'Partying with a purpose'

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September 14, 2009 // UPDATED 9:26 am - September 14, 2009
By: Amanda Kushner
Amanda Kushner

// Seven young professionals have teamed up to leverage their Social Capital //


It challenges the assumption of how fundraising works: It’s about choice. It’s about donating your time, not just money. It’s about community. It’s about social networking. It is about “partying with a purpose,” according to the group’s website.

Social Capital started as a conversation among friends last winter. And in less than a year the group of seven founders has raised more than $10,000 for charities through an event-based fundraiser. Social Capital plans to host an event each quarter.


It’s not exclusive

All events are free, and fundraising is based off of suggested donations, said Zach Kuney, founder and business development director.

Matt Marakovitz, founder and director of marketing, said that he knows that charitable giving is down. “It was a proof point of why we really felt compelled to keep the suggested donation. Talk about low price points, it also helps people that want to give more,” Marakovitz said. “This gives them donation strategy options as well as volunteer options.”

The founders chose this specific event model to be innovative and refreshing, and to avoid excluding those that can’t afford a specific donation.

“People felt like a lot of times event-based fundraising was exclusive, whether that be the price point or the sentiment of the organization putting them together,” Kuney said.

People that can’t afford a monetary donation can come to the event, meet the charities and get involved by donating their time, he said.


Successful start

When Elisabeth Loeffler, development and communications director of Clare Housing, one of the supported charities, showed up early on Aug. 8
 to set up for the group’s first event at The Loop Bar and Restaurant, 606 Washington Ave. N., she said she had no idea what to expect.

But when she walked in, she was impressed to see all volunteers sporting Social Capital shirts, and a video on all of The Loop TVs had information about the charities and Social Capital.

Social Capital wanted to ensure that each donation would make an impact and therefore chose to support smaller charities that had a local connection, Marakovitz said. One of the organization’s values is that participants choose where their donation goes. So three charities — Bridges to Learning, Clare Housing and Camp Odayin — attended the event and interacted with participants.

All told, Social Capital raised more than $10,000 for the charities.

People were passionate about the reason they chose a charity, Marakovitz said. And if anyone wants their money evenly divided they can donate directly to Social Capital, which evenly split those donations in full to the three causes.

“We are committed to making sure every dollar that is donated, down to the last penny, is donated to the charity,” Kuney said.

Grant Barrick, board member of Bridges to Learning, said had he not known it was the group’s first event he would have thought it was their 50th. What made the experience unique is how little Social Capital asked of Bridges to Learning.

“They really act as almost distributors from a traditional business model where they take your brand, and they take your model, and they go out and sell it on your behalf,” he said.


An identity

It’s an idea people become attached to. The group did their homework and conducted focus groups. During group introductions one person introduced themselves by stating their name followed by “I am part of Social Capital,” Marakovitz said.

And why are they named Social Capital? The group is trying to leverage their networks and social capital, Marakovitz said.

“It is not something that is static, so you can keep building on social capital, which is really the power of our idea,” Kuney said describing how the possibilities are infinite.


Social Networking

It is about expanding networks.

“Social networking plays a critical role in our strategy,” Marakovitz said. “We believe that social networks hold power, and through leveraging our collective Social Capital, we can inspire and drive results.”

Social Capital is using Facebook to build their network, and they quickly had more than 1,000 members. The group is continuing to brainstorm and expand their digital strategy, Marakovitz said.

And during events Social Capital introduces passionate people that
are excited about different causes, and it introduces them to different establishments.

The first event brought together “like minded people that were demographically very different,” Kuney said.


Reaching new audiences

In this economic climate nonprofits are trying to reach new audiences, said Loeffler.

“This was a great way for us to be introduced to a younger audience and for a younger audience to be introduced to our cause,” she said.

Barrick agreed that Social Capital is introducing a new segment to their organization. He said that the event’s target demographic and social network is an untapped group in terms of previous donors.


The next step

Following the event the group conducted an internal postmortem and strengths include the group’s branding, ability to work as a team, strategy and execution, Marakovitz said.

And the next step is an innovation summit to look at how to move Social Capital beyond quarterly events. The group is looking for the cool next thing and to identity strategies that will keep Social Capital relevant and meaningful to their core network, he said.

Social Capital hopes to invite restaurant owners, nonprofit organizations, entrepreneurs and industry experts to discuss strategies for Social Capital to tweak their service proposition and their long-term strategy later this month.

Also, on Oct. 3 Social Capital is participating in Camp Odayin’s seventh annual run and walk. Social Capital will volunteer and run in the event.

“We really hope that Social Capital is going to be a strong supporter in the nonprofit community in the Twins Cities because I really think that they really tapped into something special,” Loeffler said.