Connecting ‘Cool People,’ good causes

Friday, June 3, 2011, Vol. 35, No. 22
By Hollie Deese

Luck happens, they say, when preparation meets opportunity. So if you were to measure the success of Cool People Care, an organization that partners volunteers with non-profits, Sam Davidson could be considered a pretty lucky guy.

Davidson’s background in business and non-profits gave him the experience he and cofounder Stephen Moseley needed to cofound Cool People Care in 2006. And he did it at probably the best possible time to capitalize on the social media boom.

“We started because we saw a need emerging in the non-profit world where two things were happening,” Davidson says. “One, we had the first of the Millennials -- Generation Y -- finishing college, getting out in the real world, and this is a generation that was very much raised on the ideas of volunteerism and community and service. We saw they were looking for opportunities to continue that, but up until they had gotten out on their own, all of these programs were programmed for them by a teacher, a church or a college.”

Davidson and Moseley saw they could help facilitate this new wave of volunteerism, helping find causes important to them in a way that had not really been done before: through social media.

“The people were having difficulty because a lot of these non-profits weren’t really using more engaging kinds of technology and media such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter,” he says. “Mainly, because back in 2006 Twitter hadn’t been invented yet, YouTube was brand new and Facebook was only open to college students.”

But he saw the potential to help these young people looking for volunteer opportunities to connect with non-profits, who were certainly looking for young volunteers.

“We decided to create a place where they can do just that,” Davidson says. “We can appeal to these 20-somethings and create a community and show them what they are looking for. That was really the driving force behind the creation of Cool People Care.”

But as social media has exploded over the last few years, so has Cool People Care.

“Since our launch we have written over 2,500 articles, hosted close to 5,000 events and have really become a hub, a one-stop shop, to connect people who really want to make a difference and give them a chance to do that.”

Davidson, a Hume-Fogg alum, had worked in non-profits for years, worked in the hotel industry after graduating from Samford University in Birmingham, giving him the business edge he needed to make his business profitable.

“We are a business,” he says. “We belong to the world of social entrepreneurship, which was very new when we started in 2006 but has become much more popular, thankfully. If you want to make a difference you don’t have to be a non-profit. There are ways to build a business around good ideas and things that are powerful for the community.”

The website lists events for more than 2,000 organizations, but actively promotes about 100 or so. The focus ranges from education and poverty, but the majority of opportunities concern the environment. Each weekday there is a 99-word article detailing one thing that can be done to make the world a better place. People can connect with organizations looking for help, searching by keyword or zip code.

Much of CPC growth has come from their merchandise line based on the brand that includes coffee mugs and organic T-shirts printed in an eco-friendly way, which they introduced in 2007.

“People wanted to support us financially by buying something, but they also wanted to let other people know they were cool because they cared about something,” he says. “So that has been the fastest growing part of our business, and that is what we are going to continue to expand.”

Davidson is also an author, co-writing New Day Revolution with Moseley in 2007, 50 Things Your Life Doesn’t Need in 2010, and his latest, Simplify Your Life: How to de-clutter and de-stress your way to happiness, hit shelves just this week.

And like Davidson has in his life, the overall goal of CPC is to get people thinking about giving on a bigger scale, incorporating it into every aspect of their day, not just an event they can do and check off their list.

“Our philosophy and our outlook is that caring is very holistic,” he says. “It is not this is my good deed for the day, but it is sort of the sum of the decisions, big and small, you make throughout your day.

“And so we want to be able to provide resources for people, no matter if they are at work at home, at school, drinking coffee, out to lunch, driving, it doesn’t matter. We want to be able to provide ideas and opportunities for them to give back and make a positive impact in some way.”