A high-profile online fundraising competition to benefit charities with programs designed to fight unemployment raised more than $1.2-million, with an 81-year-old job-training group taking first prize and a two-year-old nonprofit that connects college graduates with start-up businesses coming in second.
The charities were among 74 groups that competed for donations from the public and for $250,000 more in grants from the Skoll Foundation, which sponsored the “JobRaising” challenge along with the Huffington Post and Crowdrise.
The challenge is the latest stab by a foundation at using grant money to inspire ordinary Americans to give online.
In 2009, the Case and W.K. Kellogg foundations put up $225,000 through America’s Giving Challenge, which raised $1.9-million from 82,000 people.
The JobRaising challenge brought in nearly 4,000 donations from the public, 82 percent of which were less than $100. The winning charity, JVS Los Angeles, which runs 18 training and counseling centers in Southern California, received $254,100, followed by Venture for America, which brought in $253,205.
JVS will also get $150,000 from Skoll, while the second- and third-place winners will receive smaller prizes.
Neither of the top groups had much previous experience in mobilizing people to give money online through a competition.
Randy Lapin, chief philanthropy officer at JVS, said JobRaising challenge provided a fresh way to inspire supporters to give and encourage them to ask people they know to give.
“You can only do so many chicken dinners,” he said.
His group’s pitch to its supporters was simple: Your $10 can help JVS win $150,000, the top prize from the Skoll Foundation.
Although such online fundraising is often thought of as a way to attract young donors, JVS’s first gift through the competition came from a board member in his early 80s, Mr. Lapin said.
A Timely Mission
While JVS has 250 full-time staff members and a $16-million budget, the second-place group, Venture for America, employs just nine people and has a budget this year of $1.3-million.
Andrew Yang, the charity’s founder, said he believes the group was able to attract so many gifts—most of them from first-time donors recruited by a dedicated group of supporters—in part because of the timeliness of its mission.
Started in 2010, the nonprofit operates a little like Teach for America but for start-up businesses, placing top college graduates in two-year posts with new and growing companies across the United States.
Like Mr. Lapin, Mr. Yang said the prizes from Skoll helped unlock gifts from the public.
Said Mr. Yang, “If you tell a donor that if they donate through this mechanism, there is a very good chance that their money will be essentially doubled, that’s very compelling.”