Spotlight on Startups - Benefacting.orgAt Sprout Insights, we comb the web to bring you the most up-to-date and actionable resources on how to use social media to grow your business.

To that end, we’re pleased to present the Sprout Insights series Spotlight on Startups. We’ll find the most innovative, useful startup companies out there, get the inside track on what they’re doing, and tell you how you can leverage their products and services for your own business.

This week we’re pleased to cast the spotlight on Benefacting — a nonprofit organization that provides a marketplace where people can donate their goods and services in exchange for cash donations to their favorite charities.

What Is Benefacting?

Benefacting is a not-for-profit marketplace “where people volunteer goods and services in exchange for donations to charity.” Here’s how it works. If you want to donate to a charity but either don’t have the cash or the time, you can offer your goods or professional services to sponsors who purchase those goods or services. Instead of the money going to you, it goes to the to the nonprofit organization you specify in your “benefaction.”

If you’re a sponsor, you get the double satisfaction of receiving goods and services you need, while knowing that the proceeds of your transaction are going to a worthy cause. All the details of the benefactions being donated, as well as negotiation and payment of these services, takes place within the Benefacting website.

Benefacting launched publicly in April 2012. It’s now in the process of getting nonprofit organizations signed up on the site (“Charities”), spreading the word to individuals who’d like to donate their goods and services (“Actors”), and promoting the service to people who’d like to purchase those goods and services (“Sponsors”). Currently, participating charities must be 501C3-registered, have a PayPal account, and focus on humanitarian causes. Anyone can become an Actor or a Sponsor.

What Needs Does it Address?

Benefacting.org - What Needs Does It Address?

Many of us feel like we’d like to make the world a better place but the prospect is so huge that we don’t know where to start, or where to best donate our resources. Trevor Little, co-founder of Benefacting, says that though people’s hearts are in the right place, “sometimes charitable giving can be inefficient and even counterproductive.”

Let’s say you’d like to donate some of your time to your favorite charity. You show up at its door and the organizer puts you to work painting a fence. The trouble is, you’re terrible at painting and it takes you three times as long to complete the job as someone else who knows what he or she is doing. Not only is this an inefficient use of your resources, it may prevent you from volunteering in the future for fear of being given a job for which you’re terribly unqualified.

Instead, with Benefacting you can donate something that you’re really good at, like tax preparation. You designate a value for your service and a charity to receive the benefit. A sponsor who needs tax preparation purchases it on the site, and your favorite charity receives much-needed cash for its cause. If you’re not a service provider but you have some spare items kicking around your home or office, you can also list these items for sale through Benefacting — with the proceeds going to your designated charity.

Benefacting creates a barter-like marketplace where your resources net other people’s cash in support of your favorite charity. Or as Mr. Little puts it, “we take the random, unorganized and inefficient act of charitable giving and put direct control in the hands of all the stake holders — including the donor, the sponsor and the recipient of the charitable donation.”

How You Can Leverage Benefacting

How You Can Leverage Benefacting.org

If you’re an individual, donate a benefaction on the site. If you’re a qualifying nonprofit, register with Benefacting. And if you’re a sponsor, peruse the site for goods and services that you need, make a purchase, and do some good in the process.

To spread the word about Benefacting, and to provide an incentive for people to take part, the organization is currently offering a limited-time “Give Back Giveaway” promotion. Active participants of Benefacting can win a Nook Color eReader tablet. Mr. Little says that Benefacting is open to sponsors who’d like to donate prizes for this, and other promotions on the site, going forward.

To get involved and take action, reach out to Benefacting through its website, Benefacting on Facebook, or through @benefacting on Twitter.

Know of any other startups that would make a good feature on Spotlight on Startups? Let us know in the comments below.

[Image credits: Benefacting]