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Behind the Scenes of Classy’s Biggest Event: The Collaborative + Classy Awards


By Tori Callahan

Collaborative Conference

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The Collaborative + Classy Awards exist today to recognize and celebrate problem solvers, showcase their innovations, and connect them with the most prestigious thought leaders and influencers in the sector.

In our early days, Classy hosted dozens of fundraising events to engage local San Diego millennials in philanthropy. We threw concerts, walks/runs, and other social events—the only requirement was that our events had to benefit a nonprofit organization.

This first hand experience with individuals running nonprofits led us down two paths: the first was the Classy fundraising software, which officially launched in 2011 and has since assisted thousands of organizations through a combination of online fundraising, mobile, and community engagement tools.

The second was the Classy Awards, an event that was born out of our desire to recognize the amazing charitable achievements of the organizations we worked with, but that weren’t receiving the recognition we felt they deserved. The Awards, which first debuted in 2009, have since grown into a three-day experience with the addition of the Collaborative. They exist to showcase and recognize excellence in social innovation.

We’ve grown a lot since that first year. It’s evident in our annual videos from year 1 to year 5.

We constantly challenge ourselves to think differently about how we can create meaningful value for those who attend. This year, our objectives for the Collaborative + Classy Awards are:

  1. Educate attendees about the most pressing social problems in the world today.
  2. Give new social impact programs a platform to showcase their work.
  3. Connect attendees with others they can learn from and work with, but whom they wouldn’t typically cross paths.
  4. Create unique and interactive sessions incorporating data visualizations that provide attendees with a fresh perspective on the social sector.

The Collaborative + Classy Awards is a platform for idea exchange, learning, and collaboration. The experience includes keynote addresses and panel discussions, product showcases and demos, curated debates, breakout sessions, and ample networking opportunities.

The experience convenes an array of thought leaders and experts in the social sector, including NGOs, international agencies, institutional investors, social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and academics. Attendees also include the Classy Award Nominees and Finalists, the Leadership Council, Fellows, the Host Committee, Partners, Sponsors, Speakers, and Classy staff. All participants are bound by a common mission: to address our most challenging social problems through entrepreneurship, innovation, and collaboration.

The Host Committee is a board of local influential leaders that represent social innovation in Boston. Members, who come from a diverse array of industries and expertise, serve as the face of the Collaborative and welcome attendees to their city.

The Leadership Council is an honorary board of leaders and experts who collectively determine the winners of the Classy Awards. Split into 10 boards, members represent a diverse array of industries, including academia, community foundations, for-profit corporations, global NGOs, industry experts, media professionals, nonprofits, philanthropists, private foundations, policymakers, public figures, social entrepreneurs, and a student Fellow. We’ll be announcing the 2016 Leadership Council on February 18. If you know someone that would be a great fit, we’re always looking for recommendations.

The Fellowship is an opportunity for young leaders ages 20 to 25 interested in social entrepreneurial endeavors to engage with top leaders and innovators from around the world. Fellows are required to participate in the Classy Awards judging process and attend the Collaborative + Classy Awards as representatives of young, progressively-minded social entrepreneurs. Applications for the Fellowship are open until January 22, 2016.

Classy Awards Winners are a prestigious group of nonprofits and social enterprises selected for their excellence in social innovation and ability to solve a social problem. Applicants for the Classy Awards are down-selected from Nominees to Finalists using criteria developed in partnership with UPenn Center for High Impact Philanthropy, and Winners are chosen by the Leadership Council. Nominations for the Classy Awards will open on January 6, 2016 but we are currently accepting Nominee recommendations.

The Collaborative + Classy Awards will be held at the Cruiseport in Boston’s Seaport Innovation District, taking place June 14-16, 2016.

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