Nonprofits cultivate creative new ways to raise funds

In a world inundated with new technologies and greater enthusiasm for community involvement, nonprofits have new, innovative options for fundraising.

In a world inundated with new technologies and greater enthusiasm for community involvement, nonprofits have new, innovative options for fundraising.

Grassroots Enterprise, a communications firm specializing in building grassroots support, recently launched "Grassroots Multiplier PhoneTheVote." The technology enables clients to identify targeted volunteers and empower them to garner donations using mobile devices with Web access. Volunteers do outreach and nonprofits can see the results in "real time."

"People have a lot to do, so now you can mobilize the effort, turn idle time into activism time, pull out the Blackberry, access the names you volunteered to call, and make a call you're committed to," says EVP Bill McIntyre.

FundingFactory uses less advanced technology to help nonprofits raise money. Since 1997, it has been collecting used cell phones and printer cartridges, from schools and nonprofits, to be recycled. They pay for shipping and provide customer support and promotional materials, including letter templates, so schools can spread the word to supporters.

Valerie Hammond, marketing manager at FundingFactory, says, "We have groups that have earned over $50,000... but this is really an add-on to traditional fundraisers, an environmentally friendly fundraiser that helps [participants] subsidize their programs."

Smashed is a group that finds fun events for associated charities, and sometimes plans custom events around specific charities, with the intention of using less formal means to raise small amounts of money ($1-$5,000).

Founder and co-president Ellen Shortill says, "Living in DC, I had friends in their 20s and 30s, who were tired of black-tie events."

Relying upon word of mouth and a Web site, the group more than tripled the number of participants at its second annual Iditarod - the only of its kind used to raise money and support food banks.

Regarding their Man Pageant event, a mustache-growing contest benefiting the Capitol Queen for a Day group and children with cancer, Shortill said, "We found charities that matched perfectly with the activities."

"We started with the idea that there are fun and entertaining things out there," she adds. "Small aounts of money [create] just as much change as big events."

Key points:
Outreach to charities can help word-of-mouth promotion for nonprofit fundraising events

Both the environment and nonprofits benefit from used-tech donations

Mobile Internet devices can empower volunteers to raise funds in real time

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