Campus: CSU Bakersfield -- July 16, 2003
Grad Helping Charities
Carol Shertzer was tired of seeing well-intentioned donations from
businesses to non-profit organizations go to waste. The California State
University, Bakersfield graduate student had become acutely aware that
many donations are, sadly, discarded because the donation was something
the charity couldn’t use or didn’t need. There had to be
a way to connect those good intentions with the correct need.
What if, she thought, I can create a sort of clearinghouse where companies
and charitable-minded people can be connected with the appropriate non-profits?
Then those donations would actually go where they’re needed most.
So Shertzer did exactly that. She founded the Alliance for Nonprofit
Development, a non-profit organization that maintains a centralized
in-kind database for Kern County non-profits. The organization has received
its federal non-profit certification and been up and running since September
2002. And as best she knows it’s the first organization of its
kind in the United States.
“We match needs of local non-profits with donations from businesses,”
Shertzer said. “The whole philosophy is that as a community we’re
not working effectively with our limited resources. Every non-profit
needs so much, due to cuts. And things are not being distributed efficiently.
That’s the bottom line. And through a centralized database we
know exactly who needs what at any given point in time. Whether it’s
dog food or office furniture, there’s a non-profit out there that
can use it. Our effort is to make sure the people who need it the most
Shertzer said she’s worked with several non-profit organizations
over the years, and has been surprised at the waste she’s witnessed.
“I’ve seen people drop off a ton of stuff at a non-profit,
and the non-profit can’t use it, so it puts it in storage. Things
get ruined over time if they’re not used, and eventually the donation
gets thrown away. Two things are happening here: A, we’re afraid
to offend the people who donate to us, or B, we’re afraid to pass
it off to someone else because what if in two years we need it.”
Chandra Commuri, a CSUB public administration professor who serves as
the advisor to the Alliance for Nonprofit Development, said the new
organization is extremely important to the community. “The idea
is really neat,” he said. “It lowers the transaction costs
for giving resources and for getting resources. Rather than calling
around to find out who needs your old computers, just give them to the
Alliance and they’ll find a home for them. By going through the
Alliance, you know your donation is going to a good cause.
“The goal is to improve the capacity of local non-profits,”
he said. “That’s a big need. One of the reasons Kern County
doesn’t get its fair share of grant money is because the non-profits
here have limited capacity to handle it. The Alliance can certainly
help with that.
“This helps ensure that the precious resources made available
for non-profits get to the organizations that actually need them the
most. The Alliance helps fill a critical need here.”
Shertzer’s hunch that a clearinghouse for donations could fill
those critical needs was confirmed by surveying local non-profits to
gauge their interest in such an operation. “We sent out 200 surveys
last fall asking non-profits if this would be a valuable service for
them,” she said. “We got 30 responses – all of them
said yes. We started our program with 16 non-profits associated with
us; now we’re already up to 20.”
Non-profit organizations for whom the Alliance serves as a clearinghouse
include ALPHA Canine Sanctuary, Angel Steps Counseling, Center for the
Blind and Visually Impaired, High Desert Child Abuse Prevention Council,
Indian Wells Valley Humane Society, Junior Achievement, Mountain Community
Healthy Start and the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
The list of items these and other non-profits need runs eight pages
single-spaced. “The No. 1 need is digital cameras,” she
said. “Other critical needs include appliances, office supplies,
computers, children’s items, camping equipment, outdoor equipment
and medical equipment.” The needs are enormous – copiers,
blankets, cell phones, paint, carpeting, website design – you
name it, it’s needed.
“Everybody has these things in our community,” she said.
“Why spend valuable money when people have them and are going
to get rid of them? It’s such a simple concept.”
Originally from Sacramento, Shertzer, who earned a bachelor’s
degree in economics from the University of California, Berkeley, expects
to graduate with a master of business administration degree from CSUB
in June 2004. She has been involved with several local non-profits since
she arrived in Bakersfield eight years ago, including the Junior League,
Girl Scouts, Kern County Child Abuse Prevention Council, the Bakersfield
Police Activities League and the United Way.
She’s excited about the prospects for the Alliance. “I hope
it grows, I hope people really use it,” she said. “We have
searched the Internet and nobody has ever done something like this in
the country that we know of or can find. This is original.”
“By using the Alliance, you will know that you’ve made a
personal connection, that your donation is going to be used, and that
the non-profit didn’t have to spend valuable funding to go out
and buy the item you’re donating. It’s a smarter way of
doing more with less.”
Those wishing to contact the Alliance for Nonprofit Development can
send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org,
or call Shertzer at (661) 665-1041, or Kathy Carpenter at (661) 664-3404.
Media Contact: Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456, email@example.com