After graduating from The Ohio State University with bachelor’s degrees in marketing and political science, Matt Goldstein landed a job at Abercrombie & Fitch. During his five-year tenure with the retailer, he spearheaded several volunteer projects that engaged hundreds of his co-workers.
When a project ended, the commentary was always the same; Matt’s co-worker’s invariably told him it was their primary contribution to the local nonprofit community. He quickly realized he was working with a group of young, talented, smart people who wanted to be more involved in community service, but lacked the means to fit philanthropy into their busy lifestyle.
That’s when the idea for Besa, a social welfare platform that makes philanthropic opportunities more accessible to the Columbus community, started to take root.
In 2010, Matt resigned from his corporate gig to focus on developing Besa full time. It launched two years later.
“The growth over the first year has been tremendous,” Matt says. “We have had a strong community response from the start. In fact, we added the volunteer portal in March to make it even easier for people to connect with immediate impact projects.”
In January, Besa began managing volunteer opportunities specifically designed for the community here at Kaufman. In March, the Kaufman Development Volunteer Portal launched, allowing residents, staff and friends to sign up for those exclusive opportunities, monitor dollars raised, and track volunteer hours tied to Kaufman initiatives.
We’re proud to report that, to date, Kaufman has logged 275 volunteer hours and donated more than $14,600 worth of goods and services to the community through Besa.
Since Besa’s launch, more than $40,000 in goods and services and 1,200 volunteer hours have been contributed to Columbus nonprofits.
For Matt, the most rewarding part of his job is watching a volunteer light up when they make an impact.
“Just the other week, a first time volunteer was helping a client select food from the Broad Street food pantry,” he says. “After they walked through, the client shook the volunteer’s hand and thanked her profusely. The client exited out the door and the volunteer walked by me with a smile that lit up the entire food pantry.”
Matt also loves seeing volunteers take the initiative to better the client experience.
For instance, Besa volunteers once a month at Dress for Success, helping low-income women select workplace outfits and build confidence. When two volunteers noticed one of the aspects clients struggle with most is how to match items to make an outfit, they met with the executive director and are now in the process of creating a lookbook that clients can use to style outfits appropriately.
So what’s next for Besa?
Matt says his team is developing an app that can be used to sign up for a volunteer project, remind volunteers about an upcoming project, and provide directions to the corresponding venue. A blog highlighting local philanthropic events and efforts, and how to get involved is also in the works.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the upcoming holiday season, but here at Kaufman we encourage you to pause and consider how you can positively impact our community. Besa’s Adopt a Senior program, which helped more than 1,000 seniors last year, is a great way to give back.
Once again, Besa is partnering with the Central Ohio Agency on Aging to provide low income seniors with Christmas presents. To participate, just send an e-mail to adopt@GiveBesa.org, and Besa will respond with a specific senior and all the details you need to buy, wrap and drop the presents off.
“Many seniors live in isolation, with little or no family support and, for most, the Adopt donation will be the only help they receive over the holidays,” Matt says.
For more information about Adopt a Senior or other Besa volunteer opportunities, visit givebesa.org.