Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 44 seconds

givingtuesdayThis year Giving Tuesday saw an uptick in donations as they raised approximately $117 million dollars by over a million different donors for charities and nonprofits around the world. Giving Tuesday started in 2012 in response to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Each year the amount of donations steadily increased for campaigns that help the homeless, domestic assault victims, and animals among other causes. While there’s no doubt that Giving Tuesday was a success, I kept wondering how much of an impact it made. While writing my monthly review featuring 121Giving, I figured I’d ask co-founder and COO of the company; Liz Deering.


In Use:
Deering said that while some of the charities that use 121Giving did see an increase in traffic, they still grapple with how to engage donors all year round. Sandra Miniutti, vice president of nonprofit Charity Navigator, reiterates this problem in an interview with NBC News about Giving Tuesday. Miniutti states, "As for its overall impact, I don't know that it has significantly moved the needle on total annual donations to charities." When it comes to awareness both women believe that Giving Tuesday is essential to educating donors about different charities and causes in their community.

121Giving is a for-profit platform that helps nonprofits and charities purchase much-needed items. A donor would log on to the website, look at the various campaigns available and give money to an organization of their choice. The donation goes directly in the nonprofit’s 121Giving account in which they can use to purchase items from 121Giving’s store. 121Giving has worked with numerous companies and vendors to give the nonprofits a discount on items they need such as backpacks, diapers, baby food, books etc. For instance, one campaign on their website is Front Steps who work with disabled and injured homeless in Austin, Texas. On their campaign they’re asking for 20 walkers and wheelchairs to assist their clients.  If I were a giver, I would donate $50 towards their campaign and they would be able to use that money to purchase a walker or a wheelchair in 121Giving’s online store.

Technology Used:

Both donors and charities only have to have a computer and an Internet connection to use 121Giving.

Easy of Use:  
I found 121Giving’s layout to be a bit hard to figure out. When you first login to the website you are taken to the homepage which features a testimonial video and beneath it one charity’s campaign. Does this mean only one charity is running a campaign with 121Giving at the moment? If not, how do I get to the other charities? There’s also a bar at the top of the page that follows you as you scroll down. This bar is for donors or “givers”. It asks the giver who they want to help (communities or families); what these people are struggling with (housing) and where (Austin, TX). Because these are the user’s only options I assume that Front Step is the only campaign active on 121Giving’s website at the moment.

Next, I clicked on the upper right hand corner where it says; “Find a Charity.” This gave me a list of all the charities that work with 121Giving but don’t necessarily have a campaign. It gives a small blurb about the charity and then a space where you can donate money with a reminder that 100% of the donation goes to the nonprofit organization’s account to buy the goods they need. So…is it the hardest website to navigate? No. Could it be easier? Yes.

Recap:
121Giving is a platform that helps organizations purchase much-needed items at a discounted rate. A charity using 121Giving has various options. They can run a campaign asking donors (or givers) to donate money to their organization and then use that money to purchase items in 121Giving’s online store. 121Giving’s online store features heavily discounted items such as books, furniture and toiletries. Or donors can donate to the organization regardless of a campaign or not. Again this money will go into the charity’s 121Giving account in which the charity can purchase items on the website.

Advantages:

  • 100% of donations go directly to the charity or organization. If you decide to donate $40, the charity of your choice gets $100. You do however have to pay an 8% fee in which 5% goes to 121Giving and 3% to Donate Well- a donation processing system. There is also a standard 3% credit card fee that is also added onto the check. Therefore if you donate $100 to an organization through 121Giving you’d end up paying $111.00 ($8 for processing fee and 3 for credit card fee).

  • There’s a variety of items that a charity or nonprofit can choose from. From furniture to toiletries and books. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, 121Giving will do it’s best to help you find it.

  • These items that charities so desperately need, but may not be able to afford are all highly discounted. This way they can purchase more items then they could at a department store.

  • Not only can a donor give money to a charity at anytime, charities can organize campaigns through 121Giving if they need a particular item.

  • 121Giving works with any charity as long they have a 501c. There are no restrictions.

  • 121Giving gives charities and nonprofits access to items that they might not be able to have afforded otherwise. They give nonprofits a place to tell their stories and reach out to potential donors and volunteers.

  • If a nonprofit runs a campaign through 121Giving and do not reach their goal- they still get the money that has been donated to them.

  • Disadvantages:

  • Their website is hard to navigate

  • Works with nonprofits mainly in Texas, but hopes to expand to charities and nonprofits around the country.

  • The company is less than a year old and hopes to be able to reach more donors as they grow and expand

  • Recap:
    When I spoke to Liz Deering she was very enthusiastic about 121Giving and everything it has to offer. I think the concept of the online store is very interesting. Take that away and you have just another crowdsourcing website. But with the webstore, Deering and co-founder Mark Courtney have given nonprofits and charities a place where they can purchase new items at discounted prices. Nonprofits and charities usually accept gently used items because they can’t afford to purchase new items. Now they can. Instead of giving a child a used backpack, with 121Giving a child can get a new backpack – a great feeling for someone who may doesn’t normally have that opportunity. There’s going to be some kinks along the way, but if Deering and Courtney maneuver through these first couple years I think they have a solid business plan and great opportunity ahead of them to help nonprofits and charities around the country.
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    Danielle Loughnane

    Danielle Loughnane earned her B.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College and has currently been working in the data science field since 2015. She is the author of a comic book entitled, “The Superhighs” and wrote a blog from 2011-2015 about working in the restaurant industry called, "Sir I Think You've Had Too Much.” In her spare time she likes reading graphic novels and snuggling with her dogs.

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