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Are You A Volanthropist?

February 27, 2012

Many of you are familiar with the growing trend in philanthropy of online giving. Organizations everywhere are growing increasingly dependent on their website, Facebook page, and Twitter accounts as ways to engage prospective donors and encourage people to donate. Minnesota’s own GiveMN, an innovator in e-philanthropy, hosted their annual Give to the Max Day challenge and raised $13.4 million in online donations in just 24-hours. This has led some organizations to change their fundraising strategy from the traditional way of asking for funds throughout the year, to a new strategy of focusing on donating on just one day in order to build excitement and capitalize on challenge incentives and matched prizes. This strategy worked well for one small Minneapolis organization that was able to raise $100,000 in one day and snag the number one spot in their Give to the Max category. There is little doubt that the power of the Internet in getting people to reach into their pockets is clearly the way of the future.

Not surprisingly there has been a growing number of young professionals connecting to online giving. Two model organizations in the Twin Cities, LEAD and Eat for Equity, are focusing not only on collecting donations but also on catering to the willingness of these new funders to be involved in the activities of their chosen organization. Call them volanthropists or philanteers, but both organizations are realizing that these days funders, especially young ones, are saying, ” Here, take my money through my donating app, but I also want to help and be personally involved with what you are doing.”

LEAD, which stands for the Leadership Emergence and Development Project, was founded by Matthew Hemsley in 2006 as a way to bring philanthropy to young professionals in the Twin Cities. The goal is to connect this largely untapped group of professionals to non-profits to foster sponsorship and also provide opportunities for these professionals to become board members or engage in the activities that the non-profits are working on. LEAD hosts numerous events throughout the year from philanthropy fairs, where young professionals can get a sampling of the many non-profits working in the Twin Cities, to gala fundraising events that create networking opportunities and generate support for nonprofits.

A different approach has been taken by Eat for Equity, a non-profit started in Boston in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. A group of students decided to make New Orleans themed food and invite all of their friends to contribute for the dinner in order to raise money for Katrina victims; with that, Eat for Equity was born. Eat for Equity now operates in Boston, Minneapolis, and Portland, with each branch hosting monthly meals and all proceeds going to a different organization each month. In Minneapolis, the non-profit organizations receiving support are nominated online and then chosen by Eat for Equity board members. The meals are hosted in homes around the city with small armies of volunteers helping to solicit food donations, setup the host house, prepare food, and cleanup after the festivities. This is just another example of the new face of philanthropy: gatherings of young adults wanting to enjoy a good meal that also supports a good cause.

Both of these organizations have embraced the new trends in philanthropy but more importantly they have recognized the importance people place on tracking where their money is going. People do not want to sign off on a check anymore, instead they want to see exactly who and what is benefitting from their donation and if possible take part in facilitating the activities made possible by their contribution.