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Tapping Into America's Barn-Raising Spirit: Introducing JobRaising

Posted: 09/30/2012 11:00 pm

In the weeks leading up to the Republican and Democratic conventions, we had countless meetings, conference calls and epic email threads geared toward finding solutions to our country's ongoing jobs crisis, our intention being that both the conversation and the actions taken would continue long after the balloons deflated. And I'm delighted to announce that today we launch one of the initiatives that grew out of those discussions, a project with real potential to make a dent in the crisis that has left more than 20 million Americans unemployed or underemployed. In coming up with a name for this project, we wanted to conjure the barn-raising spirit that has always been part of the American DNA. So we're calling it JobRaising.

Along with the Skoll Foundation, CrowdRise, and knowledge partner McKinsey & Company, JobRaising will help job-creating nonprofits -- which rarely get mentioned when we discuss job creation -- raise money, raise awareness and help put Americans back to work. The Skoll Foundation has committed $250,000 to a challenge that will fund the most creative and innovative ideas from nonprofits working to create jobs -- from broad missions to close the skills gap and provide training to specific services like providing suits for job interviews to those who could not otherwise afford them.

And Skoll's generous commitment is just the beginning. We hope its pledge will help raise even more money through CrowdRise, which has historically seen returns of as much as eight times the starting amount. As Ray Chambers wrote in one of those epic email threads, we need to put "audacious stakes in the ground." And in addition to raising money, we hope JobRaising will raise awareness, inspiring others so that we can reach a critical mass of solutions.

Nonprofits may apply at HuffingtonPost.com/JobRaising between now and November 15. HuffPost, the Skoll Foundation and McKinsey & Company will consider all applicants, and starting in January, HuffPost will spotlight select nonprofits to share their stories and help them raise money for job-creating initiatives. We chose January 20th -- Inauguration Day -- to reflect that, no matter who is president, we will need to summon all of our creativity, ingenuity and empathy in order to solve the jobs crisis. Meanwhile, CrowdRise -- whose founders include Edward Norton, Shauna Robertson and Robert and Jeffro Wolfe -- will open the crowdfunding portion of the challenge to the public, including the HuffPost community, so you can pledge your support to the nonprofits whose missions resonate with you.

To qualify, organizations must be a U.S.-based 501(c)3 in existence for at least one year*, have a minimum operating budget of $500,000 and submit a 990 form to the government. After finalists are selected, winners will be announced in March. The nonprofit that raises the most money through CrowdRise will receive $150,000; the nonprofit that raises the second-most money will receive $50,000; and the third-most will receive $30,000. The remaining $20,000 will be split among high-performing nonprofits that achieve job-creating results.

Nonprofits that have already heard of JobRaising and plan to enter include the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, which has been working for the last five years to address the skills gap by working at the community level to help low-wage, low-skilled workers acquire necessary skills; Career Gear, which since 1999 has provided suits to more than 30,000 men for job interviews, and has expanded to include programs like mentoring, counseling and family and child support services; and Samasource, which, as well as pioneering ways to train people in some of the world's poorest places, is now doing the same in the U.S., focusing on digital skills.

When I interviewed Jeff Skoll in May, he explained how his childhood love of storytelling blossomed into a career dedicated to using stories to engage people and, ultimately, arrive at solutions to the world's most daunting crises. He spoke of how he had always had "the uber goal of trying to find these big issues and make a difference," but that it had taken years, and several false starts, for him to learn how best to achieve that goal -- reinforcing one of my deeply held beliefs that in life, things often only make sense as we look back, not as we are experiencing them. JobRaising is just the latest among Jeff's many projects making good on his long-held goal. And in the weeks leading up to our convention panels, the Skoll Foundation's CEO Sally Osberg brought her passion and vision to the table, quoting John Gardner's belief that "what we have before us are some breathtaking opportunities disguised as insoluble problems."

People tend to talk about the financial crisis in terms of what we lack, what we have too little of (financial shortages, deficits, etc.). But we also have under-utilized resources and surpluses -- of creativity, ingenuity, wisdom and inspiration. We believe the JobRaising challenge can convert that wisdom and inspiration -- along with the creativity and ingenuity driving today's most innovative nonprofits -- into solutions.

So please visit HuffingtonPost.com/JobRaising and complete the application. And as always, use the comments section to let us know what you think.

*Update: Due to the number of inquiries we've received from innovative non-profits that did not meet our one-year requirement or have a minimum operating budget of $500,000, we are now welcoming applications from all non-profits, no matter how long they've been in existence or what their budgets are.

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