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Living and Giving:

Stories And Causes You Care About

Nonprofits Take Note - Not a Proud Admission

By Leo Ramirez Posted on August 2, 2016

The year before last, the son of a colleague I highly respect passed away. There were no notices about causes the family desired to support after his passing nor guidance on monetary gifts. However, I wanted to contribute. Rather than burden the grieving family by sending a check with the request to donate where they desired, I opted to send the “in memory of” donation directly to a cause that aligned with what I knew of the son. 

I spent hours searching online for an appropriate nonprofit. I had no idea it would take so long. Finally, I discovered one in San Antonio, Texas (where my colleague lived) which provided musical instruments to low income students. My colleague wasn’t low income, but he and his son shared a love for music and played guitar together nightly. This nonprofit’s focus on music seemed a great way to pay my respects. So out came my checkbook.

In that moment I was what every nonprofit desires [read: needs] – a person with an open checkbook and pen in hand. It should have been so easy to give them my money. But it wasn’t. I struggled next to verify the nonprofit’s contact information. I had an address, but no phone number and no apparent operating website. This was concerning to me. I simply wanted to call and verify their existence before throwing a check in the mail – which I realize is still not the most rigorous of security measures.

The Recap

After hours of searching for an appropriate nonprofit, I was tired but satisfied with my selection. To then proceed to spend over an hour searching for a way to verify their legitimacy was too much. I finally admitted to myself this nonprofit had almost certainly permanently closed. I was back at square one in my search.

What I did next, I am not proud of. I abandoned my original quest and simply sent a condolence card paying my respects

A thoughtful card is enough from a colleague in these sad situations, but guilt followed me for a while after that experience. I knew what I had intended to do. I knew the hours I’d spent trying to see that intention into fruition. But my colleague didn’t know of my intention and I didn’t see the purpose in telling him. 

That was summer 2015. There should have been a better, an easier way for me to find and connect with a nonprofit. My donation fell through the cracks. How many others have been discouraged and driven to inaction because finding and connecting with a nonprofit was too difficult?

Fast forward to summer 2016. I work for Encast, a technology company that solves the very issue I’d previously faced. Encast’s MyHERO platform would have allowed me to quickly and easily search through the 1.5 million registered nonprofits here in the US. When I found a good match, I could have made my donation through the platform, knowing the nonprofit would receive 100% of my donation.

History cannot be changed. But I now have a tool to help me going forward. Working for the company that provides that tool is a happy perk.


Author: Leo Ramirez

Leo is the co-founder and CEO of Encast, an organization dedicated to improving the way CSR professions create, manage, and measure CSR programs. Leo is passionate about the role that culture plays in business success. Leo has launched and managed social ventures, lead multi-disciplinary teams, and built solid relationships with civic and corporate leaders. His 25-year career has spanned executive management, business development, consulting, nonprofit management, technical support and engineering positions with Southwest Key Programs, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Coremetrics, Trilogy and Apple.

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