Causeway matches donation dollars in September

Causeway Executive Director Abby Garrison welcomes class members to a class designed to assist participants in launching ideas to better the community. James Chapman, right, is an entrepreneur in residence in this file photo.

2014'Causes' by the numbers

› $162,041: total dollars raised in Causeway crowdfunding campaigns› $12,827: amount of that total contributed directly from Causeway› 35: number of campaigns› $130: average donation› $50: median donationsource: Causeway

Give a dollar to charity, and it feels good. Give a dollar that ends up worth more, and it feels better.

Causeway is matching donations to local campaigns by 50 percent during September, up to $1,000 per project.

The initiative comes just weeks after the Chattanooga nonprofit organization revamped its website, which now includes a partnership with Nashville-based Kindful to streamline activists' ability to post their projects online.

The match is a motivator for donors, obviously, said Chelsea Conrad, Causeway's director of creative engagement. "Your money goes farther."

But the September promotion also is a way to draw potential creators of causes to the new platform and post campaigns.

"Really, when Causeway first started there weren't a ton of crowdsourcing platforms around; now there's a lot happening in that realm," Conrad said. "We thought we could be stronger by partnering with an organization that does that full time. That frees us up to work with people on fundraising."

Local tech company Delegator started Causeway in 2010 as an online platform. In 2014, Causeway became what it is today, with a physical location downtown, staff and funding from several organizations, including the Benwood Foundation. Causeway helps people find support for local projects they have developed to improve the city, from branding products made in Chattanooga to providing healthy food in areas that have none.

In the past, cause-makers had to submit a draft of their campaign and make their crowdfunding page ready to be launched. Now, as soon as they submit their page, it goes up on Causeway's site, though the organization, which is ultimately responsible for all donations, has the power to take it down should it not meet certain guidelines, among them the definition of a charity according to the IRS. Despite the readiness with which projects can be posted, all project creators are required to fill out a questionnaire.

Seventeen causes were on the site shortly after the launch of the September promotion. Twelve of them have gone up since mid-July, when the new website launched, said Conrad, who designed it herself. Donations on Sept. 1 rose markedly. "People had been holding off," she said.

Campaigns get the money they raise if and when they reach their "tipping point" - the crowdfunding target number, which is a sum high enough for a project to get going. Causeway can help campaigns figure out what that dollar figure should be, along with the best strategies for executing a crowdfunding campaign.

Once a campaign gets its money, "if they feel prepared to go off on their own, then great. But if they need any help we are here to consult with them," Conrad said.

Most of the campaigns belong to 501c3 organizations (nonprofit organizations), and, if not, Causeway encourages the campaigns to partner with a nonprofit, Conrad said. That helps ensure the money is being used as it should be.

"If a nonprofit is sponsoring the campaign we are more comfortable passing those funds on," Sivley said. "If someone is not a nonprofit, we don't want to discourage people though." Causeway has used various methods to move forward in the latter circumstances, from cutting checks as needs arise to requesting receipts. The causes get follow-up surveys, as well.

"We take that very seriously," Sivley said. "We have the right to withhold the funds or have them go to a different cause."

Last year $162,041was raised for 35 Causeway crowdfunding campaigns.

Contact Mitra Malek at Follow her on Twitter @MitraMalek.