Archive | March, 2011

Pro Bono Voice: Luis Morales

30 Mar

Luis Morales, second from left, with Change for Kids staff members Caitlin Smith, Colin Smith, and Michael Quinzio

Luis Morales is a senior IT executive by profession. He is now in the midst of a SalesForce Project with Change for Kids, a New York City nonprofit that works within the public school system to empower underprivileged kids through literacy, arts, and music programs.

I was searching for an opportunity to support the non-profit community, especially within the youth and education field.  Catchafire did a great job of matching me with just the type of organization I was looking to support.  I have a strong technology background and really wanted to work with an organization that I could help and that could help me by expanding my technology knowledge base.  Change For Kids is a great example of a nonprofit run by energetic and committed individuals — Colin Smith, Mike Quinzio and Caitlin Smith. Their dedication has made it a very good match for me.  We are off to a great start on optimizing their SalesForce implementation and improving some additional processes.  I look forward to completing the project and making a difference for Change for Kids.

Want to help with your own SalesForce project? There are currently several of them listed on our Open Projects page.

Catchafire’s Inaugural Pro Bono Engagement Seminar!

29 Mar

Catchafire held very our first Pro Bono Engagement Seminar for our Member organizations on Tuesday 3/22!

This seminar was our first step in providing our members with the knowledge and tools to build capacity effectively and make the most of their Catchafire experience.  It was a fantastic turn out and we’re excited to host many more in the days to come.

The event kicked off at 9am with coffee, bagels and networking!  Our Founder & CEO Rachael gave a warm introductory welcome, followed by an ice breaking exercise! Going around the room, Rachael asked each participant to tell us what organization they worked for and one interesting fact about themselves.  Some interesting facts noted:

  • One lady had already baked three cakes that morning!
  • Another really liked cake 🙂
  • A tennis player at heart
  • One had lived in Morocco for 5 years
  • One started a nonprofit, Second Chance Toys, when she was in 10th grade
  • One man’s kid just got accepted into college

Following the intros, Jane, our Chief Service Officer, dove right into the guts of the seminar! She spoke on the following topics:

  • How to make the most from your Catchafire experience
  • How to engage and retain your pro bono professionals
  • How to turn a one-time pro bono professional into a lifelong advocate
  • How to harness the passion and power of pro bono professional

After Jane’s lively presentation, Julie Marks, the Founder of the Volunteer Management Group spoke about how to design and implement surveys in order to collect and analyze feedback and make program improvements.

The seminar was a great opportunity for our Member organizations to get together, learn how to make the most out of pro bono, and meet the Catchafire team!  We can’t wait for our next – in fact, we’re already planning!

Question of the Week: Long Distance?

28 Mar

We get a lot of questions emailed to us from professionals looking to donate their time, organizations interested in our service, and members of the public who want to find out more about how we work. That’s why we’re introducing Question of the Week, a resource for the Catchafire Curious.

This week’s question — well, really two questions — is hands-down the most common one we get.

Q: I am a professional living outside of the New York area (in Utah/Washington, DC/Canada/France, etc.), and I want to sign up for a project. It looks like some of the projects don’t require people to actually to meet in person. Can I do a virtual project?

A: Someday we plan to expand Catchafire to all of those areas, but we know it’s hard to wait. In the meantime, we’ll consider long-distance and virtual pro bono arrangements when a professional is particularly motivated and passionate, and when the organization is happy with the arrangement. We still believe the best pro bono engagements are ones with face time, but we do make exceptions. So if you live outside of the Greater New York city area, go ahead register today, but make sure to note that you are only available remotely. We’ll take that into account when suggesting possible project matches for you.


Q: I’m a leader of a nonprofit organization based outside of the New York area (in California/Nairobi/Australia/Russia etc.), but I would be willing to have a virtual project done. Can I sign up with Catchafire?

A: We’ve found that pro bono projects have a much more successful outcome when the organization and professional can meet in person and build trust and rapport. If you or a member of your organization can make a commitment to come to New York City at least once during the project to meet with your professional, we would be happy to list your project.

Nonprofit Profile: Siiri Morley, Prosperity Candle

25 Mar

Siiri Morley is a founding partner of Prosperity Candle, a startup social enterprise that seeks to empower women entrepreneurs in regions impacted by political conflict and natural disaster.

For years my passion has been to help connect female artisans to global markets to help them move out of poverty, transform the lives of their families, and bring real prosperity to their communities.

Prior to my work with Prosperity Candle, I had done some international work in Lesotho in Southern Africa with the Peace Corps, as well as in South America. I had also worked stateside with a major international development group in DC, and with some smaller fair trade groups. I then came to Boston to pursue my MBA at Brandeis University’s Heller School of Social Policy and Management. It seems ironic now, given that I help run a for-profit social enterprise company, but prior to business school I was always very skeptical how businesses operated in the world. I was the corporate responsibility activist and never imagined I would end up getting an MBA. I was interested in social and environmental justice, and soon began to realize that business tools can be highly relevant, and even crucial, to doing social good
effectively.

I had known both Amber Chand and Ted Barber for several years, and soon came on as a third partner on their team. Prosperity Candle was founded in 2009.

The mission of Prosperity Candle is to empower women by helping them set up candle-making businesses and providing a direct link to consumers here in the US in search of beautiful, meaningful gifts. We focus on countries and regions suffering from political conflicts and natural disasters. We want to help women earn a fair wage — not just a subsistence wage, but what we call a prosperity wage — while growing their own businesses. We’ve seen time and again how successful female-owned businesses can bring prosperity to entire communities.

We’re only in our second year, so it’s very busy, and there are a lot of startup issues the three of us are constantly tackling. A lot of my work is externally facing; I handle our communications, recruitment, as well as relationship building — working to build capital and board partnerships.

We approached Catchafire because we were interested in learning more about how to use social media to support our business goals. I use social media personally, but wasn’t clear how best to leverage it to help Prosperity Candle create community. Catchafire matched us with Jackie Bivins, a marketing professional with many years of social media experience. Jackie was able to jump right in. She began with an audit, analyzing what we were doing and how it did or didn’t match with our organizational priorities and goals. In the end, Jackie went way beyond the scope of her project, helping us develop relationships with bloggers that will continue to benefit us.

I found it very helpful to have a fresh pair of eyes, someone who really knew what they were doing and could look objectively at Prosperity Candle. When you’re a very small startup, it’s sometimes hard to see things clearly since you’re so embedded in the day to day implementation. It can be immensely helpful to have a trained consultant giving feedback and input. I personally love having more people to work with.

We also found that Jackie became a great brand ambassador for us. I think that’s something that Catchafire creates especially well — relationships that invest the volunteer in the mission during their project, but also long after it’s over. It’s another way to build meaningful support.

We’re now in the midst of our second Catchafire project — this one is also a Social Media campaign, but focused around a specific initiative. We’re launching a campaign called “4,000 Candles for Mother’s Day,” and want to use Facebook and Twitter to create a grassroots sales strategy. So far our volunteer, Lisa, has been great.

April 12: Catchafire Conversation on the Pro Bono Economy

24 Mar

In celebration of National Volunteer Week, we’ll be hosting a cross- disciplinary discussion to explore the economic and social impact of pro bono.

We all know pro bono service can help build better businesses, nonprofits, social enterprises, careers and communities. But how can we quantify its value? Thought leaders from across the for-profit, nonprofit, and academic spaces will discuss how we can measure pro bono in economic terms, and explore how and why companies and cities should create incentives for employee pro bono and volunteering programs.

When: Tuesday, 12 April 2011, 6:30 – 8:00 PM

Where: Google NYC Office, Chelsea Market;
75 9th Avenue New York, NY 10011
Subway: A,C,E,L to 14th Street and 8th Avenue

Who: Panelists Diahann Billings-Burford, the nation’s first municipal Chief Service Officer and head of NYC Service; Ali Marano, Vice President for Pro Bono Initiatives at JPMorgan Chase; Susan M. Chambre, Professor of Sociology and research editor at the Center for Nonprofit Management and Strategy at Baruch College; and Rachael Chong of Catchafire. Moderated by Shelly Banjo, reporter for the Wall Street Journal.

More info and RSVP

Nonprofit Profile: Zoe Timms of Women’s Education Project

17 Mar

Today’s guest post comes from Zoe Timms, founder of Women’s Education Project (WEP), a nonprofit organization working internationally to improve educational options for women of limited means. WEP’s Board Search project was part of Catchafire’s pilot program.

Last year, I learned about Catchafire and immediately could think of about ten projects that Women’s Education Project would need. A plan to develop our board of directors, a refined business plan, a video, a PR/marketing plan … like a lot of new non-profit organizations, we have a huge mission, a small staff, and an even smaller budget. For us, Catchafire came at the perfect time.

In 2002, while living and working in South India, I founded Women’s Education Project to help young women from poor backgrounds succeed in higher education and careers. It started because one friend from a very poor family wanted to go to college. A year later, we were helping about thirty women from poor families who wanted to go to college to become a lawyer, a teacher, or a health care worker. Today, we have four centers in South India which provide scholarships, academic support courses, libraries, computer labs, and study space – the financial, academic and social support for young women to succeed in college and careers.

As the program has grown, so have our needs. When we approached Catchafire for a project, our immediate need was a plan to develop our board of directors. We were matched with a volunteer who helped us plan an event in which “connectors” and potential board members could come and learn about WEP. The planning, the actual event, and our follow-up work coordinated with the volunteer, resulted in three new board members, (which has since increased to ten). Besides support in PR/marketing, events, and more, a larger board has helped WEP double our income this year.

Working with an experienced volunteer was invaluable to the success of our project. Knowing that we can turn to Catchafire at anytime to meet our future video, website, or PR needs is a huge benefit to our growing organization.

For more personal stories of Catchafire matches, please visit our Success Stories page.

Join the Catchafire Team! Now Hiring a Social Good Organization Consultant

15 Mar

Catchafire is currently seeking a Social Good Organization Consultant to join our small, high performing Sales team responsible for meeting our revenue and social mission goals. The Consultant will work directly with current nonprofit and social enterprise customers to deliver our Membership package, and work tirelessly to grow the scope of our organization.

Among other responsibilities, the Consultant will set and work toward aggressive personal sales goals, conduct diligent follow-up with organizations, test different messaging strategies, and generate new leads through networks, industry events, and other channels. The ideal candidate will have at least two years of work experience in sales or marketing, exceptional interpersonal and negotiation skills, and motivation to develop a long term career in sales, marketing or business development.

Catchafire is growing quickly, and this is a dream job for the right person. Come join us and be an integral part of a team that’s pioneering for-profit social mission business and revolutionizing the way that people give pro bono.

You can read the full job description and our Company Values here. If our values resonate with you, we hope you will apply.

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