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The JobRaising Challenge: Engagement, Opportunity and $1.5 Million for Jobs

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When Sally Osberg of The Skoll Foundation and I first discussed the idea of a competition to help create jobs, we knew that we wanted it to be one that tapped into the American spirit of people coming together to help their fellow citizens. By the time we launched The JobRaising Challenge on Inauguration Day, it was clear that the tradition was alive and well. After selecting 74 finalists from 217 organizations in 31 states and 110 cities, we entered the final six-week stretch, asking Americans to donate to the nonprofit with the most creative, innovative, and compelling idea to create jobs.

The results were astonishing. We raised over $1,500,000 to help put Americans back to work -- more than $1,200,000 of that through CrowdRise alone. And when we crunched the numbers, we saw a picture of true grassroots engagement. Thousands of donations, 80 percent of them under $100. More than 7,000 tweets were posted about the challenge, spreading awareness and spurring engagement. And on the last day alone, a rally: nearly $275,000 in donations poured in, with $185,000 coming in the challenge's final hour.

In a photo finish, JVS LA, a job training nonprofit in Los Angeles that serves 30,000 people a year, edged past Venture for America, a nonprofit that places college graduates in 2-year fellowships at startups, by less than $900. And in addition to raising money that can go toward putting more Americans back to work, the Challenge highlighted the power of the platform: CrowdRise raised the most money in its history -- shattering its previous record by more than $200,000 -- and both JVS LA and Venture for America surpassed CrowdRises' previous record for most money raised by a single organization by more than $100,000 each.

And yet, JobRaising was about more than just the numbers. In an effort to start conversations about the jobs crisis and foster innovative ideas to end it, HuffPost published more than 200 blogs from participating organizations, telling the stories of those who made the Challenge a success. Like Outside the Box's Ian Nixon, who did everything from cleaning garages to taking down Christmas lights in order to start conversations with people he hoped would donate. And an alumna of the Upwardly Global job training program named Ariana, who became a fundraiser herself for the competition. One nonprofit, Boaz & Ruth, donated to Baker Industries, the organization just ahead of them in the Challenge -- a reflection of the fact that, for JobRaising's nonprofits, it wasn't just about the prizes, but building connections and working toward a common goal.

Now, the real work can begin, thanks to donations that will allow the nonprofits to convert the Challenge's barn-raising spirit into action. JVS LA will be able to hire more job developers to establish relationships with local small businesses and create a larger hiring pipeline. Venture for America plans to use the funds to expand its program to Baltimore and Cleveland. YouthBiz, a Denver-based nonprofit, will be able to educate 40 more young people in entrepreneurship skills.

On HuffPost Live, which played a big part in the Challenge, my Chief of Staff Daniel Koh, who did an amazing job leading the team that carried out the Challenge, pointed out that many of the donations were really small -- $5 here, $10 there -- and 80 percent were under $100. But they added up to $1.2 million and much greater awareness about the work of these innovative nonprofits and the difference that average Americas can make in the battle to create jobs. We were reminded that we can no longer sit by the sidelines waiting for government to act, that we can instead tap into our greatest resources -- the empathy, generosity and barn-raising spirit that have always defined us as a country.