Building community through the spirit of giving
Author: School of Business Administration
Posted: January 23, 2013

Portland State University School of Business undergraduate students participated in a Strategy Capstone consulting course last fall. Their client,, is a Portland based website that matches donors with nonprofit organizations. Portland native Della Rae thought of the idea with her sister after helping a domestic abuse victim rebuild her life when she escaped to Portland with her children. With nothing except for the clothes on their backs, the family was able to start fresh with the help of Della Rae, her sister and some generous friends who gathered furniture, clothing, toiletries and small appliances.

“We help donors and nonprofits find each other,” says Della Rae, the single mom of Simon, age 13, and Sarah, 11. Donors with items ranging anywhere from musical instruments to books to blankets are connected to nonprofits seeking the same items. Launched in 2005, with 350 Portland nonprofits registered, the organization looked to PSU’s School of Business students for strategies to expand nationwide. Based on a comprehensive analysis of the organization and its industry, demographics and competitors, students presented a series of insightful recommendations.

By analyzing the organization’s revenue models and tracking performance metrics, students identified the distinctive value added to the nonprofit marketplace. What makes unique is that a representative from the nonprofit picks up the goods from the donor after a match is made, engaging donors and organizations to build deeper relationships within the community. By building on that as the organization’s core strategy, students developed creative and realistic solutions to bring this model to other cities in the United States.

“The students were immersed in’s mission,” said Mellissa Appleyard, faculty advisor of the capstone program. “They really took ownership of the project and their recommendations because it was a real-life issue that they believed in. They got to the heart of the organization.”

PSU’s capstone program is a unique experience that provides students with an opportunity for community-based learning and engagement, while simultaneously benefitting Portland’s economic and social vitality. A key component of the course is ethical and social responsibility, and students are exposed to some of the leading strategies in the pursuit of social and environmental missions as well as the traditional economic mission. If you’re a small business, startup or nonprofit agency interested in becoming a community partner for this program, please contact Bill Jones at for more information.