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May 2, 2019

Besa making it easier for companies to encourage volunteering

When we last talked with Matt Goldstein in 2017, Besa was just launching its new corporate product, Besa Promise. Targeted to corporations, Besa Promise helps companies track and coordinate their philanthropic programs with their community volunteer programs.


Adding a corporate product has been transformational in allowing Besa to evolve its services and to use the additional revenues from this product to expand its nonprofit mission.

Expansion and growth has enabled Besa to “curate” 1,500 community service projects across over 50 partner charities. The volunteers it has coordinated have donated more than $250,000 in goods through Besa-led drives and through their volunteer hours have created $2 million in direct community impact. Through its philanthropic and volunteer platforms, Besa has facilitated more than $8 million of investment into the community.
We talked with Goldstein to learn more about their expansion over the past two years.

Where have the past two years taken Besa?

The success of Besa Promise at Columbia Gas has prompted the platform to be adopted by its parent, NiSource, at all its sites, making it a multi-state platform. Adding clients Safelite and L Brands also has strengthened the multi-state reach of the product. Our platform for individual volunteers we now call “classic,” and we see great potential in merging the two platforms so that nonprofits as well as corporations can have a better handle on making their volunteer programs more attractive and more impactful. 

Tell us more about Besa Promise and how it helps companies.

Besa Promise makes volunteering easier by breaking down the barriers between wanting to volunteer and actually volunteering. Companies see their employees almost triple their volunteer hours using Besa Promise. The platform also handles grant applications and tracks the grants that are made and their impact. Companies can monitor which nonprofits receive grants and attract company employees to volunteer events and track the number and dollar value of volunteer hours. Overall, it allows a company to see where the treasure and talent are going and which employees and nonprofits are most engaged.

What criteria do you use to assess the success of your business?

We measure our success by community impact made. Are we helping companies become more philanthropic? Are we increasing resources for nonprofits so they can serve better and serve more? Are we providing engaging, quality, experiences for our volunteers? We look at community impact made in dollars, volunteer hours, number of volunteers, volunteer repeat rate, and percentage of a company’s employees that are using the Besa Promise system. If they’re returning and using the system, it means the quality of their giving experience was high. 

Give us some examples that best exemplify the impact you’re trying to create.

Our annual Adopt a Senior program pairs Secret Santas with seniors in need, providing more than $70,000 gifts to 1,500 local seniors. This past Christmas, Mary, a local senior citizen in need, received her first Christmas gift in five years thanks to this program. Another received her first new set of bed sheets since 1996. We hosted a party at one senior center and watched them open gifts. The joy on their faces was incredible. Even more incredible? Some of them declined to open their gifts at the party, because they wanted to save the only gift they would receive to open on Christmas day.

When you launched Besa in 2012 there were few social enterprises in Central Ohio. What changes have you seen since then in social enterprise and corporate responsibility?

We see that more entrepreneurs are interested in social enterprise as a way to make a living while also making the community better. We also see in traditional companies that their employees are pushing for them to become more connected with the community and want to see that connection.  Nowadays, a major question from prospective employees is what are the company’s volunteer and engagement programs. Besa Promise has become a tool that enables companies to answer that question accurately, quickly, and convincingly. 

What’s next for Besa?

We want to transform civic engagement in Columbus to make giving back part of everyday life, and we want to begin expanding that mission into communities outside Central Ohio. We plan to get there by hiring the right people and continuing to get more people more engaged. We are raising $1 million to invest in infrastructure so we can support more companies and more nonprofits. We look to leverage the relationships of our nonprofits and corporate partners to identify which of the communities they have a presence in that are the right communities for us to go into. 

Learn how you can do business with local social enterprises, including Besa Promise, at www.socialventurescbus.com/marketplace.