Nonprofits and Social Media: The Business of Social Business

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The business of social business is getting big; and that’s great news for nonprofit organizations (NPOs). Sites that allow you to set up a web page and raise money online are popping up all over the internet. Sites like www.razoo.com and www.firstgiving.com are great examples of this. As I started to research this idea a little more, however, I discovered a different approach to social business and crowdsourcing with a new company called CharitySub (short for Charity Subscription).

CharitySub is a self-described social business that operates on a different model than Razoo or First Giving. The company enlists members who commit to giving $5 per month to one of the featured NPOs that it has chosen. CharitySub has built in donations, guaranteeing that there will be money raised and donated each month – with no additional work from the NPO. What’s not to love about this?

So how does it work? CharitySub chooses a cause to sponsor each month. July’s cause is the prevention of child trafficking in the United States. Members who have signed up are sent a reminder to log on and designate their $5 to one of three featured NPOs that support the monthly cause. All of the member money is then split up based on the percentage of votes received from members.

Jim Crews, CEO of CharitySub, was nice enough to sit down with me via phone from New York and tell me about his new endeavor and how he hopes this social business will show people how a lot of people giving a little bit of money can make a big difference.

Crews, along with his wife Amy, began brainstorming this idea last year. They eventually brought Brian Cantrell and Alexis Winslow on board and the site went live in January.

“This really was born out of a common thread from donors that when you make a donation you’re rewarded with spam and no personal communication. It’s frustrating,” said Crews. “You have no idea what the money did. There’s no accountability and no real relationship between the organization and donor. That’s a problem. If nonprofits want to continue to receive money they need to work more on relationship building. They might be good at that offline but online is kind of dark.”

Crews describes CharitySub as part education and part introduction to philanthropy for first time donors. “We want everyone to be able to participate – high school kids, senior citizens, everyone,” Crews said. “That’s why it’s just $5 per month.”

With just under 300 members right now, the $1500 a month that is split up between three NPOs probably isn’t life changing for the orgs. The residual effects, however, definitely have impact. “A lot of our partners find the biggest benefit of this is outsourcing their social media for a month,” Crews said. “We create emails for them to send out to promote their participation and when members vote for them, they are prompted to share that on Facebook or Twitter with a link to the partner site.”

CharitySub also produces a short video for each NPO that is featured on its site and is given to the NPO to do whatever they like with it. Video production in and of itself is a service that most of these orgs aren’t able to do on their own. The NPOs are also benefiting from ramped up social media coverage and word of mouth promotion from members. It’s like winning the public relations lottery for a small NPO.

CharitySub isn’t a 501(c)(3), but donations made through the company are tax deductible. Crews said they use a pass through foundation to ensure all the charities are financially sound and year-end tax receipts are available for donors. While the directors of CharitySub aren’t paid, they do have operating costs that are covered through an optional $1 per month donation by members. “Just about everyone gives the $1,” Crews said. “It’s in the high 80s percent range.”

Members and NPOs can nominate organizations to be chosen through a form on the website, but Crews said they have a lot of help with that process, including an advisory council that helps them connect with nonprofits. “We try to find organizations that are taking three different approaches to finding solutions to the cause. We try to look at a local, regional and national organization, too.”

As for the frustration of not knowing how your donation was spent, Crews has addressed that issue by creating monthly impact reports that are emailed to all the members. The report outlines how much money was raised for the cause and how the money was spent. April’s impact report about how members helped support NPOs that protect clean water can be seen here.

“This is just a fun way to learn about important issues, nonprofits and good work,” Crews said. “It’s a simple site for people to enjoy.”

What do you think of CharitySub?

Amy Stephan
This monthly Social Media and Nonprofits column is contributed by Amy Stephan. Amy is a consultant and non-profit professional with more than 10 years of field experience working in fundraising and development. She provides nonprofits with help in fundraising and major gifts, capital campaigns, board and volunteer development and staff leadership, working with organizations of all sizes to plan, implement and assess social media strategies. While holding leadership positions with local branches of organizations such as Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the American Diabetes Association, Amy developed a passion for all things related to fundraising and non-profits. In addition to her non-profit work, she is a freelance writer and blogger who has worked as a full-time writer and editor for daily newspapers and magazines. +Amy Stephan
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Fundraising Consultant • Nonprofit Leadership Executive • Denver Broncos Fanatic • Coffee Addict
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