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Meet Molly Yuska of Project Giving Kids

Today we’d like to introduce you to Molly Yuska.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Molly . So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I am the mother of four with a master’s degree in nonprofit management. I have spent my entire career working for mission-driven organizations. In 2011, I was doing consulting work in the nonprofit sector as my work as a mother continued to take grow and take on new dimensions, including trying to raise my children, now able to begin to understand a reality larger than themselves, to be kind and empathetic people. I knew from experience that opening up their worlds to the needs of others was the best way to do that and I was looking around Greater Boston for ways to bring those experiences into our family’s life together. It was hard. For someone with experience in the nonprofit sector, it was still hard. I was having many conversations with friends about their similar wants and desires and began looking for resources that could streamline this information for us busy parents. There really weren’t any.

In a world where technology is leveraged for every imaginable issue and purpose, I couldn’t figure out why there wasn’t an online resource connecting busy kids and families to service opportunities. As someone who was doing consulting work in the sector, I also understood some of the struggles of nonprofits, especially small-to-midsize ones. Bringing in new volunteers and donors is crucial to their survival and yet many of them: 1) do not leverage the young demographic to their maximum benefit; and 2) aren’t optimizing their online presences as much as they could be for the sake of connecting with new pipelines of people who can support their work. It was from both of these perspectives – my work as a mom and my work in the sector – that the idea for Project Giving Kids (or PGK) was born. We launched our very first beta website in November of 2013, focused exclusively on Boston. We have revamped that a couple of times and are right now in a major site overhaul scheduled to be rolled out in late April. We have expanded to LA and the Bay Area and are continuing to grow our nonprofit partner networks and user bases in all three regions. We recently built our first generation iOS app, YouthGive and are looking at how we can grow and scale PGK to the benefit of kids, teens and families everywhere, as I believe youth service and volunteerism is essential to healthy childhood development, a counter force to our “me” culture and critical to the well being of our communities too.

Has it been a smooth road?
If you are in the business of talking with entrepreneurs, I’m sure you know it is never a smooth road! 😉 I think the world of start-up nonprofits is riddled with extra challenges. For one, there are very few barriers to entry. Virtually anyone can form a nonprofit. The rate at which new nonprofits are created in this country has increased dramatically in the last 20 years. Unfortunately, the funding streams have not and there is very little access to traditional capital in the nonprofit sector. The rules of engagement are fundamentally different. So, you increase the number of nonprofits and not really the funding pool and you have real financial struggles out of the starting gate. For an organization like PGK, we are a “middle man” brokering what is, I think, a very important exchange, but it’s a hard one to fundraise around, as we are not a front-line service provider. We would love for PGK’s platform to be national at this point and while we are an exceptionally lean organization, we still need some more infrastructure to expand in the ways we would like to. All that said, PGK as a concept and an organization has been amazingly well received. In light of all that is going on in our country and internationally, I think everyone agrees we need to raise the next generation to be thoughtful, empathetic and engaged citizens.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Project Giving Kids – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
The mission of PGK is to connect youth to meaningful and age-appropriate service opportunities in support of the nonprofits that make our communities great. We are changing the way kids connect to causes through an easy-to-navigate website (projectgivingkids.org), a new iOS mobile app called YouthGive and select programming, like our annual Create the Change Day, that makes giving back easy and fun. PGK sits at the intersection of two sectors – technology and community service – and is uniquely positioned within them. There are organizations out there that really do a great job using technology (websites, apps, etc.) to promote community service in general – like generationOn and DoSomething – which are both part of the Points of Light Foundation. And then, there are local gems of organizations like Boston Cares and Big Sunday (in LA) that run service opportunities locally in cities. But PGK is different in that we are using technology to try to promote service by connecting youth (specifically) online to the local nonprofit ecosystems, in hopes of helping them find organizations with which they get involved, not just now but hopefully, for a long time to come. Because of our demographic (youth), we take a very thoughtful approach to our partnerships. We don’t see ourselves as just a curator and aggregator of content – although, we do that – but rather a community partner helping kids on one hand, find meaningful and age-appropriate ways to give back and make difference, while also helping our nonprofit partners build their capacity around youth and family engagement. When this happens, there is a third beneficiary as well, our communities. Through service we are more connected, more understanding of our neighbors, and more willing to pitch in and be a part of something bigger than ourselves when needed.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My parents say I was pretty precocious and often a perfectionist. I was also very involved – sports, cheerleading, theater and choir, school organizations – I was constantly moving and doing. And it is safe to say, no one would say, I was shy or retiring. A seminal moment for me was a month-long trip in college with a service team to Honduras. I was one of few people on the team who spoke Spanish so, I served as an interpreter (albeit, perhaps not a very good one given my Spanish!). The people had so little, including in some cases life spans, but they were so joyful, welcoming and giving with what little they had to offer. I always thought of myself as a caring and giving person but I really think that, experience in some way began the journey to Project Giving Kids.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 1150 Walnut Street, Second Floor
    Newton, MA 02461
  • Website: www.projectgivingkids.org
  • Phone: (321) 972-8625
  • Email: info@projectgivingkids.org
  • Instagram: @ProjectGivingKids
  • Facebook: @ProjectGivingKids
  • Twitter: @GivingKIDS (Twitter)

Getting in touch: BostonVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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