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Just to venture (a bit … or more than a bit) outside the Beltway, do check out this news item from the Rochester, MN, Post Bulletin:

Rick Weiss, who owns Insty-Prints in Rochester, is taking a different tack this year for his annual search for groups deserving of help. He has made annual donations to local organizations for the past 11 years.

Using Facebook and LinkedIn, he launched “a $1,000 Nonprofit Challenge” last week. Weiss is asking people whose lives have been touched by a local non-profit to share their stories. “We want to hear the stories of those organizations that are making a difference,” he says.

His plan is to have people vote for their favorites and then award the top vote getter with $1,000 worth of marketing and graphics services. The second and third place winners also receive donated services.

To restrict voting to just one vote per person, votes will accepted only in person at Insty-Prints’ shop at 2410 N. Broadway. The stories will be posted on a bulletin board there as well as possibly being posted online.

The social media aspect of this story understandably has received much of the attention. But more than the clever use of Facebook, the newly-established partnership between a small business and the local non-profits caught my eye. Even the most basic rules of the “contest” — the “nominating committee” is the local community, “votes” must be submitted in person at the print store — are quite simple and smart. They ensure that the non-profit, the business, and the clients of both are all connected. This idea also indicates that, even without sizable monetary resources, individuals and companies can find ways to give back — quite creatively. Moreover, the structure of the contest is, in fact, quite clever business. Not only do voters need to visit the store to cast their vote, but I had to Google “Insty Prints” to write this piece.

Whether (essentially) personal giving should come down to a popular vote is a larger conversation for another time, but the local and collaborative spirit of this idea really appeal to me. What do you think? In what simple ways can our for- and non-profit communities give to and partner with one another — for the benefit of both?

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