A night of raffles and designer handbags generated $18,000 in donations. The funds raised by the Credit Union of New Jersey Foundation’s recent designer handbag bingo night were not collected for the foundation, but were instead donated to another local nonprofit.
The Credit Union of New Jersey Foundation, which provides financial education throughout the state, donated all proceeds from its bingo event to One Simple Wish, a nonprofit that grants wishes for foster children.
For nonprofits, navigating niche areas of meaningful work and learning to collaborate with other agencies can prove to be an overwhelming feat. A feat that Danielle Gletow has successfully accomplished through founding One Simple Wish in Trenton, New Jersey.
Gletow, executive director of One Simple Wish, began her journey into the nonprofit world through experience with the foster care system as an adoptive parent.
The process of adoption was eye-opening for Gletow, who decided that she wanted to create a platform that would enable everyone to participate in aiding foster children. “It bothered me that all these people that weren’t being included in the conversation,” Gletow said. “It was difficult for people who want to get involved, but don’t want to foster or adopt.”
Gletow saw an opportunity to make a difference. She drafted the business plan for One Simple Wish, a web-based initiative that allows people to help foster youth by granting their “wishes.”
One Simple Wish operates by enabling individuals or organizations to donate money, and then organizations that partner with One Simple Wish submit wish requests on behalf of children through the online platform.
These simple yet powerful wishes can help a child get a yearbook, obtain sports equipment or go to prom – experiences and items that many foster children grow up without.
After the organization’s initial launch, powerful feedback from former foster youth “helped to validate that what we were doing was filling the gap,” Gletow said.
One Simple Wish asks children and youth what they need, instead of telling them what they are getting. “What is it that would make your life brighter?” Gletow asks.
The organization focuses on the positivity surrounding these children’s futures, and its donation platform empowers people to bring joy to foster children directly, “and people love that,” Gletow said.
“It’s a celebration of these kids as human beings, a celebration of their opportunities,” Gletow said.
When it comes to supporting the organization’s wish-granting efforts, donors can choose to direct their gifts toward specific wishes or programs in amounts ranging from $15 to more than $500.
“This is something that if you can afford Starbucks every once in a while then you can do this,” Gletow said. “People think they have nothing to add – the kids would think differently.”
Beyond filling a gap in services for foster children, One Simple Wish thrives on its ability to collaborate with other organizations. Throughout One Simple Wish’s early stages, Gletow saw nonprofits battling for resources and eschewing collaboration, despite the fact that they were all aiming to help the same kids.
Working together can enhance each other’s services, she explained. There’s “no such thing as competing with the people we’re working with.”
Thus, Gletow made collaboration a key part of her strategy, establishing a community partner network to work with other foster organizations and “to shine a light on the work that other people are doing.”
One Simple Wish partners with hundreds of organizations throughout the U.S., and over 100 just in New Jersey, most notably New Jersey’s Division of Child Protection & Permanency, Children’s Home Society, Children’s Aid & Family Services, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Court Appointed Special Advocates.
“We do encourage nonprofits to collaborate,” said Susan Merrill O’Connor, communications specialist at the New Jersey Center for Non-Profits.
Founded in 1982, the Center for Non-Profits is New Jersey’s state association of non-profits that aims to strengthen that community. “We are a state organization for all nonprofits no matter their mission,” Merrill O’Connor said.
Along the same lines as Gletow’s goals, the Center aims to support the development of partnerships between organizations. “We have networking opportunities,” O’Connor said. “At our annual conference we have tracks that are specific to certain nonprofit communities.”
One Simple Wish does not participate in a national nonprofit board, but locally “we are part of a Trenton nonprofit board and the Princeton Regional board,” Gletow said.
Cooperation between organizations remains a core component of One Simple Wish and has increased its presence within the child welfare field.
“If that means we connect them outside of our organization, it wouldn’t take away one group’s achievements; it compounds the work we do,” Gletow said.
Even with increased media attention, Gletow focuses on the power that teamwork can generate.
“When we get exposed on TV and in newspapers, that’s great for all the people we partner with,” she said. “It’s all about the kids, and those are the same kids that our 700-plus organizations we are working with are serving.”