As the director of a local nonprofit group that aims to alleviate hunger and poverty, Darci Niva doesn’t have gobs of money to spare. So when the Westside Coalition was in need of a new logo as part of a recent rebranding, she had to think of alternatives.
“If we were to hire a design firm for a logo, we’d be looking at ten thousand dollars,” she said. “That’s just not going to happen within our budget.”
Niva instead turned to Give & Score, an expanding Westside-based social entrepreneurship outlet that connects nonprofit organizations with volunteers who help them complete a variety of projects.
The nonprofits receive help on a wide variety of short-term tasks that can be done remotely, from designing graphics to writing press releases and researching grants. The volunteers, meanwhile, build their resumes and learn about the working world while receiving feedback and performance ratings.
And these aren’t just any volunteers. Many of them are recent college graduates who are trying to beef up their experiences and connections as they look for work or handle part-time employment.
“What we want is for the system to find the motivated, qualified individuals and allow them to thrive in a real meritocracy,” Give & Score founder and CEO Adi Benner said. “You don’t get a medal for showing up.”
The origins of Give & Score can be traced to an airport in France, where Benner, a Westside native, struck up a conversation with a man named Hannes Kunz. As president of the nonprofit Institute for Integrated Economic Research, Kunz mentioned that he often struggled to find people to help him with small assignments.
“He always gets the Ph.Ds who want to do research, but he couldn’t get the volunteers he needed,” said Benner, who runs a photography business. “So we started spitballing. We decided, ‘Wouldn’t it be a great idea if we could get recent graduates connected with the million charities that have small projects but, because they’re under-resourced, can’t get the work done?’”
Benner launched Give & Score with the help of Kunz, who is serving as chief technology officer. Tamara Chacon, a Loyola Marymount University alumna, was brought on as director of client relations.
Benner noted that nonprofits often take on volunteers who have ample time or are passionate about the agency’s mission but lack the skills necessary to help on important projects. Through Give & Score, they can rely on recent college graduates who are eager to help charities while proving they’re capable of handling on-the-job assignments.
When a nonprofit posts a project on Give & Score, it pays a small fee to use Benner’s service. Once volunteers apply for the job, the nonprofit selects the candidate that meets its needs best. The nonprofit later gives its volunteer qualitative and quantitative ratings that he or she can use when applying to future jobs.
Niva has had four Westside Coalition projects completed with the help of Give & Score volunteers.
“The volunteers get real-world experience that they can add to their resume, and the nonprofit is able to utilize those services at a very low price and get absolutely excellent work,” she said. “It’s a brilliant marriage.”
Give & Score has paired volunteers with several other local nonprofit groups, including Heal the Bay and Venice-based Safe Place for Youth. And the work they do, Benner said, is meaningful.
“Nobody’s going to ask you to make coffee,” he said.
Benner acknowledged that volunteers who use Give & Score can’t eliminate their student debt by doing jobs for free. But he said they can earn valuable work experience that could help them in the long run.
“If it can get people involved in philanthropic endeavors, it just might plant the seed,” he said. “After they achieve what they want to achieve, hopefully they’ll retain some of that philanthropic soul.”