The Future of Philanthropy

 In Culture, Feature

The Arts and Education Council drives innovation in fundraising for St. Louis arts organizations.

AS THE TIRELESS MARCH OF TECHNOLOGY transforms how we prioritize and receive information, Cynthia Prost, president of the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis, sees technology fundamentally altering the future of philanthropic giving, as well. “Technology is driving a lot of changes in how people get their information about who to support,” Prost says. “We’re also seeing that people want to have a say in how their money is being used.” Thanks to Power2Give, a new crowd funding website for nonprofits recently initiated by the council, would-be donors can find out when their favorite arts organizations need money and what they need it for.

DOLLAR DAYS The St. Louis iteration of the program—originally created by the Arts & Science Council of Charlotte, NC—was made possible with funding from the Arthur and Helen Baer Charitable Foundation, which covered the $25,000 licensing fee plus funds for training and marketing. Ninety days after the site’s Nov. 7 launch, nearly $50,000 dollars from 787 donors had been given to 25 projects at 24 separate organizations. Prost calls the response amazing. “That’s 787 donors that might not have given to any of these projects,” she says. Moreover, the site helps organizations reach a different audience and gives more people a voice because they can give only what they can afford. The average donation has been a manageable $50. Groups can ask for up to $10,000 and get to keep whatever monies are contributed over the three-month lifespan of the site listing. In addition, Emerson is offering 50 percent matching funds, and gift cards can be purchased.

FAST-TRACK FUNDRAISING The platform also allows groups to seek hardto- get funds for outside projects or to raise money fast when emergencies arise. Mustard Seed Theatre (MST), for example, turned to the site for fundraising help when it needed a new zero-step entry floor for safety reasons. “Power2Give creates opportunities to fund smaller, clearly defined projects,” says Leslie Wobbe, associate artistic director at MST. “This leaves traditional funding available for general expenses.” Circus Harmony looked to the site to help send a troupe to Israel in a program that brings together Israeli, Arab and Jewish youth. Assistant to the Director Rose Taylor says the site offers the ability to attract a large body of donors quickly and conveniently. The success of the program has been a big lesson for the Arts and Education Council. “Technology is driving philanthropy,” Prost says. “If we don’t find a way to harness tech and do it quickly, we’re going to be left out.”

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