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Friday, November 12, 2010 - SBA alumni connect local charities with volunteer network

Two SBA alumni seized an opportunity to harness the power of social networking to connect non-profit organizations with a network of young professionals who can offer time, energy and creativity.


The result: The Social Philanthropist's Foundation ( which Rob Ray, SBA Finance '04, Doug Van Slembrouck, SBA MIS '01, created to support local Michigan non-profit agencies. 


Together the pair, who met through a mutual acquaintance, turned their shared interest in community involvement and belief that many non-profit agencies were disconnected from young professionals into action.


"It seemed that nearly every charity interaction we had revolved around money, something we didn't have in great surplus," says Ray. "Everyone isn't capable of making large donations to attend a charity function."


So Ray and Van Slembrouck, along with two other friends, capitalized on what they could contribute: their time, passion, resources and connections, to create The SPF to redefine what it means to be charitably active.


With a mission to connect young professionals with non-profit organizations in fun, social, simple and meaningful ways, The SPF is building a community of enthusiastic like-minded individuals who believe the value of contributions can be measured in more ways than simply financial.


The SPF connects with its volunteers through YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, where more than 600 friends follow its efforts and learn about ways to get involved. The group hosts fun bar nights to raise money for local charities and promotes charities through video blogs.


"These are people who have expressed an interest in getting involved in their communities and look to The SPF for opportunities," says Ray. "We try to provide a volunteer option where the barrier of participation is as low as possible -- there's nobody to call, no form to sign. It's all prepackaged with other social people who you'll have a great time being around."


Since its inception, The SPF and its members have supported more than ten charities including Gleaners Community Food Bank, Leader Dogs for the Blind, The Pink Fund and the upcoming 5K race for Paint A Miracle. The race will provide one-quarter of the annual fundraising for this downtown Rochester art studio for people with closed-head injuries, developmental challenges and Autism.   


The results speak loudly. In just one year, members of The SPF gathered more than 300 pounds of food for Gleaners, have helped increase adoption rates for shelter dogs, and organized events to raise money and/or awareness of issues like breast cancer.

"We also focus on service projects and opportunities, like our two most recent events where we volunteered at The Judson Center, repainting and finishing a cottage for young girls," says Ray. "It was great and felt awesome to see the fruits of our labor when we were finished."

The non-profits appreciate the support from The SPF. "The SPF partners with both local and national level non-profits to create awesome fundraisers, events and publicity campaigns," says a dog rescue client through a review on Great Nonprofits. "Working with them has been impressive.  This is a dedicated group with an awesome skill set!"


The pair extend their dedication to "doing" by supporting the education of future business professionals through the SBA's CIBRE internship program. They recently sponsored a project where two OU SBA student interns are working with them to build on the success of The SPF through a new time-banking concept called Karmagora (see related story ).


Not only are these alumni using their education to improve the world around them, they are also busy professionals building successful careers. Ray is a Certified Financial Planner at UBS Financial Services, Inc., and Van Slembrouck designs and markets software for Plex Systems Inc. in Auburn Hills.


Van Slembrouck notes that Michigan's non-profit agencies have suffered the last few years as the economy languished. The organizations generally have very small operating budgets and focus their efforts within the community.  


"These are great organizations for us to work with since they can save their hard-raised donations for programs rather than for paying for a number of services that we can help provide," says Ray.


"I especially appreciate the work we do in Michigan at The SPF, as the state recovers and grows," says Van Slembrouck. "Most people don't know about the charities and groups we work with. Being able to help raise money and awareness, as well as provide resources, is very rewarding."

By Dawn Pauli