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What If We Could? 

New organization aims to make volunteering more accessible

Volunteering or giving back to the community can feel good—but involves enough barriers that for a lot of people, it doesn't happen very often.

After a career in marketing, Rys Fairbrother started What If We Could to help nonprofits get more support. - SUBMITTED
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  • After a career in marketing, Rys Fairbrother started What If We Could to help nonprofits get more support.

Rys Fairbrother is trying to make the process easier for people Central Oregon through his organization, What If We Could. His one-man operation partners with nonprofits in Central Oregon to help them be more successful.

"I thought 'what if we could' not just raise money but give people a better idea of who these nonprofits are?" he explains. "Executive Directors are pulled in so many different directions, so if they have to choose between a 20-person volunteer event or applying for a $50,000 grant, they typically feel like they need to apply for the grant."

To make volunteer and donation opportunities easier for both the people planning them and the people trying to help, What If We Could selects 28 nonprofits and provides three opportunities for each nonprofit throughout the year, in which community members can participate. Each option is different so people can choose to give in the way that works best for them. Fairbrother plans to announce the projects on the 7th of each month.

Fairbrother and What If We Could is already working with Central Oregon Veterans Outreach. Here's what the three campaigns look like:

In-Kind giving: "There are five products people can pick up at the store for this," Fairbrother said. "Propane tanks, handwarmers, brown tarps, sleeping pads and backpacks." These are items COVO is in short supply of and will be donated to people seeking the nonprofit's assistance. If community members want to donate, they can buy the items and bring them to COVO.

Volunteering: In late spring What If We Could will be doing landscape work at a property managed by COVO. This will be a one-day opportunity allowing people to donate time and hard work instead of a product.

Monetary donations: Each organization identifies a project costing $2,500 or less, and money donated through What If We Could goes directly to the project. Donations are not capped if the project reaches its target, but any money donated beyond the specified amount could be used for other projects. The donation drive for COVO will go toward new tires and brakes for the vans the nonprofit uses to transport veterans.

The model helps break down giving back to the community into more bite-sized pieces.

"I've noticed that people, millennials especially, are skeptical about where their money is going when they donate," Fairbrother said.

What If We Could acts as a facilitator or a platform—which means that all money donated through them will go directly to the nonprofit they are working with. Fairbrother meets with each nonprofit to help them decide what they need to be successful in serving their recipients and how each campaign will do that.

"My goal for 2019 is to see every campaign fully funded," Fairbrother said. "The more long-term goal is to bring What If We Could to other cities outside of Central Oregon. I want to activate citizens toward projects all year, not just end-of-year giving."

What If We Could will also work with businesses to provide more exposure to specific nonprofits by posting a flyer for one week a month about what they do and how people can help. Businesses can also choose to help out a specific nonprofit by sponsoring them.

Fairbrother worked in marketing for years, and realized organizations, nonprofits especially, just need to figure out what their story is and break it into shareable bites. While he'll be doing a lot of marketing for What If We Could, another way people can get involved is to become social ambassadors so they can share information about nonprofits and their projects.

"I'm just really excited to see what happens," Fairbrother said. "I don't think the vision is fully funded yet—it takes the community getting involved to reach our full potential.

To get involved, check out to sign up for a role or to nominate your nonprofit.

What If We Could

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