"Give more" may not be one of the top 10 New Year's resolutions, let alone one of yours. Maybe you've made it before, but unease about the economy, post-holiday financial stress, and lack of assets (except maybe loose pocket change) may be what's holding you back. Or perhaps you're a single parent, out of a job, or a college student.
The latter was the case for Syracuse University graduate Ian Dickerson. "I was sitting in my room staring at my jar of change," he says. "Every day when I came home, I would empty out my pockets and throw the change I had collected through the day into this jar. I never did anything with the change, and it just seemed useless to me. I knew there had to be a way to put what I thought was meaningless change toward making an impact somewhere."
That's when the idea jingled in Dickerson's head. His loose change would be best for charity. "As a college student, most of the time I was (and still am) strapped for cash, but I always wanted to give. The current ways of giving didn't suit my lifestyle, and I'm not alone. People are asked to give to charities they wouldn't choose, at times that are inconvenient, and for amounts they can't afford. We wanted to create a way of giving that's simple, affordable, and routine," says Dickerson, one of the three co-founders of Centscere, a Syracuse University-based startup that simplifies charitable giving by linking your charity to your social streams.
According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, in 2010, 140 of the largest charities reported receiving $1.2 billion in online donations, compared to the $887 million received in 2009. "Social media is an everyday behavior for many people, which fit into our plan perfectly as a way to make giving routine and simple," says Dickerson.
Centscere fosters a frictionless donation pathway that caters to the millennial lifestyle. "We give users the choice of who to give to, when to give, and how much to give, and we allow that through the social media behaviors that are deeply engrained in their lives. Centscere makes the time spent on social media more meaningful."
You simply exchange a few pennies for your Tweets, and Facebook posts and likes. Each time you perform one of these actions, you give your specified amount to the charity you choose on Centscere. There is no minimum, unlike Centscere competitors, which stems from Dickerson's "pocket change" experience and wanting to create a way to give that's affordable yet impactful. Your credit card is charged every time you reach $7.99 in donations. It's easy to track your giving, update your donations, or change your charity through Centscere.
"Centscere is also a routine way to donate, whereas other sites you have to revisit often to donate," says Dickerson, who was in the same fraternity with his co-founder Mike Smith, and has been roommates since freshman year of college with his other co-founder Frank Taylor.
Centscere rang in 2014 as one of the three teams that will be participating in Startup Labs Syracuse, which officially began on Jan. 6. Through the program, they have access to mentors, $18,000 in seed funding, and the chance to compete with the other two teams for a $150,000 convertible debt note and a $50,000 branding package from Eric Mower & Associates, a marketing firm in Syracuse that will help the winner develop its brand image and position in the market.
"We've allocated part of the seed funding for further development of the platform," Dickerson says. "We've hooked up with a development firm here in Syracuse (Rounded Co.) that will help us tweak some areas of the site. We'll also use some of the funding for marketing purposes."
The idea for Centscere has been piling up like the loose change in Dickerson's jar since last year when the three co-founders competed for a space in the first Startup Labs Syracuse. Although they didn't make the cut, they received feedback that they implemented over the summer developing the platform, beta testing, redesigning the website, and bringing on charities. Since then, they've brought on 10 charities, including the YMCA and Habitat for Humanity.
The co-founders have big plans for Centsere, including growing their team, adding new features to the platform, and making it the new, best way to give for those who don't currently have a method of donating. "We want to make Centscere an international method of donating," Dickerson says. "I think a realistic goal for users by this time next year is 50,000 if not more. We're also in the process of setting up our own nonprofit that will fundraise for a different cause every month."
The co-founder trio wants Centscere to be a well-rounded platform, too. "We want our users to have options," Dickerson says, "so that means we need a wide variety of charities in all different segments."
Centsere is on-boarding charities with hopes to get every 501c3 nonprofit on the platform. If you have any recommendations, email at [email protected].
"At the end of the day, if we're able to help save one life, build a house for a family, or inspire people to do any charitable good, then I consider our efforts a success."
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