Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Field Report: Green Light New Orleans

I, personally, hate online fundraisers! I know the idea of using today’s social media outlets improves fundraising, and that, I can handle. What I struggle with is the increased presence of online fundraising sites and non-profit organizations increasingly spending more and more time and effort on these nation and international fundraisers. It takes a lot of effort to win the funding from these sources, i.e. Global Giving, Pepsi Refresh, Kickstarter, etc.  It is an investment of time to set up these projects, and basically becomes a full-time job to manage the project—what with email blasts, Facebook reminders, Tweets linking followers to the voting button, and all of the other outlets through which an organization attempts to market itself.

Now, maybe this isn’t too difficult for larger organizations, but for a struggling non-profit with only two staff members and three AmeriCorps volunteers, this becomes a riskier investment. Much time and attention from just a few individuals must be focused on the progress of these projects in order for the organization to reap any benefit, which is still not guaranteed. Green Light has spent (and is continuing to spend) much time and effort into vying for funds from various online fundraisers. That became my primary assignment—or new focus shift, if you will—a little over a month ago.

After one attempt at submitting a project for the Pepsi Refresh challenge, which was unsuccessful do to the fact that thousands of other people across the nation are trying to do the same thing at the same exact second, I got to refine the project only to completely scrap the project and create a completely new project focused on oil spill recovery at the very last minute. Needless to say, I think that the idea to expand our operations out to areas affect by the oil spill is nothing short of necessary. Green Light seeks to assist those with the fewest resources and the Gulf communities affected by the spill definitely fit that description at this time. So, I re-do the project emphasizing that any relief that these community members receive helps, and that we are providing a free installation of energy saving light bulbs which results in lower electricity bills, and I recreate all of the social media messages that are scheduled to go out for the entire on Hootsuite (thank you Dominica), and I attempt to submit the project at 11:00:01pm CST, and mine is not one of the first 1000 projects accepted. Anger ensued! I have since attempted to submit this project for the 3rd time, it was finally accepted and will be posted as of August 1st. This is of no comfort to me…none…well, aside from the knowledge that I will never have to wait around to press that submit button again, ever!…

Also, as I’m sure anyone reading this is aware, Green Light participated in an Ebay-Humanity Calls Fundraising Tournament for the Environment. We did this in collaboration with our sister organization Green Light South Carolina. The ED in South Carolina set up the project, I modified it, we were going to both work on promoting it while she took the lead on management of the project. Well, when I mention that we have only a few weeks left, Green Light freaks out and decides that we should make major push to get in a position to receive funding. For two weeks, multiple times a day, email messages, Facebook notifications, and even phone calls soliciting friends to vote consumed the activities of everyone at Green Light. I think back on that and I honestly cannot see that the benefit of our time and energy outweighed the cost of all of our effort. We did, on a positive note, end up in 10th place, receiving about $3500. But is that sum of money really worth the time spent on promoting the fundraiser?…

And that’s not even the end of it! As of yesterday (July 5th) Green Light’s fundraising project for communities affected by the oil disaster became active on Global Giving. This fundraiser is based solely on donors- donors are able to see a project description with tangible goals and donate based on designated amounts that identify the amount of energy saving bulbs that those funds will provide. A very cool way for people wishing to donate money to find an organization or mission that they really care about. I am in charge of managing this project as well. I fear that after bombarding people with requests for the last online fundraiser we did, no one will be willing to donate to our cause such a short time after we last asked them to help. AND, our ED wants me to do this again next month- with Pepsi Refresh up and running at that time, mind you- with yet ANOTHER online fundraising forum, Kickstarter. I think Kickstarter is the most interesting and innovative of all online fundraising we’ve had experience with, I just cannot image someone wanting to donate to our organization by that time after we have harassed them for months about other fundraisers.

All in all, though online fundraising sites seem like a really great way for non-profits to compete for funds I have come to believe that they are largely ineffective, time consuming, and overall just not cost-effective. I’m amazed by organization that are able to effectively use these platforms (kudos Mondo Bizzaro), but I would not recommend them to my friends for their organizations…at least not while I’m still fuming about them. Well, sorry for the rant, but I just needed to air that. Other than that, Green Light has been “interesting” as usual- one of our current NCCC members was removed from the team, I’m now doing volunteer coordination (whooray!) in addition to all of my other tasks (boo!), and one of our AmeriCorps* State and National Delta Direct Service members ended her service at Green Light early due to her dissatisfaction with her job assignment and the management of the organization…but more about that later, I’m sure… -Lindsey Roper, AmerCorps VISTA

To learn more about Green Light New Orleans, visit their website at: http://greenlightneworleans.org.

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Notes from the field from the AmeriCorps VISTA team at Tulane University.

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