Business, City Transformation, Creativity

Southeast Michigan’s arts-and-culture scene receives mega online donation platform

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Online donations, albeit simple, can feel impersonal. So how about this: Donate to the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum to buy new environmentally friendly light bulbs, and the staff there will let you install your very own on site.

9095-ASC-Pwer2Give_logo_exp_rv9Maybe not every donation to the new power2give program will have such an illuminating perk. But I’d take that – and the satisfaction, matching grant and social-media power – that comes with this unique fund-raising website any day.

Starting today, Detroit-based CultureSource will launch the Southeast Michigan version of power2give, allowing the region to give funds to a bevy of non-profit organizations such as AAHO, Living Arts, Detroit Artist Market and more.

Pewabic Pottery wants portable potting wheels to do on-site education, particularly at schools. Arts & Scraps wants a website you can see on your mobile device and functions well in other cases.  The Carr Center wants to support new, fun lunchtime entertainment programs. Redford’s Motor City Youth Theatre hopes for new stage lights. Detroit’s MOSAIC Youth Theatre is asking for new, comfy seats for its new black-box theater. ACCESS and the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn hope to buy tablets to display the photo work from their youth photography programs. Pretty legit, all.

Clare Pfeiffer

Clare Pfeiffer

“Online giving is one of the fastest growing areas of giving, so we wanted to make it accessible to all of our member organizations,” said Maud Lyon, executive director of CultureSource, a professional association comprised of more than 115 organizations that serve the arts and culture communities.

Having such power in numbers has given CultureSource the venue to create power2give based on an existing platform. This helps its members create donation campaigns in a group setting so that they can spend their time and resources in more evocative ways.

More importantly, it increases their exposure to new donors – to the people who would give them the money they need to achieve great things for Detroit, its neighboring cities and, ultimately, for Michigan as a whole. Because the more we do for these organizations, the better our lives collectively are for it.

Lyon notes that research shows that the younger generation(s) want to give money to individual projects; they don’t necessarily feel the warm fuzzies throwing their Benjamins at large, impersonal, monolithic organizations. power2give is designed to outline these one-time needs in a way that helps individuals see where their money is going and to engage them in the process of not only getting to know the group but invest in their growth.

Here’s the background. The Arts and Science Council of Charlotte-Mecklenberg (North Carolina, y’all) developed power2give when it realized that traditional donations were waning, particularly when it came to workforce or employer-based donating. The group, which helps raise funds and re-grant them to member organizations, wanted power2give to be just one more tool these groups could use to meet their missions.

ACCESSsurareflection-1Thanks to CultureSource, Southeast Michigan is the 18th market to go online with its own version. That’s pretty impressive when you think about how power2give went national so quickly, and it is about two years old. That speaks to not only the importance of these groups, but to the strength of donating through project-based sites (much like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and the like).

To date, about 44 percent of the people using power2give are new to the organization they end up giving money to – and you bet that percentage is something that impressed CultureSource and its members. Bravo, crowdfunding and bravo to the crowds with deep pockets.

More background: The mission of CultureSource is to connect people of every age, gender and other stuff to arts and culture in Southeastern Michigan. It essentials helps nonprofit arts and culture organizations to thrive and to be sustainable community assets.

It has worked closely with its members to create project sites, and some 30 groups will be among those with the first requests. Donors see their mission, and the relationship is developed and sealed. It is designed for anything that costs between $500 to $10,000, Lyon said. The project-funding stage will last about three months, giving organizations a precious 90 days to get the word out there.

Another facet of power2give that Lyon likes is that social media is a key player. People can share their donations, sure. But they also can set up challenges to family and friends, seeing if others will donation alongside them. And significant donors (ones like foundations, associations, extreme individual givers) can use the power2give platform to ensure their dollars go to the causes that move them, such as education.

To get us all started, the Ford Foundation is giving $60,000 in matching funds to the project. For every buck given on power2give, these non-profit groups will get a $1 match until the money runs out. So everyone might get what is on their wish lists and make all of our dollars go further. Win-win.

“Power2give is not a short-term campaign; it’s an ongoing system,” Lyon said.

So far, has raised $3.1 million with more than 13,639 donations across 1,200 projects. I’d like to see Southeast Michigan beat that. I’d think we can do it and then some.

Update Friday evening from CultureSource: “Just 35 hours after it launched, power2give brought in more than $120,000 in funding for projects! And we set a launch-day record for the system, raising more money in the first 24 hours than any of the other 17 communities across the country using power2give. We had 35 organizations post projects, and they claimed the $60,000 match from the Ford Foundation in a little more than a day. By Friday morning, 335 donors had offered gifts!”

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