Archive | November, 2011

Kellogg MBA students team up to do skills-based pro bono projects for Catchafire

28 Nov
KelloggCares Day is the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University’s annual community service day.  On this day each year, the entire Kellogg Community, including faculty and staff, family and friends, are invited to participate and give back to the community. Traditionally, Kellogg Cares works with social enterprises and nonprofits to do a range of team based activities over 4-6 hours.  Volunteer opportunities include leading educational sessions with students, gardening and promoting environmental sustainability, volunteering at shelters and soup kitchens, etc.
This year, KelloggCares organizers sought to provide participants with the opportunity to give their time on a skills basis, and reached out to Catchafire to provide skills based pro bono projects to their community. We were thrilled by the opportunity to be involved with KelloggCares Day. We believed it would be a fun challenge for Kellogg students, while also providing meaningful assistance to Catchafire on various areas of our strategy and expansion. Catchafire provided six different skills-based pro bono projects for KelloggCares Day, to be completed by teams of 6-7 students each. The projects originated out of Catchafire’s goals for national expansion and continued growth, and students were asked to provide strategic thinking on projects such as launch and expansion plans, new product ideas, incentive schemes, and revamping of the communications and media strategy. Just like every project on the Project Menu, Catchafire structured the Kellogg projects to ensure an effective and meaningful experience for those giving their time and skills. Each project included the following components:
  • Background information/ pre reading for students to provide context
  • A 1 hour phone call with a Catchafire team member to discuss goals and answer questions
  • Clear student prerequisites
  • Detailed project steps

KelloggCares Day ended up being a success, with Kellogg students enthusiastically providing strategic thinking and a fresh perspective on their projects. The students enjoyed using the skills they were learning at school in a real life situation and enjoyed learning more about Catchafire, with one student commenting, “…seems like an awesome organization and I’ll definitely be interested in volunteering with them in the future.” A big thank you to all the Kellogg students who participated. We look forward to taking the project recommendations further into implementation.

Celebrating the giving season – One of our member organizations says thanks

23 Nov

With resources stretched thin and the ever-present need for extra help, those working in the nonprofit world often have many people to thank. The African Rainforest Conservancy is one of Catchafire’s busiest members, having completed six successful projects with our pro bono professionals over the past year. Kate McLetchie, Executive Director of the African Rainforest Conservancy, recently took the time to write a kind and thoughtful blog post to thank their pro bono professionals and commend them on both their hard work and service to their cause. Here’s what Kate had to say about one of their most recently completed projects:

It was a truly wonderful experience working with Jack on our Salesforce Database project. He was able to understand the needs of our small, but growing, organization and identify creative solutions to meet them. He was always mindful of our limited resources and time and enthusiastically rolled up his sleeves and jumped right in to do whatever necessary to launch our database. Our new database has already helped tremendously. Thank you to Jack and Catchafire for helping us get organized!

It costs nothing to say “Thank You” and it feels good. To take the time and write such a thoughtful note, however, shows true appreciation. Thank you, Kate, for taking the time to write this wonderful blog post. We at Catchafire and our pro bono professionals truly appreciate it. We’ve reposted Kate’s blog post below – please take a moment to read it,  as it will get you in the mood to give back yourself!

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Giving: The Gift of Time

Tue, 11/15/2011 by Kate McCletchie
Originally posted on Africa Volunteer Corps’ blog

As we approach the season of giving, we want to take a moment to highlight and thank the many people who have generously volunteered their time and talent to ARC in 2011 – a gift that doesn’t come wrapped in pretty paper and a satin ribbon, but which is at the top of our wish list every year. In addition to our stellar Board of Directors, Junior Board, Advisors, Contributing Artists, and student interns, we were fortunate enough this year to connect with Catchafire and get matched up with a suite of amazing professionals who helped us with everything from launching our first social media campaign to grant writing to training us in financial management systems.

To put it simply, Catchafire matches professionals who want to give their skills with nonprofits and social enterprises that need their help. Their project menu provides detailed deliverables and project steps for forty projects (with new ones being added all the time) that are in high demand in the nonprofit sector. Member nonprofits request specific projects from the menu and Catchafire’s staff works diligently to match their database of pro bono professionals to the right projects. It is a win-win situation for all involved.

A recent New York Time’s article on volunteering not only profiled Catchafire and two of the pro bono professionals they connected ARC with (Joe Ladd and Liz Healy), but we were fortunate enough to get a small mention near the end of page two! This article inspired us to reach out to our Catchafire volunteers (many of whom are still actively engaged with ARC even though their projects are completed) and ask them about their volunteer experience.

Here is what our pro bono professionals are saying about their experience with ARC:

“Helping ARC enhance their social media presence and expand their toolkit was an extremely rewarding experience. Not only was it exciting to be a part of ARC’s first venture into Twitter as a new way to engage communities and to collaborate with such amazing and passionate people, but I was also able to learn more about a critical environmental issue that has been relevant for my own professional development.” – Megan Caiola, Edelman Public Relations, CSR/Sustainability (Social Media Campaign project with Catchafire)

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Please visit the African Rainforest Conservancy blog to read the rest of the article…

Our Boston Founding Members helping children and youth in need

21 Nov

Congratulations and thank you to Boston’s Founding 30 for coming on board with Catchafire, and for making our Boston launch event last Monday the success that it was. Today we conclude a blog series featuring the last four of our Founding 30, who are helping children and young adults in Boston and across the nation to lead safe, happy lives and realize their dreams, whatever their circumstances.

Since its formation in 1986, Youth Villages has been helping emotionally troubled children and their families. Its programs and services have a national reputation as the most effective available. They’re focused on results and employ evidence-based treatment models to fulfill a refined and simple goal: building stronger families.

The organization provides therapy in the least restrictive setting available – the child’s own home. This enables Youth Villages to work closely with families to create permanent solutions. There are about 425,000 children in foster care across the US and every 38 minutes, Youth Villages brings another child into their care. This year alone they’re working with more than 17,000 children and families in 11 states.

Despite Youth Villages’ incredible success rate of 80% (twice the national average), the organization can always use more help. Visit their website to view opportunities to mentor, volunteer, donate, fundraise and attend events.

ROCA focuses on supporting the most disenfranchised young people living the Greater Boston area, including those involved with gangs, school and college dropouts, young parents, refugees and immigrants. By helping them transition into educational and life skills programming and employment, ROCA is helping them to re-engage with society.

Founded in 1988, ROCA has helped more than 25,000 young people to take responsibility for their lives and make meaningful change. ROCA doesn’t simply help young people find future opportunities, it provides them with the skills and motivation they need to proactively and enthusiastically embrace these opportunities, thereby ensuring long-term success. Of the 705 young people engaged with ROCA this year alone, 90% remain actively involved in ROCA’s program.

There are many way for those living in the Greater Boston area and beyond to get involved. Get the ball rolling!

Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) provides youth with positive role models and one-to-one and group mentoring programs, empowering them to achieve their personal, educational and professional goals. They have pioneered a number of nationally recognized, award winning mentoring services.

Mentor Match, PYD’s primary program, provides adult mentors for 40-60 youth every year. Mentors, often disabled themselves, foster close relationships and focus on independent living skills. An array of other programs help troubled youths build skills in self-advocacy, entrepreneurship, career development, socialization, leadership and healthy living, to name a few. The Access to Theatre program, for example, gives youth with disabilities the opportunity to participate in the arts and explore their creative talents.

PYD’s scope is broad, as are their volunteer opportunities. Volunteers are key to the organization’s success and continual growth. Interested in becoming a mentor or simply hosting a “Job Shadow Day”? Contact YPD via their site.

Hubert Eugene Jones, or “Hubie Jones,” has been shaping the social landscape of Boston for over 45 years. In addition to building, rebuilding and leading a number of community organizations across Boston, Jones chaired a task force that effectively spearheaded the enactments of two landmark laws in Massachusetts, the Special Education Law and the Bilingual Education Law. Jones created the taskforce after discovering how 10,000 children were, for a number of reasons, being excluded from the school system. That was back in 1967.

Fast-forward 43 years and he’s on a new mission. Modeled after New York City’s Harlem Children Zone, Jones has formed Higher Ground. Higher Ground will focus its efforts on certain “impact areas”, providing the services needed most and working closely with other social good organizations to increase their effectiveness. Higher Ground is still raising startup capital, but with the extremely determined Hubie Jones behind the project, it’s destined for success.

If you missed our post on the Founding 30, check it out here.

Boston Founding Members who partner with purpose

18 Nov

Social good projects are most effectual when a group of purpose-driven and talented people comes together behind the cause. Indeed, behind almost every social and environmental initiative underway today, nonprofits, government agencies, businesses, and individuals are working together to ensure their success. A number of organizations have come into existence around this simple idea: that we can accomplish so much more when we work together. Three such organizations are Catchafire Boston Founding Members. They’re promoting Boston as a center intellectual excellence, finding talented people for worthy causes and facilitating meaningful partnerships with all sects of society.

Boston World Partnerships (BWP), a nonprofit created by Mayor Thomas M. Menino, is a network of innovators, entrepreneurs, thought leaders and business leaders. This network is managed by the BWP Connectors who disseminate information about Boston’s economic opportunities and resources. The organization’s goal is simple: To raise global awareness for Boston as a center of excellence and a destination of choice for business.

Distinguishing BWP from similar platforms is their focus on building relationships and fostering ideas. BWP has nurtured a culture of mutual benefit by building a community of individuals willing to combine their personal and civic interests. They offer members an array of services geared toward connecting like-minded people with each other and Boston-based opportunities. These include access to fellow members and partner organizations and businesses, networking events and strategy sessions.

Visit the BWP website to learn more about future events, their services and how to become a member.

In 2005, a group of Boston-based nonprofit professionals came together out a shared frustration: the difficulty in finding and recruiting talented individuals for social good. They formed Commongood Careers, a recruitment agency serving the nonprofit sector.

Among their first clients were BELL, College Summit, Jumpstart and Year Up. Today, they’re one of the most experienced nonprofit recruitment agents in the country, operating nationwide and serving over 175 organizations in 26 states. They envision a social good sector where the access to and development of talent is simple and efficient. To make this happen, they’ve set a goal of expanding five-fold over the next five years, to eventually be placing 500 nonprofit professionals every year.

Organizations looking to hire talented, purpose-driven job seekers should visit the Commongood Careers website to get started.

Driven by the belief that social problem solving is best achieved through innovation and investment, Root Cause has been partnering nonprofits, philanthropy, government agencies and businesses around worthy causes since 2003.

Root Cause believes these partnerships can be most effective by helping clients fulfill four key prerequisites:

  • Social innovation –sharing ideas among all stakeholders
  • Information alignment – providing common terminology and data for all stakeholders
  • Public innovation – forming strategic partnerships between government leaders and their counterparts in nonprofits, philanthropy and business
  • Social impact markets – enabling individuals and institutions to provide financial (and other) resources for social good

In addition to the consulting services and research that Root Cause provides its clients (nonprofits, philanthropists, government agencies and businesses), they also host a forum where nonprofits can expand their networks and build capacity.

We’re almost at the end of our Founding 30 blog series. On Monday we will feature our final group – four great social good organizations helping children and young adults.

Celebrating in Boston with our social good organizations and professionals

17 Nov

On Monday, Catchafire took its first step towards national expansion by launching in Boston with 30 Founding Members. We held our first Boston Pro Bono 101 Seminar, designed to help our Founding 30 get the most out of their pro bono experience. During the seminar, the Catchafire team shares pro bono best practices, discusses expectations and process, and new organizations have the chance to hear the perspectives of a current Catchafire member. The seminar was followed by the Launch Party, held in Space with a Soul’s new event space. 130 people, including individuals from across the Boston social good landscape, Boston Founding Members and members of the press, were in attendance. Guests enjoyed food provided by Haley House, wine by Eventbrite Boston, and Sam Adams beer.

Siiri, Founder of Prosperity Candle, and Ann Kamensky from Partners for Youth with Disabilities

Celebrating at the launch party

Dana, Catchafire Service Officer and Erica from MassChallenge

The following evening, Catchafire and Root Cause participated on a joint panel for the Northeastern University Social Enterprise Institute‘s monthly discussion series. The topic was “Innovative platforms to Build Capacity for Non-Profits” and panelists were to discuss how they are innovating to help nonprofits build capacity. Speaking to a full house of students and professionals, Rachael discussed Catchafire’s evolution, the decision to adopt B Corp status and the key tenets of Catchafire’s theory of change. Ryan Letada, one of Catchafire’s Account Managers, conducted a demo of the live site for the audience to illustrate the power of technology to support matching of professionals and organizations. As many in the audience were students and entrepreneurs-in-training, Root Cause and Catchafire also provided tips on choosing a career path. Rachael’s message to those who wanted to start their own companies was to work for a startup, at as early a stage as possible, in order to get the best on the ground experience.

Rachael with panelists from Root Cause, Allison Mirkin and Anne Radday

All in all, it was a fantastic trip and we look forward to heading back up in December.

Boston professionals: register with Catchafire today to give what you’re good at with one of our amazing Founding 30!

Boston Founding Members working on environmental protection: sustainable solutions to big problems

16 Nov

The public is becoming increasingly concerned about the environment. The impact of human activity on the planet is far reaching and there is growing concern about access to clean water, overpopulation, the depletion of natural resources, and the burning of dirty fuels. Gone are the days when we can lean on Government to solve these problems alone. Government, business and citizen alike, we must all play our part. It is the nonprofit and social enterprise sector however, that by and large, is leading the way in environmental stewardship. Today we feature four of our Founding 30 Boston-based organizations who are working to protect the environment and tackle these problems. What makes these four so compelling, is not just their impact on the environment, but their approach to tackling a combination of social and environmental issues simultaneously.

SolSolution has a dual focus: to generate clean, renewable energy and improve the quality of education in low-income communities. Their model is simple but effective – funds from the sale of solar-generated energy are diverted to underprivileged schools.

They’re ambitious too. Their 2020 goal is to provide 1 GW of solar power to U.S. schools, effectively saving $200 million in energy costs, which is donated to schools in need. How are they reaching their target? The SolSolution Educational Power Purchase Agreement (E-PPA) provides clean energy at a low, fixed rate, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and freeing up schools’ budget to be spent on much needed resources.

Help SolSolution! Learn how you can promote their case, go solar, make a donation or simply “Shop and Eat!”

Wegowise is bringing clarity and simplicity to a complex but popular issue in the green space – Energy Efficiency Investments. In addition to helping those grappling with the confusing science and finance of energy efficiency, Wegowise is also using its resources to serve low-income housing communities – precisely where their work can have the most meaningful impact.

They have created a low-cost and easy-to-use online tool that “gives expert answers to non-experts.” This tool helps users get the most out of energy efficiency investments, especially in the affordable housing sector, where resources are limited. As a social enterprise, Wegowise also combines the benefits of a revenue stream with a mission for using energy more wisely. Visit their website for a demonstration of how the Wegowise tools work, as well as pricing plans.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) combines the expertise of scientists, economists and lawyers to address environmental threats to the climate, oceans, ecosystems and people’s health.

Science, Economics and Partnerships: EDF was founded by a small and passionate group of scientists, who remain firm in their belief that rigorous science will help us identify and understand the most serious environmental problems and most effective solutions. Armed with scientific facts, EDF appeals to the marketplace. EDF have demonstrated time and time again that the right incentives can attract people and capital investment from the markets to solve environmental problems. Finally, EDF scientists partner with lawyers and major corporations to ensure lasting solutions.

EDF has been in operation for over 40 years and has many success stories to share. Visit their site to learn how EDF wrote the 1990 Clean Air Act, changed the way people think about commercial fishing and how they became the first nonprofit to partner with a big business in the US.

Founded in 1973 by the League of Women Voters and the Boston Shipping Association, The Boston Harbor Association (TBHA) promotes a clean, alive and accessible Boston Harbor.

Harbors are often the hub of industrial activity for seaside cities. That doesn’t mean they can’t also be beautiful, green, and safe public spaces. TBHA works closely with all the harbor’s stakeholders – from developers, environmentalists, waterfront businesses and local government – to develop sustainable solutions for environmental protection, industrial and commercial activity and public access. Among its many initiatives, TBHA has ensured the success of various renewable energy projects, the development of its popular waterfront and a program to remove over 240 tons of marine debris from the harbor’s waters.

They also host a number of free events that encourage both locals and tourists to get involved and enjoy the harbor. Visit their website to see what is happening in the upcoming weeks and learn how you can get involved.

Promoting arts and culture… and doing good

15 Nov

Boston is home to a number of world-class museums and galleries and a bourgeoning arts and culture scene. Two relatively new social good organizations, ArtVenue and Design Museum Boston, have been created with the purpose of promoting, nurturing and spreading this growing art scene. They’re also two of Catchafire’s Boston Founding Members. Read on to learn more about their work.

Next time you’re in Boston, perhaps in a coffee shop or ice cream parlor, and your eye catches a fine piece of art, chances are it’s by a local artist and for sale – all thanks to ArtVenue. This new Boston startup (founded April 2011) is forging new and meaningful relationships between local artists and venues.

Their goal is not just to help local artists promote and sell their work but to spread art throughout Boston’s communities and strengthen the relationships between artists, venues and art enthusiasts. ArtVenue is making new locations accessible to artists and art more accessible to the public and potential buyers. For an artist, selling their work is more often than not a difficult and intimidating prospect. With ArtVenue facilitating the connection between the artist and venue, arranging shows and the selling art is now a much simpler process. For co-founder Dan Vidal, this is an important aspect of the art business. His enthusiasm for this project was born out of frustration with the difficulty of buying and selling art. ArtVenue is making the business part easy, and they are being recognized for this, having been selected as one of MassChallenge’s $50K Gold Prize Winners.

Are you an artist or do you know of an artist looking to promote his/her work? Perhaps your business would like some original artwork for its walls. If so, visit ArtVenue.com for more info.

Design Museum Boston describes itself as “an innovative nomadic museum at the forefront of design education and promotion.” It’s also a nonprofit organization and entirely volunteer-run. Their mission is to unite the Massachusetts design community around two common goals: (1) to educate the public about the role of design in their lives, and (2) to demonstrate how design provides practical solutions to real world problems.

How are they accomplishing this? Design Museum Boston hosts regular events – both physical and virtual – showcasing the breadth and impact of Massachusetts’s design work. Their exhibitions allow audiences to see the design process from a social, economic, and environmental perspective, from where they can truly appreciate the role of design across the urban landscape and in their daily lives.

In addition to Creative Capital, an ongoing and public exhibit in Boston, Design Museum Boston hosts regular events, including exhibits, lectures, conferences and tours, across the city and at select venues throughout the state. Visit their site to learn more about upcoming events, sign up for their newsletter and discover how you can get involved.

We’ve only scratched the surface of Boston’s social good sector! Tomorrow we dig deeper with our Boston Founding Member series. Tomorrow’s causes: energy and the environment…

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