'Design for Progress' Is the Charitable Alternative to Black Friday Spending

Because the world needs a safety net a whole lot more than you need new speakers.

by Kara Weisenstein
Nov 25 2016, 1:15pm

All images courtesy Sight Unseen

When Monica Khemsurov and Jill Singer, co-founders of art and design site Sight Unseen, woke up Wednesday, November 9, they did so with heavy hearts. The day before, Donald Trump had unexpectedly beat Hillary Clinton in the US Presidential Election, and the heartbreak at losing a shot at America’s first female President, coupled with the uncertainty and fear fostered by the incoming administration’s intolerant ideologies, was overwhelming.

“We were both so invested in a win for Hillary for many reasons—not least because we are a women-owned small business—and when we woke up on Wednesday, we were crushed. We didn’t have the heart or the energy to be business as usual,” Khemsurov and Singer tell The Creators Project. The ladies hopped on Skype to brainstorm ways to celebrate women and react to the election in general, when it occurred to them to use their platform to mitigate against the human rights infractions and sweeping budget cuts signaled by the Trump-Pence campaign.

Jill Singer and Monica Khemsurov, co-founders of Sight Unseen

“We realized we could raise money to support all the causes near and dear to us that would now be under attack with Trump in the White House. Monica had been on an email chain lamenting the election results with Brian and Elizabeth from Various Projects, so we brainstormed a name for this endeavor with them, and asked them to turn around a logo for us in just a couple of hours, while Monica and I thought about which charities to include and researched the logistics. There is actually no platform, so far as we could find, that allows you to fundraise for multiple charities at once! We launched the fundraiser a little after noon [on November 9,]” Singer says.

The resulting fundraiser, titled Design for Progress, is a one-stop-humanitarian-shop, where equally-concerned citizens can “vote with their wallets” to support a whopping seven different charities at once. Khemsurov and Singer chose organizations doing work to protect groups and issues in need of the most support after this election: women’s rights, racism, climate change, gun control, LGBTQ rights, poverty, and immigration. Since online donation services limit fundraisers to one beneficiary, Sight Unseen will make equal donations to each organization on their donors’ behalf.

“We chose seven organizations with relatively high name recognition—Planned Parenthood, Everytown for Gun Safety, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Human Rights Campaign, EarthJustice, and the National Immigration Law Center—to maximize giving, but we also compiled a huge list of other, potentially lesser-known, groups in order to arm people with the necessary knowledge,” Singer says. “We honestly didn’t care if people gave to our specific fundraiser so long as they felt encouraged and enabled to give in general. That list went kind of viral on social media, so we were super proud knowing we had done something to help people recapture some measure of power.”

Sight Unseen's list of potentially lesser-known charitable organizations

For many, charitable giving has become a chief way to take a stand against the impending Trump administration. It’s also a balm against the feelings of helplessness plaguing many Americans post-election. “We made almost $20,000 to disperse among our seven chosen charities, and the donations came from more than 200 people. We have been thrilled with the support, considering it’s relatively outside of what we normally do on Sight Unseen,” Singer says.

“What it does have in common is this idea of providing inspiration and a platform for unheard voices, as well as mobilizing a certain segment of the community. But we’re currently plotting ways for Design for Progress to have a life beyond this election, because it is vitally important to support these humanitarian services.” Already in the pipeline are a fundraising party in December and a charitable auction in the spring, but Khemsurov and Singer say to stay tuned: they’re just getting started.

To make donation through Design for Progress, click here.


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