October 24, 2012

Contest Seeks Ideas From Charities for Creating Jobs

A new competition unveiled by the Huffington Post, Skoll Foundation, and Crowdrise seeks to reward nonprofits with ideas for how to put Americans back to work.

The "JobRaising" challenge is open to all types of nonprofits--not just job-training groups--so long as they have a plan for fighting America's high unemployment, organizers said. Nonprofits that make it through an initial stage of vetting will have a chance to compete for donations from the public. Groups that raise the most cash will also win prize money totaling $250,000 from the Skoll Foundation.

Sally Osberg, president of the Skoll Foundation, said in an e-mail to The Chronicle that the three organizations were searching for a way to "change the narrative" about unemployment "from a blame game focused on deficits and problems to one focused on solutions and opportunity."

They zeroed in on nonprofits, Ms. Huffington said via e-mail, because they are "among our country's most underutilized resources—wellsprings for creativity, ingenuity, inspiration, and concern for the lives of others. Our hope for JobRaising is to make their jobs easier."

Nonprofits "are rarely mentioned when we discuss job creation," she added, even though they are an important source of ideas and inspiration.

First Prize: $150,00

The challenge will roll out in two phases. First, a committee of people from Skoll, Huffington Post, and McKinsey & Company will select first-round winners--organizers say they're not sure how many yet—that have "proven their innovative solutions. Their track records will be compelling, the opportunity to scale their impact significant," said Ms. Osberg. Nonprofits have until Nov. 15 to apply for the first round.

Beginning on January 21, Inauguration Day, the winners will be publicized on the Huffington Post site and will begin the competition for donations. Groups that raise the most money from individual donors will win the Skoll awards, with the first-prize winner receiving a $150,000 grant. Two other groups will receive smaller awards.

McKinsey will also provide strategic advice to one of the winners regarding its work to create jobs.

Edward Norton, the actor and co-founder of Crowdrise, an online fundraising site, said in an e-mail to The Chronicle that such challenges typically reap about eight times as much in individual donations as the prize money at stake.

"Or, said another way, a $100,000 purse could be the catalyst to $800,000 raised," he said.

Nonprofits that are successful in online fundraising competitions, said Mr. Norton, typically create a "sense of urgency" and encourage supporters to raise money on the organization's behalf.