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Achieving greater impact with non-profit partners

10 Jan

Thanks to the rising demand for corporate social responsibility, the non-profit world is enjoying more opportunities to partner with eager for-profit businesses. But what about non-profit / non-profit partnerships? While it’s less common, the partnership can still increase the impact of their efforts.

Whenever possible Catchafire has connected different nonprofits and social good organizations. Many have partnered to dramatically enhance their ability to serve their causes… sometimes very different causes. Recently we connected two of our member organizations: Second Chance Toys and tay-bandz / Kids Curing Cancer collaborated this past December to bring gifts to hospitalized children.

The story and impact of Second Chance Toys

In 2006, 15 year-old Sasha Lipton and her mother drove around their New Jersey neighborhood and gathered 50 used toys that former owners had left on the sidewalk for trash collection. They donated them to Babyland’s Family Violence Center in Newark, NJ and Second Chance Toys was born. By providing underprivileged children with toys and preventing thousands of toys from ending up in landfills, they’re effectively serving two causes – children and the environment. This holiday season they reached a record of 100,000 toys donated. Their goal is to donate another 100,000 toys over the next two years.

The story and impact of tay-bandz

Tay-bandz is dedicated to raising awareness and funding research for pediatric cancer. The organization was founded by Taylor Matthews, who at age 11 was diagnosed with cancer. Taylor bravely fought her illness for five years. Her strength came with an enduring sense of compassion for others and a belief that every individual effort can make a difference. Surprisingly, the government provides minimal funding for children’s cancer. Tay-bandz fills this very important gap by funding cutting-edge cancer research. To date, tay-bandz Grants have exceeded $800,000!

Non-profit / non-profit partnerships

“Non-profit / non-profit partnerships – especially the more entrepreneurial organizations – can come together faster [than partnerships with for-profit organizations] on the basis that there is a win-win in the equation for both parties. They have enabled Second Chance Toys to foster new collaborative relationships and the ability to serve a greater number of children in need.” says Second Chance Toys board member Shelly Lipton. While their for-profit partners help with the transportation, Second Chance Toys is able to serve its cause with greater impact thanks to nonprofit partners work directly with children.

For tay-bandz, collaboration with other non-profits has enabled them to take on side projects and accomplish new goals. While their focus is funding for pediatric cancer research, together with its other non-profit partners whose cause is also pediatric cancer, they’re collaborating on two objectives: raising awareness for the cause and establishing a voice in congress. Together, Matthews believes, their organizations can achieve far greater results.

The impact of the Second Chance Toys / tay-bandz partnership

Of the partnership with Second Chance Toys, Sue Matthews, president of tay-bandz said, “Through our collaboration we were able to deliver 55 brand new beautifully wrapped gifts to children with cancer at Columbia Presbyterian Children’s Hospital. Second Chance Toys was awesome to work with and brightened the lives of so many. Thank you Catchafire for introducing us.” Matthews went on to say how simple gestures like delivery of these toys help tay-bandz to continue serving Taylor’s mission of helping other kids.

The Second Chance Toys / tay-bandz partnership is one that neither organization had previously considered, but it was ultimately a perfect fit. Together they touched the lives of 55 underprivileged children who spent Christmas in the hospital. This was no small feat. For Second Chance Toys, the project was seamless but impactful. For tay-bandz, it was both very personal and perfectly in tune with a philosophy of giving to the less fortunate that Taylor Matthews instilled in the organization.


If you would like to learn more about this partnership or about these great organizations, please join us for the Do Right Be Brite Brunch next Saturday, January 14th. The purpose of this monthly event is to highlight different ways to give back in New York. Along with Catchafire and a number of fantastic nonprofits and social enterprises, tay-bandz and Second Chance Toys will be there to share their wisdom and hopefully guide you toward the volunteer experience that’s right for you. Click here to learn more and purchase tickets.


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.

How to Make Volunteering Help YOU and Your Cause

7 Jan

Want to help a cause you love, but not sure how? Look no further. Here are a few tips I recently shared with the folks over at the Pepsi Refresh Project to help you harness your altruistic impulses to make a big impact.

1) Give what you’re good at. Do you know what nonprofits need most? Your expertise. Over 95% of nonprofits in the United States need access to professional services and don’t know where to find them. Your professional services allow you to give an organization something it can’t find elsewhere and which it could never afford at market rates. Plus, there’s a lot in it for you. You’ll know that your time is being valued, because you are helping an organization with something very specific that only a professional like you can do.

2) Take a nonprofit for a test drive. Catchafire serves as a matchmaker of sorts—we call often call ourselves an eHarmony of volunteering—and we know you don’t quite want to “marry” a cause without a few dates first. If you’re interested in getting involved with a cause, it makes sense to shop around a bit to find the organization that best fits you.

There are over 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States. That’s a lot to go through on your own. Catchafire allows you to simply tell us what you care about, while we find the organization supporting that cause and which needs your help. You may get introduced to an organization you’ve never heard of before and find that it’s the perfect match.

3) Volunteering is the best way to “like” a cause. Social media can be a powerful tool to spread awareness about issues, but any organization can tell you that it’s offline action that makes a difference. Of course, the web can enable you to do some pretty powerful things. For instance, you could help a great organization win $250,000 from Pepsi Refresh, you can invite your friends to a great fundraiser, or let them know about a new cause. But if you really want to show off what a do-gooder you are, could you think of anything more impressive than telling someone about all the volunteering you do in your free time?

4) Time is better than money. I know what you’re thinking: “Shouldn’t I just give money? That’s what nonprofits need, right?” Well, yes and no. Ask any nonprofit how you can help and you’d be hard pressed to find one that won’t take your donation. Still, that’s not necessarily the best way to help. If you can spare $50—or even $500—for an organization, you’ll help support its cause. That’s not much, though, compared to the value you could add to an organization with just a few hours of your time each week for a couple of months.

Working on a pro bono service project with Catchafire, you’ll contribute, on average, $5,000 in service and expertise to an organization. Plus, why would you want to just send off a donation without really understanding how the organization works. Consider it a good way to check out that the organization is worth supporting. When you discover that it is, you can still write a check.

5) Gain more than you give. Of course, volunteering is a little more involved than simply putting that check in the mail, but think of everything else you get out of it. You meet people. You gain a more thorough understanding of a cause and the organization. You learn new skills and develop those you already have. You can explore a new career. People who volunteer even live longer.

So what are you waiting for? Check out some of our currently open projects and apply to start making a big difference today!

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