Getting to Know You: Ariel Zhang posted 10/04/17


Launch St. Louis is thrilled and honored to welcome Ariel Zhang as our newest board member.  Ariel served on our 18-month partnership committee for two years, and brings that wealth of experience, along with an exceptional skillset developed as a Management Consultant at North Highland Worldwide, to Launch.

To officially introduce Ariel, we thought it might be fun to play a little game of “Getting to Know You”!  We hope you enjoying learning more about Ariel as much as we did, and look forward to having Ariel in her new role within the Launch community.

So without further ado, meet Ariel!

1) What brought you to St. Louis?

My family moved here when I was in high school for my mom’s job. It’s the longest I’ve ever lived in one place – almost nine years. I can’t believe it. It’s definitely considered my home now.

2) How did you first get involved with Launch St. Louis?

I was a part of the Young Professionals Network when I was working at one of the bigger companies in St. Louis. I volunteered a bit in college but wanted to get more active in the community after graduation. One day, I saw information about Launch at the bottom of one newsletter from the YPN and saw it as a great opportunity to get to know different nonprofits in St. Louis.

3) What inspires you to do the work that you do?

My parents immigrated to Canada from China when I was two and then we immigrated to America when I was 12. Being an immigrant gives you a different perspective I think. I watched my parents really fight to start something for us because we didn’t have roots and connections where we immigrated. I recognize that they gave me a world of opportunities so I think it’s my responsibility to be grateful and pass that on to someone else. I honestly think I’m lucky to have a life where my basic needs are met and am, therefore, able to give back.

4) What excites you must about the future for St. Louis?

So much! St. Louis has a huge opportunity to market itself to the world. I think St. Louis is the most underrated city that I’ve been. My favorite part is that it’s truly a community. We have a problems like any community would but never in another city would you find top CEOs willing to mentor college students, such high involvement in non-profits, and so many entrepreneurs trying to make a difference. It’s the combination of everything that makes us unique.

4) What is a cause you are passionate about?

Obviously I’m passionate about Launch. I took two years of just being on the committee level to truly understand the value of Launch before joining the board. We all have way too much on our plates and so I try to be selective on how I spend my time. I’m also passionate about Make-A-Wish and volunteer as a wish granter. I had to have major surgery when I was 13 and spent time away from school for quite a bit of time. I relate to those kids a lot and they help me keep perspective on life.

5) How do you enjoy spending your free time?

I try to do too many things (^see above about learning to be selective on my time). Currently, I love salsa dancing, boxing, and rock climbing. I also LOVE food. All of my friends will tell you that food is my top priority on any given day. I love being creative in my cooking at home and try to cook food from different cultures. St. Louis also has an affordable (!!!), diverse, and top-notch food scene.

Technology Trends in Nonprofits posted 08/30/17

In this day and age, it is almost impossible to go anywhere and not see the world lit by the blue light of our smartphones.  You cannot deny that reliance on our technology has become the new normal, and we say if you can’t beat them, why not join them?

With the advances of the 21st century, there are innumerable new opportunities to utilize digital tools to support the evolving social needs of our communities.  Nonprofits can take advantage of all sorts of technology tools to make their work more impactful and effective. These tools can include social media, digital case management, communal information navigation and research, as well as online philanthropy. Take some time to explore how we can best apply technology to further social good, as well as create more opportunities for innovation in the nonprofit sector!

If we can’t convince you, perhaps these statistics will:

  • In 2015 4% of charitable giving occurred online, in 2016 11.3% occurred online. 1/3 of these online donations occurred as a result of peer to peer fundraising.
  • 13,570,983  — the number of new people who used the VolunteerMatch network in 2015 to explore opportunities for a cause they believe in.
  • $1.66 Billion — the estimated collective impact of the volunteers who used VolunteerMatch to get involved in 2015.
  • However, 65% of nonprofits don’t have outreach and marketing plan and 24% don’t have any digital strategy. Online donations still are a minority of overall philanthropic giving.
  • Email has the highest ROI for fundraising online. $40 is raised for every $1 spent
  • For every 1000 website visitors, nonprofits raise $612
  • Responsive pages yield 34% more donations. – Why? People are more likely to make a donation if the option is available on every screen size
  • 51% of nonprofit website visitors access from a mobile device.

If you would like to learn more about this exciting topic, make sure to attend the Launch St. Louis 2017 Gateway to the Future Summit on September 14th, featuring a panel on Technology Trends in Nonprofits with Elise Hastings, Executive Director of Givable, Emily Knippa, Content Marketing Manager of United Way St. Louis, Matt Menietti, Executive Director of GlobalHack, and Perry Drake, Director of Business Collaboration and an Assistant Teaching Professor of Digital and Social Media Marketing in the College of Business Administration at the University Of Missouri – St. Louis.  Buy your tickets here today!

Statistics courtesy of Nonprofit Tech for Good, Blackbaud and VolunteerMatch

We Want You To Partner with Launch St. Louis! posted 06/23/17

31 members, an amazing signature event, and countless successful social media campaigns later, Launch’s 18-month partnership with the APA of MO (Animal Protective Association of Missouri) is coming to an end.

And what exactly is the Launch 18-month partnership? Over a year and a half, Launch St. Louis helps local non-for-profit organizations build a Young Friend’s board from the ground up. We recruit the members of the board and structure the organization in the first 6 months. Then in the final 12 months, we support with event planning, social media and mentorship.

You may be thinking “This all sounds great, but why even have a Young Friends board?” Well, here are just a few of the benefits the Young Friends of the APA board brought to their organization:

Connections with a different demographic.

Young Friends of the APA has 31 active members. Each of these young professionals spread awareness of the organization to their wider network and bring their friends along to the organization’s events.

Development of innovative ideas- particularly in event planning and social media marketing.

The Young Friends of the APA are so proficient at social media marketing that they have been asked to help on the big social media campaigns for key APA events.

Diversification of the fundraising base.

Yes, the big ticket donors are great, but through a Young Friend’s board there is the potential to raise money in fresh, new ways, like hosting the Young Friend’s signature event and collecting Young Friend’s member dues. The Young Friends of the APA raised a net income just shy of $20k in their first year.

So if you think forming a Young Friends board is the right next step for your organization, then what are you waiting for? Apply for the Launch 18-month partnership today!

New Year, New Fundraising Goals posted 01/24/17

There are few things more inspiring than the dawn of a new year.  It’s a chance to look back over the work that has been done and chart a course for the coming twelve months.  It is also the time most organizations find themselves setting their new fundraising goals.  And as exciting and motivating that process can be,  the step between setting those intentions and actually achieving them can often seem like formidable, perhaps even impassable, chasm.  With that in mind, we wanted to provide a few ideas that will hopefully get your team fired up for the new year, and maybe even make that chasm feel just a bit easier to conquer. (more…)

Things To Consider Before You Join a Young Friends Board posted 12/21/16

Coworkers discussing in meeting room

Serving on a young professionals board is an honor and an incredible opportunity. An opportunity to help an organization you believe in. An opportunity to meet new people. An opportunity to grow professionally and personally. (more…)

Introducing LaunchMe posted 11/15/16

You want to make a difference in your community, but you don’t know the first place to start. It can be a cumbersome process, involving a lot of internet searching.  First, there is the search for nonprofits that align with your interests – clicking through different websites, trying to find whether they have a Young Friends Board or specific young professional opportunities.  (more…)

Five Key Takeaways From The Launch “Gateway To The Future” Summit posted 11/14/16

More than 100 young professionals from the St. Louis area gathered at T-REX in downtown to connect with one another and learn from some of the area’s top nonprofit leaders at the 4th annual Launch “Gateway to the Future” Summit.


Why It Was Important For Me To Get Involved With the APA posted 11/07/16


Animal welfare has always been a cause close to my heart. When I was 8 years old my family moved to a small town in rural Missouri. We lived on a secluded gravel road, which was a popular spot for people to drop off their unwanted dogs. As a child, this was a new concept to me. It had never occurred to me that anyone would want to throw away or harm animals. (more…)

Jon Franko Joins Gateway to the Future posted 10/20/16

Jon is a founding partner of Gorilla 76. Jon was named to the 2010 St. Louis Business Journal’s “30 Under 30” class and was named as one of St. Louis’ “Top Young Entrepreneurs” by the Small Business Monthly. He’s a passionate Missouri Tiger and loves to spend his spare time hunting ducks and fishing for fish. Jon is a founding board member of Launch St. Louis, Friends of Clifton Park and is a former board member for Brightside St. Louis. He’s a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. (more…)

Welcome Beth Casagrand to Gateway to the Future posted 10/20/16

Beth Casagrand is the director for Youth Leadership St. Louis and Emerging Leaders at FOCUS St. Louis, a nonprofit organization that develops leadership in St. Louis. The YLSL program is an experiential leadership program for high school juniors and Emerging Leaders is aimed at young professionals. Outside of work, Beth serves on the board for Launch St. Louis, a collaboration of St. Louis’ young professionals working to fuel a stronger St. Louis charitable community by helping nonprofits build young friends groups. She also sits on the committee for the Parkway School District Governmental Affairs and is a Mosaic Ambassador. (more…)