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Grouponing charity

Sally Herships Dec 7, 2011

Kai Ryssdal: Now a moment for the getters of charity. And a new twist on a time-honored fundraising tactic. Sally Herships has that story.

Sally Herships: To witness the latest fusion of modern fundraising techniques and technology at work I’ve come to see P.S. 222. It’s not a new computer or a social network. It’s an elementary school in Brooklyn where a visiting a student band is about to perform.

Candis Pohl is the band teacher. And she says charity is at work across the stage. The tenor sax, two trumpets in the back row and the red drum set all came from donations. So do a lot of her students’ basic supplies.

Candis Pohl: The students get books, they receive pencils, they receive paper, and once that supply is done, you just cross your fingers and hope that they reappear next year sometime.

But since the recession donations to the nonprofit group that Pohl works with, a website call Donors Choose, have been shrinking. So the charity has been doing something new — teaming up with Groupon, the daily deal site, to reinvent a fundraising classic — the match. A corporate donor doubles whatever private donations are made. Other charities are also offering donation deals through sites like Groupon, Bloomspot and Living Social.

Heather Wallace: Because, you know, it’s kind of like a sale. You’re stretching your dollar, especially in this economy. If you think you can give $5 and it’s really worth $10 — you know. People love it, how can you not?

Heather Wallace is senior director of marketing for City Harvest in New York. It supplies food pantries with surplus food from restaurants and supermarkets. Wallace says working with a national daily deal site with a huge mailing list can give small charities access to an enormous audience of potential donors.

Wallace: I mean everybody’s on Groupon, and if one of out of ten is clicking that button, that’s a lot of money raised.

And a lot of money saved. Charities don’t have to invest in finding new donor, so says Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy. It’s a win-win.

Stacy Palmer: Charities get better at doing social media. The corporations get the brownie points for having supported a good cause.

The daily deal offer is working for Donors Choose, the nonprofit that raises money for school supplies. Donors Choose has gotten almost 4,500 donations through Groupon — that’s just since last week when Groupon ran its latest offer. And a third came from new donors. Chase Bank, the corporate sponsor, has given $4 for every dollar raised. Even Groupon is chipping in. It’s waving the cut it normally takes for commercial daily deals and paying the credit card fees itself.

In Brooklyn, I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace.

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