Power Launch Philanthropy was founded through a series of experiments, iteration, collaboration - and kismet.
In 2013, filmmakers Mary Chiochios and Christy Cashman conceived of Charity Warriors as a reality television show featuring charismatic women who competed to raise funds and awareness for charity. After several promising meetings with network producers, the series was not picked up, but the idea did not end there.
Reimagined as a web series and fundraising event for women, the inaugural Charity Warriors Challenge was held in 2014, raising $300,000 for five nonprofits.
Another local philanthropist, Saskia Epstein, was also convening nonprofit executive women. Years earlier, Saskia, and Project 351 founder, Carolyn Casey, had formed the Nonprofit Executive Women’s Forum, a monthly gathering of chief executives for networking and peer mentorship.
It was a conversation among these women about isolation and professional development that inspired the creation of an innovation lab within Power Launch Group, the nonprofit consultancy Saskia founded in 2014. The lab’s first endeavors included two formative ideas; an executive boot camp, and start-up competition.
In 2015, Mary and Christy set out to further expand the Charity Warriors Challenge. It was then that Mary, Christy, and Saskia were first introduced, on Twitter. Nancy Frates, Sally Taylor, and Saskia, were invited to lead a series of workshops on topics ranging from social media to board development. The second Charity Warriors Challenge concluded in early 2016, with $200,000 raised for five women-led nonprofits, over ten weeks.
Meanwhile, Power Launch incorporated as a nonprofit, with Philanthropy Massachusetts (formerly known as Associated Grant Makers) becoming its fiscal 501c3 sponsor. Planning for the first executive boot camp was underway when Saskia met Todd Dagres, who had envisioned a shark-tank style event for Boston’s nonprofits. Convinced they should work together, the two joined forces to pair the executive leadership program with a culminating pitch event. The result was a six-week accelerator that engaged eleven social entrepreneurs, five of whom were awarded $150,000. Read about the original vision and subsequent Globe article.
Interest from nonprofit and philanthropic leaders inspired the further development of these programs. The Charity Warriors Challenge was now imagined as a fundraising accelerator, with a series of weekly challenges, and companion workshops. Fourteen nonprofits participated in the 2017 ten-week program, with five finalists raising $300,000 in the last weeks and at a final celebration. A video series followed the nonprofit leaders as they progressed through the challenges. Watch an episode.
In 2018, Charity Warriors Challenge cofounders the Charity Warriors Challenge became a signature program of Power Launch. In its most successful year, thirteen nonprofits collectively raised nearly $600,000 through the fundraising accelerator. These amazing leaders mobilized 16,000 votes on social media, pitched to sector leaders, and were awarded $23,000 in prizes through Power Launch’s charitable fund.
On the heels of an exciting year, more lies ahead. The organization has adopted the name Power Launch Philanthropy to better reflect its refined mission of innovating and expanding charitable giving. In 2019, the reconstituted start-up accelerator will convene leaders of new philanthropic initiatives in a year-long fellowship program. We are also planning a Corporate Charity Challenge - to harness the fundraising power of Boston’s charitably-minded private sector. And, we continue to be excited about experimentation and collaboration. As a philanthropy innovation lab, it’s in our organizational DNA. We are growing our charitable fund to support innovators in our programs and alumni network, and are incubating several new giving initiatives.
We believe that great ideas can come from anywhere, that we’ll do better with room at our table, and that by giving together, we can give more. Perhaps the next great idea is yours.