The Social Justice Challenge was developed by longtime friends Steven Silverman, Josh Sklar and Matthew Greenberg, all 29.
Three native Detroiters created an online donation platform that offers a socially engaging experience while helping social justice organizations achieve their fundraising goals.
The Social Justice Challenge was developed by longtime friends Steven Silverman, Josh Sklar and Matthew Greenberg, all 29. Their goal was to design a quick and easy program for individual donors to learn about and support a variety of local and national charitable organizations.
“We started with a plan to raise money for COVID-19 relief, and then quickly shifted to supporting racial and social justice once it became the center of attention,” said Silverman, a Birmingham resident who is a senior vice president at Friedman Real Estate in Farmington Hills.
All three founders grew up in Metro Detroit and attended Hillel Day School and the University of Michigan. Sklar and Greenberg were neighbors in Franklin. Greenberg and Silverman went to Tamarack. Sklar and Silverman both serve on the NEXTGen Detroit board of Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.
“Our contacts have been supportive in raising money and making a difference for the organizations we’re supporting,” said Greenberg, a freelance web developer in Chicago.
According to Silverman, the platform allows donors to contribute to vetted organizations while providing opportunities for personal expression.
The process is simple: Visitors to the home page are greeted by a grid of squares (think gigantic Zoom meeting) filled with personal photos, logos and inspirational messages created by past donors.
Those wishing to donate click on an empty square, which takes them to a donation page. There, they select the organization they wish to support. During checkout, donors can upload an image of their choice to display in their squares, along with their names and chosen charities, unless they choose to remain anonymous.
Once the transaction is completed, donors are provided with links to enable sharing on their various social media accounts.
Contributors can choose from a list of nonprofit partner organizations, each committed to helping people in need and furthering the cause of social justice reform. Currently, there are seven participating organizations:
– Detroit Justice Center
– Black Lives Matter – Detroit
– The Bail Project (national)
– SAY Detroit
– Empowerment Plan
– Humble Design
– Neighborhood Defender Service – Detroit
The founders welcome new partnerships from organizations looking to increase their public profile and expand their fundraising capabilities.
“Beyond listening, talking and educating myself more around social injustice, I was struggling to find a way to make an actionable impact,” said Sklar, who lives and works in Detroit as director of engineering for StockX. “We’re excited about making this more accessible for everyone, and hope that the community shares our passion and helps make an impact.”
Corporate Matching Programs
In its first two weeks, the platform expanded to include corporate “challengers” who are motivating their employees by matching individual donations. The first Michigan companies volunteering to match their employees’ contributions are Telemus Capital (which raised $12,000), Friedman Real Estate in Southfield, ADS Music Partners in Birmingham, and Child and Family Solutions Center in Farmington Hills.
To date, the trio has raised more than $20,000 for local organizations.
“We’ve found that individual donors tend to donate quicker and donate more when there is a philanthropist, community sponsor, employer, etc., that is matching their donation one-for-one,” Silverman said.
In addition to expanding these connections, the group is helping community sponsors by creating custom boards/websites they can use to promote the program to their networks.
Future plans include continuing to grow the organization in Metro Detroit and then expanding nationwide to cities such as Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. The trio also plan to move forward with their original fundraising site for COVID-19 relief, CovidCharityChallenge.com.
“From a tech perspective, it’s easy for us to grow and evolve in other markets. We exist purely as a platform to serve our individual donors, community sponsors and, most importantly, the grassroots organizations that we’re supporting,” Silverman said.