When most people hear the word "philanthropy," images often come to mind of wealthy people investing large amounts of money to the lofty cause of their choosing.
With a new donation tool launched by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, people in Baton Rouge can become local philanthropists on their own.
“I think oftentimes, people hear philanthropy or philanthropist and they think that that’s for a certain class of exceptionally wealthy people," BRAF vice president of communications Sarah Gardner said. "We at the foundation want to redefine philanthropy as giving of any key resource that can benefit your community. That’s often money, but it’s also your time and your other resources.”
On Monday, BRAF launched its Giving Store, an online tool to connect people with nonprofits and causes they care about in Baton Rouge.
Using the Giving Store, donors can browse a list of active fundraising campaigns and help support specific, real-time needs of nonprofits with donations processed through the platform.
“The resources have kind of been building out for a few of months, and this is the first time like it or that it’s been live," Gardner said. "We really want to make sure it’s an opportunity, not only for people to donate to organizations they love and care about, but also to discover new things that they’re interested in.”
Giving opportunities range from supporting civic services like the EBR First Responders fund — for donations to first responders in the area — to educational institutions such as the Knock Knock Children's Museum.
Christina Melton, executive director of the Knock Knock Children's Museum, said community donations are essential for supporting the services that keep the museum running.
“Our museum only exists because of the generosity of our community, and we’re just so grateful to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation for this opportunity to explain what our needs are," she said. "We know the community is so generous and supports all that we do in terms of our programming, so we can’t thank them enough for supporting us.”
Melton said the Giving Store will provide an easy way for people, no matter their financial standing, to give what they can and feel a sense of involvement in their community.
“I think it’s a great idea to be able to donate small amounts or large amounts, depending on what your giving capacity is, by allowing nonprofits like ours to reach out directly to very generous donors who we know are in our community," she said. "We’re really excited about the opportunity and can’t wait to see what the results will be.”
At the Companion Animal Alliance, the only open intake shelter in the city-parish, donations through the Giving Store could help assist the thousands of animals who end up at the shelter each year.
"Every dollar that we get in really goes to making sure those animals are vaccinated, they're fed and they have a bed," Companion Animal Alliance development director Morgan Talluto said. "It's also for the employees that have to clean the kennels and provide veterinary care."
Talluto said the Giving Store could be useful for individuals who are looking for organizations they align with but maybe didn't know about, like the Companion Animal Alliance.
"We're hoping to get people who love animals but didn't know we were here, that we're a nonprofit or maybe just were unsure about giving to us," she said. "I feel like having BRAF support and being affiliated with that will help people feel confident that they're giving to CAA and great organizations that help animals."
According to Gardner, nonprofits can have one Giving Store campaign running at a time and up to two campaigns a year.
Any nonprofit in good standing with the IRS and with the Louisiana Secretary of State is eligible to submit a giving opportunity through a form linked on the Giving Store webpage.
Gardner said the goal of the Giving Store is for it to become a resource people can use, not just on Giving Tuesday in November or 225GIVES day each year, but every day in between.
"We want to see utilization of the site, even between those dates, to know that we’re really moving the needle on how people think about engaging with nonprofits," she said. "We don’t have to have this big national campaign for someone to think ‘I need to give back to my community’ and can show it’s something that can happen on any given Thursday.”