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06.23.2011 - 05:42PM

Category: Academia

Back to the Future of Giving

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It seems hard to believe now, but long before the dot-com boom, before the advent of the Internet, charitable donations were handled on a person-to-person basis. If you were a non-profit director, raising money meant either going door-to-door, explaining your cause or having dinner with a wealthy donor to ask for that annual check.

"It sounds tedious, but there was a reason for it," said Compass Fellow James Li, CEO and co-founder of REaction Strategy Group. "It was all about the relationships and the trust, and the industry has been moving away from that."

In the spring of 2010, Li and co-founder Yeo Zuo Yi started their consulting company, REaction Strategy Group, at Georgetown University to help non-profits recreate this giving experience with an added twist: with new tech tools, it would be easier for charities to demonstrate to donors how each of their donations was making a difference.

REaction's recipe for non-profits was simple: if more time was spent cultivating relationships with donors and showing them the direct impact of their donation dollars, the more donors would stay committed to their donations and the more donations would increase.

"There's no reason that just because technology has developed, the giving experience suddenly has to become so dry, so one-way," Yi said. "We're using things like photos, events, videos and social media to get back to telling that powerful, compelling story for causes."

While REaction has been at work since January 2010, the team recently made its boldest move, deciding to devote the summer of 2011 to working full-time on the venture in Los Angeles.

"During the year, homework is always weighing on our minds, and it's hard to get momentum going. We wanted to see if our consulting model is viable, and we really felt like we could develop our business much faster with a team together and dedicated time to work," says Michael Hauser, a team member. Hauser, along with fellow team members Sheena Yoon and Luke Iott, have all forgone traditional internships for this startup company experience.

By the end of the summer, REaction hopes to have worked with a couple of clients in Los Angeles to continue gaining practical consulting experience and develop models for future clients. In addition, the team is thinking of ways other than consulting to spread this impact-based giving experience, based on the needs and frustrations of the non-profit directors they've visited.

Follow their adventures and experiences at www.reactionis.tumblr.com.

- James Li and Yeo Zuo Yi, Compass Fellows, Georgetown U. Class of 2014 (www.compassfellows.org)

Compass Partners offers a dynamic two-year program called the Compass Fellowship, which enables 15 college freshmen at each university to become social entrepreneurs. Through a unique personal development and social business training program, Fellows interact with CEOs, bestselling authors and start-up innovators, they receive mentorship and guidance from upperclassmen students and entrepreneurs from the community, they are connected to internship opportunities in areas of passion, and they receive access to funding so they each can launch their own social business ventures. Fellows engage in weekly modules, team-building retreats, workshops and social business simulations, all of which challenge them to think creatively and develop innovative solutions to help change the world. There are 90 Compass Fellows across the nation, and you can find the Compass Fellowship at American, Georgetown, George Washington, Indiana and Tufts Universities.

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