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Project Alchemy closes

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Securing support was big challenge for tech-assistance group.

By Todd Cohen

Citing a lack of support from funders, Project Alchemy, a Seattle-based nonprofit that provided tech assistance to social-justice organizations and organizers in the Pacific Northwest has shut down.

“We did not successfully gain institutional recognition,” says Samantha Moscheck, who served as the organization’s program manager.

Cambrea Ezell, chair of Project Alchemy’s board, says the region lacks a “significant funding stream dedicated to capacity building for social justice.”

Funders thus “must choose between critical issues and capacity-building goals,” she says in a written statement. “Our work was not a priority for funders.”

Moscheck and her husband, Michael, have formed DigitalAid, a limited liability company that aims to carry on the work of Project Alchemy and will serve nonprofits and small businesses.

Project Alchemy, which opened its doors in April 2001, served more than 100 groups, providing services ranging from group training ,tech planning and network design to web development, email strategy and database planning and development.

Working with a staff of three and a network of less a dozen consultants and volunteers, Project Alchemy operated with an annual budget that peaked at roughly $300,000 in 2002, and generated no more than 30 percent of its revenue from fees for services.

Fees initially ranged from $15 an hour for nonprofits with annual budgets under $50,000, to $60 for those with budgets over $500,000, and up to $90 for funding organizations.

Those fees were replaced about a year ago by a flat fee of $60 an hour for all nonprofits, and $90 for funders.

A big challenge for groups providing tech assistance is the “seemingly inevitable competition for resources,” Moscheck says.

“You put yourself in a position of competing for resources with other providers that should be your partners, and with organizations that are your constituents,” she says. “Everyone you partner with and serve are seeking the same funding.”

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