HOW WE STARTED:
In 2011, our organization was a mere entry at a 48 Hour Launch event...where we were ultimately voted crowd favorite and awarded a $17,000 services package. Teal Thibaud was organizing the Social Track of the competition and was introduced to Ben Garrison, who had an idea for a grassroots level philanthropic organization in Chattanooga. Teal liked the idea so much she volunteered brand master Tavis Salazar to develop the name and branding. Bijan Dhanani jumped in as the pitch man and promoter, and Joda Thongnopnua joined at the event to help build the organization.
The idea we presented at the competition was simple: local philanthropy through collective action. We saw a gap in the philanthropic funding landscape for seed stage and small program grant awards. Foundations have millions to give away and typically prefer larger multi-year grants to established nonprofits. We don't. Our members each contribute $100 per month, and we pool those funds together to make a $3,000 (at the time we started that was only $1,000) micro grant. So where does an engaged Chattanoogan go for the seed money for their big idea? Look no further.
The UNFoundation is run by a group of four regular folks with full time jobs just like you. They volunteer their time to promote philanthropy and bring awesome ideas to life. Promoting philanthropy involves recruiting trustees and meeting their needs for networking, warm hugs, and community knowledge. Trustees are the meat and potatoes of The UNFoundation giving $100 each month to fund our grants. If you are interested in becoming a trustee click here. #facesofphilanthropy
Bringing awesome ideas to life requires spreading the word about our easy monthly grant process to everyone in Chattanooga. We advertise to social media crawlers and public radio listeners about the opportunity for easy grants, we spread word of mouth through everyone we know and we promote ourselves to other foundations in town. #wefundcoolideas
Here’s a little more info on the four regular folks running this shindig (ladies first):
Cofounder and in it to win it, our philanthropic endeavor expert keeps the pulse of everything “inner city” going on in our community. She also spreads the word about The UNFoundation like we’re Kim Kardashian. Always busy, this community leader went from revitalizing Main Street (done) to revitalizing Glass Street. You want this girl on your street, for sure.
Handling our finances like a boss, she’s a dime piece and sweet as a button. We’re just going to take a minute to appreciate what we’ve got. Moment of silence, please. This social butterfly has a heart of gold and works at COLAB, a nonprofit startup accelerator, putting on events and setting up programs. She always keeps us in the loop with educators and entrepreneurs as COLAB has programs for both.
When she's not having lunch with prospective trustees or planning the next UNFoundation meeting, she's downtown Chattanooga walking Kona, her Alaskan Malamute. She rocks a hot mullet and despite her preference to drink copious amount of craft beer, she can no longer handle her alcohol and is typically in bed before 10 PM. This self-proclaimed "dirty hippie" is the VP of Sales at Smart Furniture but is the CEO of dishes and laundry at home with her partner.
Cofounder and gentle giant, The UNFoundation was his brainchild. Big Ben is as sweet as it gets, nary a feeling could he hurt. Nicknamed for his looming height, which came in handy playing football at Stanford, Ben is just a squatty 6’8”. Father of two beautiful girls, Ben takes on a project like a dirty diaper. He’s efficient and done before you know it. When not immersed in philanthropy Ben dabbles in real estate and board games.