10 Organizations to Partner With Now

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Oftentimes the most incredible thing that comes out of attending or planning an event or conference is meeting a person who sparks your next passion, project or purpose. Many of these people come to events through partnerships between the conference and nonprofits. There are thousands of organizations whose work could be a perfect fit for your event, but it can be hard to know where to start. Here are 10 to consider: 1. BeLoved Atlanta BeLoved Atlanta was started in March 2013 to help rescue and restore the lives of women who are victims of sexual exploitation. BeLoved seeks to help victims heal by providing a community of safe houses, counseling, mentoring, and education and work readiness programs. One of the organization’s goals is to purchase a BeLoved home in East Atlanta in 2015. How you can help each other: Invite residents of BeLoved to join your conference. BeLoved has taken some of its residents to Catalyst, Unashamed Conference and Living Proof Ministries’ Beth Moore event. “It is great for our residents to see the Christian community while sitting under wise teachers,” says Kelley Stagnaro, co-founder and vice president of BeLoved. Amelia Quinn, the organization’s founder, was recently interviewed on stage at The Unashamed Conference, and attendees collected hygiene items for BeLoved residents throughout the conference. “Our current social worker first heard about BeLoved through that interview, and it was so encouraging for the residents to see a large group sacrifice to meet their needs,” says Stagnaro. Why now? The urgency for additional programs and places for these young women to find freedom is rapidly increasing. BeLoved’s home has been consistently full, and the organization needs to grow its volunteer base to meet the needs of these women. 2. Akola Project Akola Project works to spiritually and physically empower more than 200 women in rural Ugandan villages by teaching them to make jewelry, which transforms the lives of their families and communities. The jewelry collections Akola women produce are sold alongside those of for-profit brands in more than 300 high-end boutiques across North America. Akola’s nonprofit framework allows the social business to keep the high-impact development work its main focus, while 100 percent of the net proceeds are returned to the women and communities in which they work. “We want to teach consumers that social businesses can have higher impacts on the development work they pursue, and teach nonprofits that they can be financially sustainable through earned revenues,” says Emily Heger, chief operating officer. How you can help each other: Planners can invite Akola to set up a booth at an event or order the jewelry ahead of time to sell on consignment through the event shop. Groups and individuals can sign up to sponsor a woman in Uganda for $1.37 per day, which provides vocational skills training and a sustainable income to help them support their children. Akola’s founder, Brittany Merrill Underwood, also speaks at events. Why now? After developing its model in Uganda for 10 years, Akola is expanding its empowerment activities to help marginalized women in Dallas. And its jewelry collections have recently garnered national attention from the likes of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Vanity Fair. 3. Sasa Designs by the Deaf Sasa Designs by the Deaf has a goal of providing employment and fair wages to deaf artisans in Kenya. Sasa Designs gives women who otherwise would face unemployment the opportunity to learn new skills, discover what they are capable of and feel productive by teaching them crafts and providing an income for the crafts the artists make. How you can help each other: Retail sales of Sasa jewelry directly to consumers, along with large wholesale opportunities like gift bag items, are important in sustaining the work of social enterprises like Sasa. Having a table or booth at a conference gives the organizations the ability to showcase their products and tell the story behind them. Events can bring the leaders of Sasa and similar organizations on as speakers to address issues such as poverty alleviation and working in developing communities. Why now? Sasa has been expanding and is poised to employ more deaf women, and eventually men. “Within a couple years, we hope to replicate our model in other communities where there are large communities of unemployed deaf individuals,” says Megan MacDonald, director of global enterprise. 4. Creative Visions Foundation Creative Visions brings together and supports people who are passionate about art, action and adventure. Its main focus is using media and the arts to ignite positive social change. It has developed more than 100 projects and productions on five continents, and the creative activists under its umbrella have touched more than 90 million people and raised more than $11.2 million to fund world-changing projects. Kathy Eldon and her daughter, Amy Eldon Turteltaub, co-founded CVF after losing their son and brother, Dan Eldon, while he was photographing the Somali Civil War for Reuters in 1993 at age 22. How you can help each other: If you want to make film or art a part of your event, or bring in speakers using those mediums to create social change, connect with Creative Visions or search its network for people and stories that will help engage your audience around a variety of issues in our world. Eldon can also speak at events. She is the author of 18 books, has produced several award-winning films, and has been honored by Nelson Mandela’s family, George H. W. Bush, Rosie O’Donnell and more. Why now? Media matters. Event-goers expect to see well-produced films, photographs and art pieces that tell meaningful stories; musicians who can express what’s on their hearts; and speakers who are inspired leaders. Creative Visions is a hub for all of these change-makers, and your event can benefit from their team and knowledge. 5. Blood:Water Mission Blood:Water is a nonprofit that partners with and provides resources for African grassroots organizations to address the HIV/AIDS and water crises. The people behind it, in turn, are pros at partnering with faith-based events, and the organization has had active roles in Passion, Catalyst, Story, Allume, MOPS, The Justice Conference and Jubilee, to name a few. How you can help each other: The organization’s leaders—Jena Lee Nardella, Mike Hamilton and Jars of Clay lead singer and Blood:Water co-founder Dan Haseltine—speak at events, targeting their talks to the theme and audience of each conference. Additionally, they have relationships with artists and advocates who can provide entertainment. At some events, Blood:Water has supplied water bottles and refill stations to engage people in conversations about water. Why now? Blood:Water is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and its efforts are bigger than ever, for good reason: There are still 768 million people across the globe who don’t have access to clean water, according to UNICEF. The group is also highly recognizable. Nardella (a 2014 Rejuvenate 40 Under 40 honoree) and Haseltine are being acknowledged for their leadership and work in providing clean water to thousands of people. 6. Joni and Friends Joni and Friends International Disability Center serves thousands of special-needs families through retreats, trains churches on welcoming those with disabilities into their congregations, and provides wheelchairs to those in need around the world. It was founded in 1979 by Joni Eareckson Tada after a diving accident at age 17 left her a quadriplegic. How you can help each other: One of the organization’s programs, Wheels for the World, has provided more than 100,000 wheelchairs to disabled people in need in developing countries. Conferences can help by donating wheelchairs or the funds to purchase them, and by doing so, contribute to improving the quality of life for those who are physically disabled in countries where they are often marginalized for their disability, such as Jordan, Brazil, India, Guatemala and El Salvador. One organization recently held a wheelchair and walker collection drive at its event, inviting the community to participate as well. Why now? Serving the handicapped in developing countries is a relatively under-recognized cause, so the need is great. Accessibility is a buzzword in the hospitality industry right now, and partnering with a group like Joni and Friends helps make life more mobile for some of the 65 million people who require a wheelchair, according to the World Health Organization. 7. Youme Clothing Youme calls itself part of a “rags to resources” story. It partners with several impoverished communities around the world and provides them with new clothes in exchange for their old ones. The garments are then washed and remade into Youme clothing, sold online and at events. Profits fund community-led development projects in the regions the rags came from. How you can help each other: Attendees can take part in a CSR project during your event, helping sew the rags into resources for people in need. You can also invite Youme to host a table at your event to sell its items. Why now? Youme is 100 percent volunteer-staffed right now and expanding so rapidly it needs to hire a full-time team member. By selling products at conferences, Youme can increase its funding and fill this need. 8. KaBoom The mission at KaBoom is to help create a place to play within walking distance of every child in America. To date, it has worked with partners to build, improve and open more than 15,000 playgrounds, served more than 6.6 million kids and engaged more than 1 million volunteers. How you can help each other: Events and conferences create an opportunity to have a dialogue with different key audiences to help them understand the power of play, which benefits kids in the community and KaBoom. “One of our challenges is getting people to think outside the conventional benefits of play,” says Jessica Joisten, director of strategic communications. “Play has the power to benefit a child mentally, physically and socially, and transform communities.” Beyond providing funds to help the organizations, conferences can collectively plan or design a playground, and then work together to bring it to life. In lieu of a breakfast session, schedule time for attendees to get their hands dirty by building a new playground for kids in the community. Why now? Over the last six years, first lady Michelle Obama has been encouraging more physical activity with her Let’s Move campaign, so the issue of play has been in the news throughout the country. In September, President Barack Obama and his wife made headlines when they partnered with KaBoom by stuffing 300 backpacks with materials that encouraged the recipients to go out and play. Also this year, KaBoom launched a contest with Disney called America’s Most Playful Family. The contest calls on families nationwide to share how they stay playful together and serves to inspire other families to be more playful. 9. Church on the Street Church on the Street’s mission is to live for and with its most vulnerable neighbors: people living in extreme poverty and homelessness. It runs the Center for Practical Theology in Atlanta, which holds mission team workshops and offers internships, fellowships, training events, speaking engagements and an intensive summer institute. How you can help each other: Bring Executive Director Andy Odle or his team to your conference to teach about working alongside the disadvantaged in your communities. “Our experimental way of living has led us to welcome the poor and homeless, the mentally and physically disabled, and the sexually exploited, among others,” says Odle. “This intentional diversity weaves a counterintuitive tapestry from which to see and experience Christ and know neighbors in personal, transformative ways.” Organizations can also help by holding a donation drive for needed paper products, such as coffee cups, plates, napkins and paper towels, as well as socks, underwear and toiletries. For groups meeting in Atlanta, lunchtime visits to break bread with people at the center can be arranged. Why now? Millennials in America are driving a movement of social responsibility. More than ever, young people want to play a more effective role in poverty alleviation, and events can help by introducing organizations like this to young attendees. Church on the Street is working on launching another center in the poverty-stricken Pleasant Hill neighborhood of Macon, Georgia, in partnership with Community Church and the Pleasant Hill Community Development Corporation. 10. Save a Child’s Heart Save a Child’s Heart is an Israeli-based nonprofit with a mission to improve the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children suffering from heart disease in developing countries. The organization creates centers of competent health care in these countries. It is doing something very few groups are doing right now: having Jewish Israeli doctors help save the lives of Muslim Palestinian children for free. How you can help each other: SACH has been part of several conferences, including United Christians for Israel Conference, American Jewish Committee Conference and Alpha Epsilon Pi North American Conference. “Awareness is a huge help for our mission because as people learn about SACH they are inspired to get involved and support our mission and work,” says Caroline Culliere, young leadership coordinator. Conferences help expose SACH to people who can take its message back to their communities, and events and fundraisers help them fund surgeries. SACH staff and volunteers who speak on stage or represent the organization through a booth at an event are able to raise support as they meet and share the need with attendees. “For $10,000, we can save a child’s life,” says Culliere. Why now? Partnering with SACH helps shine a light on a positive project happening in a region of the world plagued with conflict. SACH is currently rescuing sick children from war-torn areas—especially Syria, Gaza and Iraq. It is also building the Middle East’s first International Pediatric Cardiac Care Center, which will enable treatment for more children from neighboring developing countries. [inlinead align="right"]Our experimental way of living has led us to welcome the poor and homeless, the mentally and physically disabled, and the sexually exploited, among others.” —Andy Odle, Church on the Street[/inlinead]NOTE: Remember to look for transparency with nonprofits before choosing one as a partner. Any organization that says it supports a cause needs to show financial statements of how much of its profits are actually going to help that cause. Similarly, planners need to practice transparency at events. If you’re asking audiences to donate money for a cause, make sure your attendees know exactly where their resources are going. Finally, be sure your efforts are not simply a means to an end. People are growing wary of companies, and even nonprofits and events, that only use CSR for marketing purposes and do not openly show a reason for their choice in beneficiary. Photo credits: Joni and Friends; Disney Enterprises; Dulcet Creative; Blood:Water Mission; Akola Project; Christena Dousett; TheLongFarewell.com; KBD Photography LLC