| Paying it Forward: Della Rae Matches Donors and Nonprofits to Help the Community
Della Rae is the Founder/Director of DonorsResource.org. With more than 11 years in the insurance and finance industry, began serving the community while on the board of the North Portland Nurse Practitioners Clinic for three years and became President of the Board.
In 2005 Della along with her sister, Deborah realized the magnitude of poverty in the Portland area and co-founded Sisters of the Community a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. After distributing over 20,000 items within 18 months, the need for an online solution was realized.
In April 2008, Della formed DonorsResource.org, a registered trademark of Sisters of the Community. DonorsResource.org is an online hub that connects donors who want to give with nonprofits in need. In 12 months, 265 nonprofits registered and 7,007 items claimed.
Della’s professional awards include the 2007 Regence BlueCross BlueShield Hero Award; 2008 Portland Business Journal 40 under 40 Award; 2008 SAFECO Foundation National Hero Award; and the 2009 Delta Sigma Theta Woman of Excellence Community Service Award.
A Portland native and jazz enthusiast, Della is passionate about bringing people together and providing an arena to pay it forward. In a Q&A with Colors of Influence, Della talks about the DonorsResource.org creation story.
How did DonorsResource.org get started?
DonorsResource.org got started from our parent organization Sisters of the Community. In 2005, my sister Debra and I realized the magnitude of poverty in our community. We wanted to help, and at that time, we each had garage-full of items that we wanted to donate to families in need. We called around to find local groups that would take the items that we wanted to donate. It took a lot of work to find out how we can get the items to families without them having to pay for the items, or be charged in some way for accepting a donation.
We realized that there are tons more people out there with items they want to donate, and even more families with a lot of need. There needed to be a service that connected together people and nonprofits. DonorsResource.org is an online hub that brings people who have items to donate with nonprofits who are directly connected with people who need those items.
I'll never forget one of the first people that we were able to reach out to. She was a single Mom of three kids, a survivor of domestic violence, who ran away in the middle of the night. With the help of the community, we were able to get the family the things they need: household goods, furniture, toiletries -- everything they needed to set up a household.
From there, we knew exactly why we needed to do this work. The community stood up to the challenge and helped get a physical space for us to store items. Donations started filling up the space. Within 18 months, we were able to distribute 20,000 items to families in need. We soon realized that we needed an online solution that would allow us to serve more people. And that's how Donors Resource was launched.
What was your experience with nonprofits before starting DonorsResource.org?
I was working in the insurance industry, and served on the board of the North Portland Nurse Practitioners Clinic. As board president, I wanted to do something more than attending board meetings a month. Volunteering time at the clinic, I met families whose medical needs are being met. But they also had needs for household goods, clothes and coats. I've always wanted to do something about it, and in 2005, we were able to put it all together.
What were some of the early challenges?
The biggest challenge in starting Sisters of the Community was getting the word out about who we are. Our goal was to connect with the nonprofits in the community whose purpose is to help people with rent, housing, and paying utility bills. We wanted to provide this service so they can go back to what they do best.
Before we started DonorsResource.org, our attorney did a nationwide sweep to make sure we're not duplicating any services. DonorsResource.org was established as an online hub where donors can connect with nonprofits that need in-kind items. The service saves energy and resources, as nonprofits are able to get the things they need.
It's amazing to see the community rally around a cause. It was very inspiring to have people take part in the work. We've been so lucky to have received so much help, in terms of pro bono work. People have jumped onboard and wanted to help. While we're getting tons of positive feedback, we always want to make sure that what we're doing is putting together the best matches possible between donors and nonprofits.
How has the work changed?
When we started Sisters of the Community, we had a physical location where caseworkers would come, and we would help them fill items they needed for their clients. Now, we are saving energy and leveraging the Internet to get items to people in need.
Today, DonorsResource.org is serving all of Oregon and southwest Washington, and we have over 265 nonprofits registered online. Nonprofits have to be a 501(c)3 to become a member. We serve all causes: from nonprofits helping animals to those offering vocational training. No one is left out.
What's on your wish list?
The goal is to be a conduit for in-kind donations to nonprofits. This is a big goal, but it is something that we believe we can make happen. We would also like to get more help with marketing. The more that people know about DonorsResource.org, the more items we'll have to offer our nonprofit members.
What do you enjoy most about the work?
Connecting with people. Working with the nonprofits and hearing stories about giving: that's what makes this work so worthwhile. Knowing that what we're doing is making a difference in the community.
Fall 2009 Colors of Influence