The Peace Corner Youth Center is a Chicagoland area nonprofit that acts as a haven for people in the Austin neighborhood. Residents can go there to avoid gang violence and drug activity or to get after-school care or GED help. The center has a web presence, but knew they could be more effective with one that was mobile friendly and interactive. They explored development options, but quickly realized the huge cost to spreading their mission online.
Nonprofits hit walls like this all the time. Funding is always tight and because of the 501(c)3 structure, organizations need to go through its Board for approval on large costs. They decided to turn to Catchafire, where they wound up getting $5,000 worth of web services from a volunteer for the cost of their low monthly membership fee.
Through Catchafire's online platform, social impact companies are matched with professionals who want to donate their skills to a cause. Nonprofits pay a monthly fee and have limitless access to projects. Professionals within the network, who offer their skills pro bono, range from coders to graphic designers to social media specialists to SEO strategists. Organizations fall into many categories such as arts and culture, civil rights, education and more. Each day tons of professionals and organizations are matched to accomplish digital projects like technology system audits, infographic design and Google Analytics Strategy.
Catchafire is about to spread to more Chicago nonprofits and social enterprises as it announces the winners of the #GiveAFire Chicago competition. Over 200 companies applied to the competition and were whittled down to 20 by top Chicago social-business activists like Jessica Malkin the executive director of Chicago Ideas Week, Suzanne Muchin founder of Mind + Matter Studio and Raaja Nemani, founder of Bucketfeet. The 20 companies will receive a free six-month membership to Catchafire’s skills-based volunteer matching service.
The company has already entered Chicago with much acclaim — not just by the judges, but many local social impact companies as well. “So many of the Chicago technology and startup communities are committed to social impact and social enterprise and a scalable platform like Catchafire enables ALL of them to engage more deeply with more resources than they could on their own," said Michael Slaby former Chief Integration and Innovation Officer on Obama for America and current managing partner of Timshel. Slaby was a judge for #GiveAFire Chicago.
Here’s how the platform works: A nonprofit signs up and pays a monthly fee. They post the project they need completed — like market research analysis, website development, copywriting, merchandise design — and are matched with a volunteer who is passionate about their cause. Catchafire makes it easy for the social impact company to lay out their desired project and sets prerequisites for the match. For instance, if a nonprofit wants a Google Analytics strategy created, they need to have a staff member who will be able to implement the project after it’s developed.
Volunteers — the service providers — set the parameters and terms of the project. They lay out how many hours will be spent in development over a period of time. Some projects are one to two months, others are one to two weeks. It’s a well-built platform that covers all the bases of project management and even connects with LinkedIn for greater matching potential. The system is able to calculate the exact value of the projects, making it great for the volunteers portfolio and building the value profile of the non profit.
Tech-charged nonprofits and social enterprises have potential to radically change local economies. Catchafire’s project-based platform is the way nonprofits can adopt tech through mini-managed projects and expand their reach at a low monthly investment.
“There is so much untapped potential to leverage technology to make social impact more effective and efficient,” said Jessica Droste Yagan, the CEO of The Impact Engine and one of the judges of the #GiveAFire Chicago campaign.
Yagan went on to note the trend in what Chicago do-gooders are in need of: “Almost all applications focused on how to use storytelling, websites, data, and other components to spread their messages, get donors, and generally advance their missions.”
This was true for the Peace Corner Youth Center, which, by the way, went on to use Catchafire’s services for two more projects.
Other local social impact companies joining them that are the winners of the #GiveAFire Chicago campaign are:
- Youth Guidance
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