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New Social Welfare Platform Besa Launches in Columbus

Walker Evans Walker Evans New Social Welfare Platform Besa Launches in Columbus
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Matthew Goldstein and Suzanne Coates Brown of Besa tour the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

If you find yourself lacking in the department of volunteering and donating to local nonprofits, you’re not alone. Matthew Goldstein is making it his personal mission to get young people in Columbus connected with nonprofits that align with their personal interests and help them to explore opportunities for involvement that can work into anyone’s busy schedule.

To achieve this, Goldstein has created Besa, an online resource that connects visitors to area nonprofits. We spoke with Goldstein (who serves at Besa’s Executive Director) for a quick Q&A to find out more.

Q: First, can you tell us a little bit about your personal background as it relates to charitable giving?

A: I grew up in Philadelphia and came to Columbus 13 years ago to study at The Ohio State University. After graduating in 2003 with dual degrees in Marketing & Political-Science, I started up the corporate ladder. My last stint was with Abercrombie and Fitch in the Market Research department. I worked there for nearly five years and loved the experience but was never passionate about jeans and flip flops. My heart has always been grounded in social welfare and community development.

During my time at Abercrombie I spearheaded a number of fundraising campaigns that engaged hundreds of my co-workers. After every campaign, participants would comment on how the fundraiser was their primary contribution to the nonprofit community. I quickly realized that I was working with a group of young, talented and smart people who wanted to be more engaged in community service but required solutions that fit into their busy lifestyle. That’s when the idea of Besa started to form. Besa’s goal is to provide a straightforward approach to learning about and engaging in community service.

Statistically speaking, 30% of us volunteer and 65% of us donate. We will never get to 100% participation but there is opportunity to increase penetration by connecting more people to the nonprofit community, particularly young professionals with busy lifestyles.

Q: So can you give us the “elevator pitch” version of what exactly Besa is all about for anyone who’s not yet heard of it?

A: Besa is an online platform that connects people to social welfare in Columbus, Ohio. We provide a rounded picture of why an issue matters, the charities engaged in addressing the problem and the various ways to get involved. The outcome: people spending less time searching around for the right kind of information that fits their interests and more time getting personally involved in giving back.

Q: How does Besa differ from other similar resources such as The Columbus Foundation’s PowerPhilanthropy, Community Shares of Mid Ohio or Columbus Gives Back?

A: Columbus has a very rich history of charitable giving. We are home to great organizations that do amazing work. The problem is need for services continues to outpace the level of resources. We must increase participation in addressing social welfare. Besa is another tool in the arsenal designed to engage more people in the noble work of community service.

Besa differs from other community engagement portals in that everything we do is geared toward connecting young professional donors and advocates to the Columbus nonprofit community. Our seamless platform and nonprofit partnerships provide an easy way to learn about and engage in community service. For example, we are partnering with HandsOn Central Ohio to offer our users volunteer opportunities in the community based on their specific interests. From the moment you discover a cause that resonates with you (for example, seeing a report on the hunger crisis in America), you can leverage Besa to learn how that issue impacts the Columbus community and the various ways charities are engaged in tackling the crisis (soup kitchens, community gardens, advocacy groups). This approach arms you with relevant information so that you can quickly find and connect with an organization.

Q: When looking at the wide range of charitable causes throughout the community, are there any certain areas where you’re seeing the most need, or the most opportunities for people to get involved?

A: The need to increase resources exists across the board. The great thing about Besa is that anyone can use our service to find that specific cause and charity that speaks to him/her. Larger charities have extensive volunteer networks (think Mid-Ohio Foodbank and it’s incredible 11,000 volunteer force). There are a lot of smaller charities doing great work without a platform to effectively reach people with their message. Besa provides that platform.

Q: Anything else our audience should know about the launch today?

A: Everyone now has access to our charity database so that you can easily connect with organizations that speak to your interests. You also have an opportunity to leave feedback on previous volunteer jobs so that others can learn from your experience as they look to make their own contribution to the community.

Feedback is a great way to gain a fresh perspective on the important work our nonprofits are performing in the community. For that reason, Besa is running a drive. We will donate $5 to the Mid-Ohio Foodbank for every posted review, up to $1,000. Our goal is to have 200 reviews posted by our full launch on 9/11, which is the National Day of Service. That’s when the social cause pages will be available, which describe the impact of social welfare on the Columbus community (hunger, homelessness, HIV/AIDS, etc.). We also just wrapped up a video shoot and will post the video to our page on 9/11.

More information can be found online at www.mybesa.org.

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