Get to Know the "Giving Store" with Sarah Arenstein Levy and Greg Gallop
The “Giving Store” is a list of urgent funding opportunities from local nonprofits that have been vetted by the Community Foundation staff. The concept was launched in 2021 as an easy way for donors to make an immediate impact in the community. Sarah Arenstein Levy and Greg Gallop, who are experts in donor advising and community engagement respectively, share more about the Giving Store and why it has become a popular way for donors to fund urgent needs in our community.
Why did the Giving Store come to be?
Sarah: In recent years, our staff have focused on finding new and interesting ways to connect our donors with needs in the community. At the same time, our donors often seek our advice on where and what to give, to have more impact. We were inspired by another foundation that offers an online “giving store,” similar to a crowdsourcing platform for community needs, open to anyone who interested in contributing. We liked the idea but wanted to keep it simple and make it easy for our fund holders to learn about urgent needs in the community, especially those that are critical and either didn’t meet the criteria or the timeline for the Foundation’s Community Impact Grant process.
How do you determine what will be on the list and what are some funding opportunity examples?
Greg: We have several staff whose primary role centers around understanding community needs and building relationships with those organizations doing the work. As we engage with nonprofits, sometimes, we uncover immediate needs or emergencies that might not meet our criteria for Community Impact Grants, but may be of interest to donors. We started compiling a list of about 10 opportunities to present to our donors in the summer of 2021. Since then, we’ve revisited it once a quarter. If there’s great interest from donors, and funding comes through early, we typically add more opportunities to that list.
So far, we’ve shared a wide range of opportunities – expanding home repair services in Goochland County, funding a mobile food pantry for Richmond’s Latino community, even covering the cost of financial aid advising in a local high school. The amount of support requested has also varied. We’ve seen requests for $5,000 for an event for young writers in Richmond and larger requests for $65,000 to update a computer lab in an elementary school. Right now, there are opportunities to fund grief/crisis kits for Henrico County students receiving intervention services, furniture, and equipment for early childhood education programs, as well as repairs/renovations for community centers in neighborhoods of high need.
What is the feedback on the Giving Store so far?
Sarah: The Giving Store has become popular among our donors. One specific donor I work with has always liked to fund under-the-radar, time-sensitive projects. They are always one of the first to respond to a need on the Giving Store list. When we sent around the latest list, they decided to fund critical home repairs for seven seniors who need accessibility improvements, like wheelchair ramps added to their homes.
Some donors have used the Giving Store as a starting point for learning more about different organizations in the community. Adam and KC Sledd have a Donor Advised Fund at the Community Foundation and, through the Giving Store, learned about and gave unrestricted grants to Oakwood Arts, Re-Establish Richmond, Sacred Heart Center, Girls for a Change, and the Broken Men Foundation. KC shared, "the Giving Store has been a trusted resource for our family to learn about urgent needs in the community and has introduced us to organizations doing critical work that we otherwise wouldn't have known about. The Foundation's insight and connections show us where our investments can make the biggest impact."
How can someone get connected to the Giving Store?
Sarah: It’s simple to join our Giving Store email list. Simply fill out this form with your basic information, and we will send you a list of new opportunities every few months. For now, the list is for Foundation fund holders only, and we expect to send out the next round in June. In the future, we anticipate transitioning this list to a web-based platform, making it easy for anyone in the community to learn about ways they can make an immediate impact.
Greg: If you’re a nonprofit partner, and you want to share a time-sensitive or an ongoing need, reach out to your designated Program Officer so we can have a conversation and discuss potential opportunities for support.