marketplace that harnesses the collective buying power of hundreds of thousands of U.S. charities, matching their needs with corporate discounts and new crowdfunding capabilities.
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