Recent historic flooding in Central Texas has caused many people to search for avenues to donate money to affected residents. While the need for help is apparent, knowing where donated money ends up is not. Austin-based website 121Giving seeks to provide a secure and easy way for donors and charities to get connected by making donations tangible and transparent.
Crowdfunding site 121Giving started two years ago when co-founder and COO Liz Deering realized people were not truly connecting online, creating a disconnect that contributed to growing customer scrutiny when it came to cash donations. Understanding the pressures and inefficiencies nonprofits faced, Deering said she knew that it was imperative to overcome these challenges by creating a way for nonprofits to maintain closer relationships with their online donors.
She first focused on overcoming the mystery factor that accompanies donations. Donors rarely see how their money contributed to a certain cause or where their donation went. With 121Giving crowdfunding campaigns, however, donors can search for a specific charity and know exactly what they are getting in exchange, Deering said. Donors can then follow their philanthropic investment. This end-to-end accountability generates a way for charities to follow up with their donors and create a secure donation avenue.
121Giving partners with various brands to provide products in bulk that are sold to nonprofits at wholesale prices. When an individual purchases an item—for example, medical equipment or furniture following a disaster, that money is put into a system as store credit that can be used by a nonprofit organization when necessary. This provides a personal warehouse of goods that can be utilized whenever a need arises.
Deering emphasizes that 100 percent of all donations made through the 121Giving website goes to charity. Processing fees are added on top of the donation, which goes toward maintaining 121Giving’s platform, but money is not directly taken from the donation. This effort to maintain transparency is what separates 121Giving from other donation outlets, she said.
While 121Giving does not have a campaign for flood relief right now, there are many avenues that can be used to donate to Central Texas flood victims. The Austin Disaster Relief Network is making it possible for people to easily make monetary and resource donations to flood victims in the area. Similarly, United Way is offering donators the choice to sponsor a family affected by the floods, as well as volunteer at one of their four Volunteer Reception Centers. The Hays Food Bank is still accepting flood donations in many locations, including Barton Middle School, Chapa Middle School and Wallace Middle School, among others.
Some benefit events for Central Texas relief are also scheduled throughout the summer. A joint benefit concert from the city of Austin, Travis County and the Lower Colorado River Authority called Flood Aid TX is tentatively scheduled for June 28 at Palmer Events Center and will feature Ray Benson, the lead singer for Asleep at the Wheel.