Central Oregon is full of worthy causes, but it can be difficult to decide which of them needs a volunteer or a donation.
To make those choices easier, Bend resident Rys Fairbrother created What If We Could? Fairbrother, 49, started the organization last year after a career of working with nonprofit groups as a consultant and in recent years as an account executive at Zolo Media in Bend.
Through his organization, Fairbrother meets with nonprofits and offers to create and promote three events per year for them. One is a volunteer event, a second is a donation drive and a third is a traditional fundraiser.
“Instead of just raising funds, we wanted to raise volunteer projects and also raise in-kind giving,” Fairbrother said recently.
Fairbrother creates videos to promote each event and posts the videos to the What If We Could? website. In addition, he reaches out to local businesses to drum up support for the nonprofits.
He charges each nonprofit $1,000 for the entire service.
“By the end of the year, the community has a better understanding of what that nonprofit is all about,” he said. “The community can get a better idea of how they want to participate in the future.”
So far, Fairbrother is helping seven nonprofit organizations: Central Oregon Veterans Outreach, Redmond Senior Center, BEAT Children’s Theatre, Central Oregon Collective, Shepherd’s House Ministries, MountainStar Family Relief Nursery and Beulah’s Place.
Fairbrother’s goal is to triple the number to 21 nonprofits by the end of the year.
On Feb. 7, Fairbrother plans to host his first event, which will support Central Oregon Veterans Outreach and the Redmond Senior Center. He is planning to find local businesses willing to pay for shopping carts full of goods at Fred Meyer, and have the items donated to the veterans organization and senior center.
Fairbrother hopes to grow the shopping cart event and have it held on the 7th of every month.
“The idea is that as time goes on we get more and more people to show up,” he said. “And then we have a bunch of people filling up the carts.”
The goal at the event in February is to collect items for the senior center such as socks, toothbrushes and clothing. The event will also gather propane tanks, sleeping bags, backpacks, tarps and hand warmers for Central Oregon Veterans Outreach.
Kathy Skidmore, executive officer at COVO, said the veterans group sees Fairbrother’s organization as a refreshing way to connect people with nonprofit organizations.
“He seems to have a solid plan, and he’s been working really hard to get support from the business community to work with the nonprofit community,” Skidmore said. “That’s a huge value for both sides.”
About three years ago, Fairbrother started testing his idea for What If We Could? and organized a pilot project with Grandma’s House of Central Oregon, a shelter for teen parents. The pilot project was a donation drive that collected diapers, wet wipes and paper towels for teen parents in need. At that time, Fairbrother knew his idea could grow.
Woody Medeiros, program director at Grandma’s House, said she likes how Fairbrother’s organization encourages people to help any way they can, from volunteering to donating.
“There is that segment of the population that doesn’t want to just write checks,” Medeiros said. “They want to get down to the nuts and bolts of helping.”
Fairbrother also hopes to expand What If We Could? into local schools where students could connect with nonprofits for community service projects. Ultimately, Fairbrother wants to expand his organization into more communities.
“These are tangible projects that people want to be a part of,” he said.
— Reporter: 541-617-7820, firstname.lastname@example.org