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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 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!

Meet our Boston Founding Members

11 Nov

Over the past week, we’ve featured profiles of some of our Boston Founding Members and their causes. Today, we’re excited to showcase our final list of organizations coming on board.

This broad group is a testament to the quality and passion of Boston’s social good landscape. Because of the sheer number of amazing organizations who were interested in Founding Membership, we decided to increase our Founding Member Class from 25 to 30 organizations. They represent a diverse spectrum of cause areas and sizes, and we believe our professionals will be truly excited at the opportunity work with these organizations and share in their impact.

Catchafire Boston Founding Members

Year Up

Pine Street Inn

Boston Rising

Greenlight Fund

Boston World Partnerships

City Year

Generation Citizen


Root Cause Social Innovation Forum


Higher Ground

Raising a Reader

Commongood Careers

Environmental Defense Fund

Science Club for Girls

The Boston Harbor Association

Housing Families

Right Question Institute

Youth Villages

Elizabeth Stone House

Partners for Youth with Disabilities

CropCircle Kitchen


Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color


Design Museum Boston



The Komera Project

Calling All Crows

Catchafire is now accepting Boston organizations for Early Adopter Membership. To learn more about membership, visit Catchafire to register your organization and contact

Boston Founding Members innovating on traditional notions of the “Foundation” & “Incubator”

10 Nov
Boston Rising, Greenlight Fund and CropCircle Kitchen fall under the headings of “foundations” and “incubator”, respectively, but each of them is generating impact in a new and innovative way.
Boston Rising is a fund to end the cycle of poverty in Boston by clearing a path for the next Rising Class. Taking a new approach to an old problem, the organization is fairly new in the Boston foundation landscape, but is already generating waves. The Boston Rising team believes that by tapping into the power of local communities, providing access to the right resources and empowering the Rising Class, they can break the cycle of poverty in urban neighborhoods. The organization recently launched the first-of-its-kind resident-led fund, the Grove Hall Trust, to bring choice and control to the residents of a Boston neighborhood.  Grove Hall Trust is funded on two core beliefs: communities know what they need to improve their outcomes, and sustainable impact comes from shared risk and responsibility. Learn more about the groundbreaking work that Boston Rising is doing here and read CEO Tiziana Dearing’s recent article for the Huffington Post.
The Greenlight Fund seeks out innovative, high-performing nonprofits in cities across the country and supports their successful expansion into the local Boston community.  Primarily, these organizations address issues affecting low-income urban children and families in key areas such as education, youth development, workforce development, and health. The Greenlight Fund was conceived to address the obstacles that prevent innovative, high-impact nonprofit models in other cities around the country from spreading. While social entrepreneurs across the US are creating powerful solutions to the many daunting challenges of our time, communities do not hear about innovations in other places that could effectively address the challenges they face. The spread of social innovations is limited because there is no vehicle dedicated to identifying unmet local needs, finding and replicating innovative approaches to meet these needs, and adapting the approaches for success in the local community. Greenlight seeks to achieve this for Boston, and eventually for other cities as well. Another innovative approach Greenlight has adopted to help their members build capacity is to support them for Catchafire membership. This year, Greenlight provided partial sponsorship for two of their members, Raising a Reader and Youth Villages, to join Catchafire as Founding Members.  Read more about their unique approach here.
CropCircle Kitchen is Boston’s only shared use kitchen and culinary business incubator. Founded as a new 501(c)3 non-profit in August 2009,  CropCircle currently supports about 25 culinary entrepreneurs and their fledgling businesses, providing technical support, training, oversight, and mentoring through the early stages of a new food business. Most importantly, CropCircle Kitchen has a deep commitment to sustainability and truly believes in the local food movement and rebuilding the original food economy through an “organic renaissance”. By nurturing entrepreneurs, their mission is to support the local economy and small businesses, a truly unique cause in our class of Founding Members. Read more here.

In tomorrow’s profiles – Boston Founding Members who are behind women’s issues

5 Boston Founding Members passionate about education

9 Nov
Boston, with 26 universities, is fertile seeding ground for startup social enterprises and nonprofit organizations focused on education. Today’s diverse group of Founding Members all share a passion for education. Read on to learn more!

City Year  is one of the seminal education organizations in the United States, with locations across the country, South Africa and the UK. The organization unites young people of all backgrounds for a year of full-time service, providing them skills, opportunities and inspiration (or confidence?) to change the world. As tutors, mentors and role models, these diverse young leaders help children stay in school and on track, and transform schools and communities. As CEO and Co-Founder Michael Brown stated in City Year’s 2010 Annual Report: “Education is the foundation of the American dream. Yet more than one million students give up on school in the United States every year. The high school dropout crisis is a national epidemic that requires bold action.” City Year is taking action. In a 2010 survey of students, 80% of the 4,400 respondents agreed, “City Year helps me learn, and helps me believe I can succeed.” Learn more about City Year here.

The dream for Year Up was born in Boston, through what was perhaps one of the most impassioned college application essays ever received by Harvard Business School. Inspired by his experience as a Big Brother and equally appalled by the injustices of the Opportunity Divide he witnessed whilst mentoring his Little Brother, Gerald Chertavian, Year Up’s Founder and CEO, wrote his Harvard application essay about his dream to open an urban school for young adults. Year Up’s mission is to close the Opportunity Divide by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education. In its first year, Year Up mentored 22 students in Boston; it is now a nationwide movement that will serve over 1,400 students in nine cities across the country this year.

The Right Question Institute (RQI)  is a unique organization. It’s mission is simple yet powerful: To help individuals in low and moderate-income communities learn to advocate for themselves and participate in decisions that affect them. The organization develops uncomplicated but impactful methods for teaching sophisticated self-advocacy and democratic skills to people of all educational, income or literacy levels. They then disseminate these tools to institutions in a “train the trainer” method. For instance, the organization has helped health educators, nurses, doctors, and other health staff use the Right Question Strategy to support patient efforts to participate more actively in their own health care and promote more patient-provider shared decision-making. To read about the universal relevance of RQI’s methods, click here.

For the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC), “…the establishment of a network of schools diverse in their configuration but united in their commitment to educate and affirmatively develop boys and young men of color is critically important.” Ron Walker, COSEBOC’s Founder and Executive Director, has 4 decades experience as an educator and spent the last 15 years as leader of a national school reform project. To realize its mission – of re-imagining and transforming the schooling experience for males of color and help them attain success – the organization builds networked learning community of educators, researchers, policy-makers and caring adults who support school leaders with high quality professional development. To read more, click here.

Raising a Reader (RAR)’s mission is to engage parents in a routine of daily “book cuddling” with their children from birth to age five. This fosters healthy brain development, parent-child bonding, and early literacy skills critical for school success. Operated through a variety of host agencies, RAR rotates a set of bright red bags filled with award-winning children’s books into the homes of participating families on a weekly basis. In its short ten year history, Raising A Reader has already reached 811,000 children. Its long term goal is to extend its reach as a leader in early literacy family engagement and eventually reach one million children. In 2006, 2007, and 2008 Raising A Reader was named one of the top 45 social entrepreneurs changing the world by Fast Company Magazine.

In tomorrow’s profiles – Boston Founding Members who are foundations and incubators behind nonprofits and entrepreneurs

A talented class of Boston Founding Members

8 Nov

With one week to go until our launch in Boston, our Founding Class of 25 is nearly full! We are truly excited to have a class of organizations large and small, representing cause areas that run the gamut from poverty alleviation to design and culture. Over the next few days, we will be profiling a selection of these Founding Members on our blog. Our first group to be profiled are passionate about alleviating homelessness and poverty. Read on to get to know them and the causes they are passionate about.

Pine Street Inn is one of Boston’s most well known nonprofit organizations. They believe that “everyone deserves a place to call home” and provide shelter and nourishment and compassion to hundreds daily. Pine Street Inn began its journey four decades ago, offering approximately 200 men suffering from alcoholism a safe alternative to the streets of Boston. Today they serve over 1,300 men and women daily, and provide a comprehensive range of programs and services, including housing, outreach, shelter and job training, but their ultimate goal is to make permanent housing a real possibility for all.  Pine Street Inn is poised to open two new houses in Boston on November 12th, one of which is dedicated completely to veterans of the US Armed Forces. Check out the celebrations for these openings here.

Housing Families has established itself as an force committed to ending homelessness for families. In 1986, community members concerned about the crisis of homelessness among families in Boston’s Metro North cities of Everett, Malden, and Medford created what is now Housing Families Inc. (HFI).  HFI’s current services include a children’s after school program, an eviction prevention program and a housing stabilization program, and they have grown into one of the largest operators of affordable housing for homeless and very low-income families in Massachusetts. As one beneficiary put it: “The help we received and continue to receive from Housing Families has helped to accelerate the constructive changes in my life, and I know I am taking positive steps toward my aspirations.”  Read more success stories here.

Elizabeth Stone House provides homeless families and individuals with a goal-oriented, outcome-driven environment. By helping to resolve the underlying drivers of homelessness – domestic violence, substance abuse, and mental illness – Elizabeth Stone House seeks to help families and individuals attain and maintain permanent housing, personal safety, and economic stability. The Stone House’s residential programs include a three-month Domestic Violence Shelter and an 18-month Transitional Housing Program. They also provide a number of community support groups and personal economic development programs.  Over 500 women, children and men have been served through the Stone House’s programs. Get involved here.

Tomorrow’s profiles – Boston Founding Members who are passionate about education!

Growing the pro bono movement…in Boston!

26 Oct

Catchafire celebrates expansion with two upcoming Boston events

Social enterprises – celebrate with us on Nov 14th 7-9pm at our launch party – check it out here!

Boston professionals – learn more about how you can get involved at our panel discussion with Root Cause on Nov, 15 6-7.30pm – check it out here!

We are excited to announce that we will begin serving social enterprises outside of New York for the first time this November as we launch in Boston. Boston is known for a lot of things: its clam chowder, fanatic sports fans, central role in American history – and active community of passion-driven organizations and professionals. This is evidenced by the sheer number of social enterprises based in Boston, the vibrant university community and the culture of biotechnology and health that Boston is known for. As part of our launch, we are recruiting 25 organizations to be our Boston Founding Member “Class of 2011.” Boston Founding Members are leaders in the Boston social enterprise community, ranging from established, high impact organizations to high potential small startups across a range of cause areas. Founding Members will receive special introductory pricing, membership benefits, and potential media exposure.

On the professional side of our market, as the first scalable, online pro bono service platform, Catchafire was able to launch its virtual pro bono program in early September of this year. Professionals nationwide can now do pro bono projects virtually with member organizations. Because of this, there is even a pool of Boston-based professionals ready and waiting for when Catchafire arrives in Beantown. Upon hearing the news of Catchafire’s expansion, one Boston professional wrote:  “Awesome…I have been waiting for this news. Made my day…”

Prosperity Candle, a Boston based organization with a presence in NYC and one of Catchafire’s first members, has had 11 successful matches with Catchafire to date.

Siiri Morley, Founding Partner of Prosperity Candle, says: “Prosperity Candle is honored to be Catchafire’s first Boston-based Member. We have benefitted tremendously over the past year and a half from Catchafire’s talented pool of professionals, and are looking forward to having a Boston area community of peer organizations. After working with 10 NYC-based pro bono professionals, we are very excited to have our first Boston-area professional to help us with PR!”

Catchafire is currently inviting select organizations in the greater Boston area to join the Catchafire community as Founding Members. If you are interested in nominating an organization or in becoming a member, please contact

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