Giving on the Main Line

Main Liners find unique ways to contribute.

(page 4 of 5)

Making Charity More Sociable

With help from a well-connected Main Line native, givezooks! looks to spark an online philanthropy revolution.
By Adam Polaski

Main Line native Chris Giles, customer services manager at givezooks!MySpace introduced the concept of virtual social networking; eBay pioneered the online shopping marketplace; Craigslist transferred the classified pages from print to the Internet. Now, another company is poised to revolutionize the nonprofit sector. Givezooks! seeks to maximize the fundraising, advocacy and outreach efforts of nonprofit groups, offering a one-stop portal for all their needs. It’s one of the first real attempts to utilize the Web to benefit charities, which have traditionally struggled to take advantage of new technology.

Givezooks! is committed to the “social fundraising” concept of merging aspects of networking websites like Facebook with online philanthropy. It provides a platform for nonprofits to start campaigns, publicize their causes, accrue donations and organize communities of supporters. Individual users can track the progress of their favorite causes, donate directly—with 100 percent of the donation going toward the group—or even begin their own grassroots campaign, inviting friends and family to help them meet a fundraising goal.

The multitude of features available on givezooks!—including customized wish lists and ways for organizations to use the website as their platform for e-mail, advertising and donation management—reflects the company’s desire to maximize the potential of these groups. In essence, the product allows nonprofits to create a rich, dense micro-website so that, eventually, givezooks! can serve as an online catalog of local and national causes.

Givezooks! was born out of a mutual appreciation for the work of nonprofits and shared recognition of the struggles they face in reaching out to supporters. Founders Joe Fazio, Dave Parsin and husband-and-wife team Eric and Carol Schrader all have extensive software and marketing backgrounds. They also volunteer. “We wanted to leverage our tech background and marketing expertise into online philanthropy,” says Schrader, now the company’s CEO. “We saw that there was a need for that, and it was a different way of giving back. We’re hopefully improving the efficiency of the nonprofit sector as a whole.”

Based in Santa Barbara and Palo Alto, Calif., givezooks! is now targeting Philadelphia as another “hub” city. The company’s customer services manager, Main Line native Chris Giles, cites the more than 40,000 area organizations in the IRS database as evidence of the city’s dedication to charity. “It’s such a hotbed for young, energetic people doing grassroots kinds of things,” says Giles, who’s the son of Phillies chairman Bill Giles.

One recent givezooks! convert is the Philadelphia Committee to End Homelessness, which has been coordinating its inaugural fundraising campaign using the service. “Our ability to house homeless families depends greatly on the generosity of donors,” says PCEH’s Kathleen Lewis. “We’ve found that lots of people want to help but don’t know how to get started. Givezooks! gives them the opportunity to become involved and to choose their level of involvement.”

The jury’s still out on whether this online formula will actually catch on in our area, but here’s one promising statistic to ponder: Givezooks! reports that the average donation processed through its site is $458. Not a bad onetime haul for any nonprofit—big or small.

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