“Ladies Who Launch Non-Profits” is an ongoing series celebrating women who are engaged with the world around them and have committed themselves to the selfless act of starting a non-profit. Their positive impact is often immeasurable and most definitely commendable. They inspire us to think big and do better in the world.
What’s the name of your non-profit and what’s its mission?
We are Designed Giving – the nonprofit that funds other nonprofits. It’s alchemy – turning treasures into contribution. Our mission statement is: Designed Giving is a nonprofit 501(c)3 dedicated to increasing charitable giving by connecting nonprofits, donors, and impact shoppers. Designed Giving accepts donations of art, fashion, jewelry, home decor and more, and assembles those assets into a highly curated retail and e-commerce environment. Resulting sales significantly benefit our donor-designated non-profit partners. Donor and buyer efforts combine to build a nonprofit community hub that facilitates otherwise unrealized opportunities to create cash.
What made you decide to start a non-profit?
It began while at a New Year’s Eve party two years ago, when our catch-up conversation quickly turned to career – and then we shared our nonprofit dreams. We quickly realized that merging our efforts and concepts would create a venture with huge impact. Each of us had been involved in nonprofit volunteering and fundraising during our corporate careers. Individually we each had identified a nonprofit funding challenge and its accompanying solution. Together we realized that as a team the Designed Giving venture provided a unique opportunity in nonprofit funding – a viable and valuable niche. We could provide a previously unrealized revenue stream for charities where donors could increase their giving without writing another check. The momentum fueled itself as we enthusiastically engaged in building Designed Giving from the ground up.
What’s been the most rewarding moment since launching?
There are several: First, finding a prestigious law firm that believed in our concept, providing all services necessary to incorporate and obtain our 501c3, pro bono. Another would be the day we were federally approved as a 501c3. Also having our initial board meeting facilitated by Paul Vandeventer, CEO of Community Partners – this was a huge vote of confidence by a significant thought leader in the nonprofit world. But the most rewarding was at year-end, when we actually met with the development directors of some of the most amazing nonprofits to deliver in-person the funds that we had earned over the course of 2014 – this was truly the most rewarding experience.
What are your goals over the next year?
We have three. The first is to find permanent work/retail/warehouse space. The second is to build our ecommerce website. The third is to expand our donor base and cultivate relationships with a few angel donors.
If you could request resources or help, what would it be?
This relates directly back to our goals for 2015. We would love to speak with commercial real estate developers about donated or reduced rate workspace. We have established the specs for upgrading our website and look forward to engaging a supporter/donor to raise the funds to develop such a site and get it up and running. Lastly it would be great to identify a pool of angel donors to both expand our inventory and create funds for us to scale.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to start his or her own charity?
It would be a good idea to research the cause you wish to impact, identify the competition and analyze whether it still makes sense to strike out on your own or see if there’s a way to join an existing operation. It takes lots of time and commitment to get a nonprofit up and running. If you find an established charity, your energy could be spent volunteering or working within their structure if they have a similar mission. It could do more for the cause much sooner. Or you would gain valuable experience enabling success for your new enterprise, when you do set out on your own.
What unexpected obstacles have you encountered? How did you overcome it?
Our social venture business model may have appeared obstacle ridden to some, as it is a complex business model upon first glance, but we used those experiences to hone our message. Every time we’ve run into an obstacle, we’ve realized that it means there is a lesson in it for us that moves us closer and closer to realizing the dream of what Designed Giving can do.
If you are interested in participating in their non-profit as a patron, donor, corporate sponsor, or volunteer, we encourage you to reach out to them.