Donnerstag, 16. Mai 2013

Don't Forget Low Income People In Need

Launched in December 2011, Benevolent aims to transform the way people provide and receive support, bringing dignity and self-determination to both sides of the giving equation. The site uses a crowdfunding model to enable individuals to make micro-donations to help cover smaller, one-time needs that often fall through the gaps in the social safety net, such as eyeglasses, work uniforms, security deposits, computers and transit passes. Reflecting Benevolent’s potential impact, founder Megan Kashner was invited to present at last year's White House Forum on Philanthropy Innovation, where the keynote speaker, Jean Case of the Case Foundation, hailed it as one of themost innovative programs discussed at the forum.

The Charlotte and Silicon Valley programs are supported by a $200,000 grant from the Knight Foundation, which supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts.   The Detroit program is supported by an $85,000 grant from the Marjorie S. Fisher Fund, founded by Mrs. Fisher to support families in need. Read more

About Benevolent

Ask the average American what comes to mind when they think of Silicon Valley, and you'll often hear answers about the area's booming technology sector. Less discussed even among the technology community is the skyrocketing number of poor and homeless people who live just miles from the doorsteps of such business behemoths as Google and Amazon.

Silicon Valley's technologists are beginning to pay close attention to the problem, which is evidenced by a 20% rise in homelessness over the last two years, a dramatic increase in food stamp participation and a drop in average income for minority groups.

Online crowdfunding platform Benevolent may present one possible solution as it moves into San Jose, Calif., thanks to a $200,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Benevolent applies a Kiva-style model to aiding people's escape from poverty: Those in critical need of a one-time purchase to continue making money, such as a new set of tools or a work uniform, can apply for a crowdfunded donation from Benevolent's users through a local non-profit. Benevolent sends donations as grants to the non-profit to help ensure the money is used for its intended purpose by approved recipients.

Like Kiva, recipients have profile pages that list their needs and their goals, personalizing the giving experience. Unlike Kiva, the money is a donation rather than a microloan — recipients of Benevolent's benevolence aren't expected to repay the site's users.

While Benevolent founder Megan Kashner is a 20-year social worker rather than a Silicon Valley insider, she told Mashable the Knight Foundation "introduced" Benevolent to "the challenges faced by the Silicon Valley area."

"The Knight Foundation has a specific focus on certain communities around the country and Sillicon Valley is one of them," said Kashner.

Kashner acknowledges small donations are rarely "the singular thing that moves a family from poverty to sustainability." Rather, she views Benevolent's role as complimenting hard work and whatever government assistance a Benevolent funds recipient receives.

"There is often one thing that none of us in any of the social service agencies, workforce development programs or schools have at our disposal which is that liquid cash, if you will, to say, 'oh, we can help you get your car fixed to help you continue to work at this job we helped you get,' or 'oh yes, we can help you with this security deposit now that you have left domestic violence and you're ready to move forward,'" said Kashner.

"So it's that this particular hurdle is often the stumbling block, it's never the single thing that helps somebody escape poverty, but it is often this little thing that stops them from being able to complete their goals or their dreams," she said. (source: Mashable)
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