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from onPhilanthropy.com, April 18, 2002

Growing from the Grassroots
By Kate Golden

OIP Talks to Nancy Shaw, Director of Craig's List Foundation

OIP: Tell us a little bit about Craigslist.org and the genesis of the Craigslist Foundation.

CL: The Craigslist Foundation is an outgrowth of craigslist's community development efforts. Craigslist is devoted to helping local community, primarily by providing an online venue for people to connect for everyday needs. We realized there was an opportunity to utilize Craigslist's position to help connect people and nonprofits.

The Craigslist Foundation was incorporated in May 2001 with the mission of helping local nonprofits fulfill their missions. Incorporating a non-profit enabled us to elevate our community work to a higher priority, donate staff members fulltime to this work, and fundraise specifically for nonprofit work.

Craigslist.org continues to offer categories that help nonprofits: free job postings, a volunteers category, a category to find free or bartered stuff, and ability to post events and announcements in our "community" section.

OIP: In what ways does Craiglist Foundation support local community initiatives, and how large a role does the www.craigslistfoundation.org site play in involving community-based philanthropy?

CL: The Craigslist Foundation has a number of initiatives that help nonprofits and involve the community in philanthropy:

1. The nonprofit Spotlight, which highlights a different nonprofit each month on the craigslist.org website, including their resource needs.

2. The Nonprofit Venture Forum, an in-person event where five nonprofits get to pitch to a roomful of potential supporters. Our next is in collaboration with the Marin Community Foundation and will focus on youth-serving Marin County nonprofits, in October 2002.

3. Collaborating on community events to bring together nonprofits and supporters. Our next will be the Expo for the Artist & Musician at Cellspace in San Francisco on Saturday, May 4th, 2002. We are introducing a program called "Expo Angels", which will bring together arts supporters and arts nonprofits with resource needs.

4. The Wishlist -- this is a pilot program operated by craigslist, that we help run. The Wishlist is an online system for teachers and nonprofits to request supplies, which community members can then purchase.

5. Webhosting -- this is also offered by craigslist, with some facilitation by Craigslist Foundation. We host a dozen or so small nonprofits' Websites.

The Craigslist Foundation site is an information resource, but is not of course as widely visited as craigslist.org. When we want to involve the wider community, we always post on craigslist and included links from the homepage. Otherwise, a lot of our work is "offline" (the Forums and community events).

OIP: How is philanthropy facilitated through the Foundation and the Website?

CL: Through our programs, we enable potential donors to "meet" local nonprofits: we highlight groups that people may not know about on the Website, and through the Forums and other in-person events facilitate introductions.

We are making it easier for donors to learn about nonprofits, and simultaneously giving visibility to grassroots nonprofits (annual budgets of less than $1 million) that may not have other avenues to get in front of supporters.

This fills a current gap in the philanthropic landscape: how to get in-depth information about local nonprofits and, often, meet their leaders before deciding whether to "invest".

We also encourage professional volunteerism: professionals lending skills, such as marketing or web design, to a small nonprofit. In the Spotlight and the Forum, nonprofits are encouraged to be creative in listing needs: not just financial, but expertise that is needed. We have had great success in matching folks who may not have a bottomless bank account but who do have some professional skill that they would like to apply to the right nonprofit.

OIP: What is your experience with online giving, and how important do you think the Internet will be to non-profits in the future?

CL: We have just begun accepting donations online, and are pleased at the rate of giving. It is easier for us, probably, because we are linked off of a heavily trafficked website, so many of our potential donors are already coming to the site.

I believe that any option that you can give to donors to make it easier to give is a good thing. Especially now, most people are online and are used to "internet time" -- they want the simplest, fastest way to donate. I think that online giving will continue to gain acceptance and be considered an easier alternative to writing and mailing a check.

OIP: Do you have any success stories you would like to share?

CL: Many! We have had a wide range of exciting results from our Nonprofit Venture Forum program. We've held eight Forums, resulting in nearly $185,000 in donations and a host of other benefits for participating nonprofits.

OIP: To cite some examples, ASAP (Access to Software for All People), a Berkeley-based social enterprise nonprofit employing low-income youth in technology careers that presented in December 2000, received a $50,000 grant from REDF, the Roberts Enterprise Development Fund. Villa Tech, a Boston nonprofit bringing technology to low-income communities that presented in October 2000 in our only non-Bay Area Forum in Boston, received nearly $100,000 in hardware from Cisco Systems.

CL: In addition to cash grants from individuals and invitations from foundations to submit grant proposals, other nonprofits made introductions that led to professional services. Two nonprofits that presented at the arts-themed Forum in October 2001, Professional Enrichment Program and Streetside Stories, received pro-bono graphic design services. Another, the Crucible, received free legal help in negotiating for a land trust. And another, Flyaway Productions, was the recipient of a zip drive and scanner, among other resources.

OIP: What do you see in the Foundation's near and long-term future?

CL: We will continue to be creative in linking nonprofits and folks that can help out -- both traditional donors and the general community (small donors, volunteers, and professionals with skills to donate). We will utilize the craigslist site to ensure its delivering the most value it can to nonprofits through its categories, and also to harness the power of the numbers of people visiting the site (by highlighting nonprofit-related events or organizations).

We are also actively partnering with others in the community who are encouraging philanthropy or supporting the nonprofit community, such as YNPN (Young Nonprofit Professionals Network), InvolveX (involving "Gen X" in philanthropy), the Taproot Foundation (professional service grants to nonprofits), and community foundations. Together we will evolve ways to give donors the info they need, facilitate the introductions, and help expand the culture of philanthropy in the Bay Area.