By Marie LeBlanc, Community Partnerships Coordinator
“If ninety people give ten dollars each, we can provide a home full of furniture to a person transitioning out of homelessness.”
So reads Pathways to Housing DC’s convincing pitch in Groupon Grassroots this week. To date, Pathways to Housing DC (a Catalogue nonprofit that provides housing first, and then accompanying social services to individuals living in chronic homelessness) surpassed its goal of raising $900, with 140 vouchers purchased to support their project.
Groupon Grassroots is the nonprofit arm of Groupon and works to leverage the site’s brand and popularity to “activate citizenship and foster neighborhood advancement through the world’s commerce operating system.” Grassroots operates with a few main principles: helping people find a cause, fostering collective action through an online community, and supporting local projects and initiatives. Local nonprofits can apply online with a specific project or campaign. Groupon Grassroots then vets the organizations, makes its selections, and works with the nonprofits to create an effective campaign. When the campaign goes live, a certain number of people must commit to buying a voucher before the project reaches a “tipping point” and the nonprofit receives the committed funds. If the required “tipping point” isn’t met, the nonprofit does not get any money — so creating an online hype around the campaign is key.
According to Hannah Zollman, Pathways to Housing DC’s Director of Development, Groupon’s support during the entire process was extremely welcome and beneficial: “They really work with the nonprofits from start to finish, helping with all parts of planning the campaign, and writing a pitch to the media.” The timing of the campaign worked especially well for Pathways to Housing DC, which is currently hitting the ground on a new Veteran’s Administration contract to provide permanent housing for 50 area veterans.
Several other Catalogue charities have used Groupon Grassroots to fundraise during the past year, including Miriam’s Kitchen, Young Playwright’s Theater, DC Scores, and A-SPAN. All campaigns are specifically project based, with a budget of $500 to $1000 — a requirement of Groupon Grassroots. However, there is the question of whether a one-off, project-based fundraising campaign that doesn’t directly connect donors and nonprofits will create the lasting relationships that Groupon Grassroots claims to foster. The site doesn’t share “buyer” (donor) information with its “sellers” (nonprofits), and so instead encourages individuals to reach out to the nonprofits directly to follow up and stay abreast of updates on the project. Whether this happens, and donors stay connected, is not clear, particularly as the onus of developing that relationship falls on the individual donor and not the nonprofit.
Have you participated in a Groupon Grassroots campaign, or similar online fundraising push? Did it lead to a long-term, as well as short-term, impact on your fundraising and donor development? Let us know!