In three and a half years, BESA has connected over 5,000 volunteers with 600 plus service projects equating to more than $425,000 worth of goods and services. The platform not only helps connect volunteers to opportunities on a local level, but a newly launched service, BESA Promise, offers a solution to large corporations to manage their philanthropy programs.
Founder Matthew Goldstein saw the difficulty that organizing volunteers could be when he would encourage his teammates at his previous job at Abercrombie & Fitch to volunteer with him. Sometimes five coworkers showed up, sometimes it was 100.
“Here are smart, talented people that want to give back but aren’t sure how to give back,” Goldstein says. “That’s what BESA is all about.”
BESA provides a curated list of high-impact volunteer efforts addressing community issues like hunger, homelessness, HIV/AIDS and developmental disabilities, along with times, locations and a place to sign up.
“Our target demographic is young professionals or working professionals, people who are very busy and they don’t have time to figure out how to get involved and we just make it easy for them,” Goldstein says.
BESA makes it easy for its corporate partners to manage their volunteer efforts as well. Kauffman Development, Jeni’s, Express and more use the platform to measure individual and corporate volunteer efforts. Individual, tailored sites help a business’ employees keep track of their volunteer hours and really see the impact they make in the community, and also gives them access to company-specific volunteer opportunities.
BESA wants coordinate unique opportunities that align with a business’ mission.
“It’s trying to figure out what are the values and competencies of this organization and how can we find a partner that fits the type of issues they want to address,” Goldstein says.
For example, tapping into the artistic talent that many Jeni’s employees embody, BESA partnered the business with St. Stephen’s Community House to create an interactive mural. A unique opportunity, a group of 90 Express employees helped the Columbus Diaper Coalition package 50,000 diapers in just 90 minutes – a process CDC expected to take a month.
Managing volunteer engagement for its corporate partners is one revenue stream for the nonprofit. BESA also relies on grants and individual donors, but a new social enterprise, BESA Promise, is helping to diversity its revenue stream.
As a nonprofit, there are only so many donation dollars and grants to go after, and it’s often difficult to find compelling reasons why one organization should receive money over another when everyone is doing great work. Social enterprise curbs that issue.
“What I love about social enterprise is instead of me going to company and saying, ‘Give us a donation,’ it’s, ‘Here’s an incredible service that we can provide in return for a contribution,’ so it’s a win for everybody,” Goldstein says.
BESA Promise offers large corporations a platform to manage and drive their philanthropy programs. The nonprofit knows it’s a service these large, 1,000 plus employers are interested in because they helped initiate it.
Safelite AutoGlass reached out to BESA. They loved the platform. They loved the connections and the valued it provided, but that wasn’t the problem. The issue was Safelite’s management of their grants program and employee volunteer hours. Managing the grants program was a scattered affair run through emails, Excel and admin hours, instead of a singular platform to drive the process. Safelite also gives their employees 16 hours off a year to volunteer, but again there was no real system in place to manage when and where employees were logging hours. Big Lots revealed they were facing similar issues.
BESA asked themselves if this was something they could find a solution to.
“I think it’s so critically important that you make sure that the social enterprise that you are building fits within the scope of your mission and the identity of your organization, and I see BESA Promise 100 percent within that realm,” Goldstein says.
Launched with help from Big Lots, Safelite and The Columbus Foundation, BESA Promise tackles both of those issues with software management solutions.Employee pages track volunteer hours completed versus goal, as well as the company’s progress as a whole. Individuals can see details about company-specific service projects, information like who else is attending and leave feedback once a project is completed. Employees can also submit hours for independent projects.
When it comes to the grants side, BESA Promise streamlines the process and houses a wealth of information that businesses can use to make decision about their philanthropy efforts.
The software manages grant applicants from both inside and outside the business. When an organization applies for a grant, the software pulls info from the request and starts building a profile. The profile tracks information like if the charity has applied for a grant before, if it was funded and how much money was provided, and integrates valuable feedback from associates that have volunteered with the organization.
“It’s giving the companies a more well-rounded picture of the charities that are trying to forge a relationship with them,” Goldstein says.
The software also manages accepted grants, allowing the business to make payments and track how it fits in with their overall goals.
Service projects and grants are coded corresponding to different service sectors like health, homelessness and hunger. It helps a business choose events and grants that align with their mission or are important to the organization, and track the impact they have in each of those areas.
Having just launched at the end of February, Goldstein says feedback has already been incredible.
“We definitely look to add more partners,” he says.
Adding more partners means BESA can expand its reach as well.
“We know based on revenue we can manage up to 250 service projects a year, but the demand is for more and so BESA Promise is a vehicle to help fund the BESA program so that we can provide more opportunities,” Goldstein says.
The organization has also seen much interest from smaller businesses and even schools and towns. While the current platform would be cost-prohibitive to a smaller group, Goldstein says BESA is exploring a solution that would cater to smaller organizations.
For more information, visit givebesa.org.
Note: Amazon is not a Besa client.
BONUS! Update: Goldstein talks about making an impact on The Confluence Cast from Columbus Underground! Listen here.