Local start-up pairs nonprofits with merchants

Aug. 07, 2013 @ 11:29 AM

Local nonprofits have a new way to raise money for charity, and local merchants have a new way to drive customers to their business. A Durham-based start-up company called Vivahub developed the concept of partnering nonprofits with merchants to support both. The win-win philosophy was initiated by Durham resident Todd Atlas and his business  partners. Atlas became a social entrepreneur after trying out several other web-based deal ideas, but ultimately arrived at the Vivahub concept because it helps everyone.
“Non-profits don't have to reach right into people's wallets looking for donations,” said Atlas, “but can give them real value when they support a VivaHub Offer.  And nonprofits give their supporters the chance to help simply by buying and sharing enticing offers with others,” he continued.  “Merchants can create profitable offers that make sense for them, and benefit from strong associations with nonprofit supporters.”
The way it works is that local nonprofits partner with businesses willing to make an offer to entice new customers that is still profitable for them. Nonprofits then share the offers with staff, board members and volunteers. A percent of each sale is donated to the nonprofit. Unlike Groupon, the offers are as profitable as businesses need to make them, buyers get something they want, while simultaneously donating to charity. “By buying a deal you are a donor,” said Atlas.
Durham Connects just completed its first run with VivaHub, exceeding their fundraising goal of $1,000, and reaching 76 unique supporters.
Durham Connects embarked on a campaign after connecting with Atlas after the birth of his first child, Evan, this spring.  Like all nonprofits, Durham Connects is always looking for ways to raise money to support its services. Durham Connects provides newborn nurse home visits free of charge to Durham County residents. Atlas said he and his wife found their nurse home visit very helpful after bringing baby Evan home. Even though they have resources and support, a new baby can bring a lot of anxiety and questions. “My wife loved it. She is a successful attorney, but she is still a first-time mom. She really was happy and felt more comfortable about what she’s doing,” Atlas said.
Atlas and his team have built strong relationships with some of Durham’s most reputable businesses. Pop’s Restaurant , for example, has been a continuous supporter willing to partner with nonprofit campaigns. The outreach brings in new customers and creates the positive association of helping local groups. The deals are very popular and sell well. Durham Connects supporter Bill Meyer, a social worker at Duke University Medical Center, sent the Vivahub link supporting Durham Connects to his friends, family and online networks. He, alone, raised more than $250 for the organization. He purchased one of the deals to Pop’s and was impressed, “Four of us went to Pop’s to have the three- course dinner with wine pairings. It was really sensational and an incredible bargain,” said Meyer. “We were really well taken care of.” 
Atlas adds, “Pop’s is a poster child for Vivahub. They offer a great deal, which is off menu and (gives the diner) a personal chef experience. It gives people a positive, elevated experience and it’s a way of bringing in new folks. “
In addition to the Pop’s partnership, the Durham Connects campaign also partnered with Bella Bean Organics home delivery service, The Playhouse on Ninth Street, 604 West Village and Bull Street Gourmet.  Vivahub has coordinated fundraising campaigns with Kidznotes, Caring House and Durham Arts Council. DAC raised more than $10,000 in two campaigns.
Atlas said Vivahub is still in beta mode and adjusting the platform to work optimally. Ultimately, he would like the see Vivahub be successful in Durham and expand the reach to other communities. Now, he is open to ideas and partnerships in Durham, “We have an open door policy to explore partnerships with any merchant or non-profit.” Perhaps this is what makes Durham so great, the combination of innovation, social entrepreneurship and community collaboration. It seems like Vivahub chose the right city in which to start up. To find out more about Vivahub, visit www.vivahub.com. To learn more about Durham Connects visit www.durhamconnects.org.