Charity Charge could become the only charge card you ever use. If you didn't know this about me, I have a soft spot in my heart for a number of nonprofits. This stems from spending about eight years as the Executive Director of a Foundation, close to 20 years as a volunteer before that, and a legacy of philanthropy starting with my grandparents and parents. I have a soft spot for charities that are tied education, human services, dogs, and a number of other causes. Like many others, I appreciate it when I find an easy, direct way to give to the charities I support.
Charity Charge appears to me to be a tremendous idea that's going to catch on quickly, be a huge success and make a lot of people feel good about using their charge card to purchase the things they need. When you use the Charity Charge card 1% of your purchases will be directed to the charity of your choice.
Charity Charge Is A Public Benefit Corporation
First off, understand that Charity Charge is not a nonprofit. It is what's known as a Public Benefit Corporation. A Public Benefit Corporation is a new class of corporation that voluntarily meets higher standards of corporate purpose, accountability, and transparency. Benefit corporations:
- Have a corporate purpose to create a material positive impact on society and the environment;
- Are required to consider the impact of their decisions not only on shareholders but also on workers, community, and the environment; and
- Are required to make available to the public an annual benefit report that assesses their overall social and environmental performance against a third party standard.
Becoming a benefit corporation gives entrepreneurs and investors an additional choice when determining which corporate form is most suitable to achieve their objectives. Stephen Garten, Charity Charge's CEO told me, in an extensive interview,
We founded the company as a Public Benefit Corporation. Our motivation is about maximizing good and helping people give back in a simple, easy, everyday kind of way to charities that matter to YOU. Charity Charge is about helping YOU to support the charities of your choice. We really want people to know that companies can exist to serve the greater good.
Giving People A Way To Support The Charities Of Their Choice
Mr. Garten's father passed away when he was 19. "He received amazing care from nurses and doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital," he said. "The experience really instilled in me a connection to a cause that was greater than myself." It also made Garten realize that everyone has a connection to something. This thought is really the foundation of Charity Charge, a company committed to giving people a way to support charities of their choice.
Garten wants to expand on the current model of a credit card company teaming with a specific charity and launching affinity cards specific to that charity. The Susan G. Komen credit card is an example. Garten says, "That's amazing for people that specifically care about the Susan G. Komen charity, but what about people that care about Johns Hopkins or their local Humane Society? I really want to give people the ability to support the charity of their choice."
Inspired by companies like TOMS and Warby Parker, Charity Charge seeks to innovate in an industry that's not used to innovation. Prior to launching Charity Charge Garten and his team that includes Nicole Murphy, Marketing Director and Scott Jacobs, COO, spent two years meeting with experts in the credit card industry to really understand the business model and what it would take to successfully build Charity Charge.
Charity Charge also addresses the $16 billion a year in expired or wasted credit card points. Now, instead of accumulating points you may never use, 1% of your purchases will be donated to the charity of your choice. And when Garten says "Charity of your choice," he means it. He tells me that cardholders will be able to designate any 501(c)(3) charity, religious organizations and any K-12 school.
Finding The Right Partners Is Key
Charity Charge has teamed up with Network for Good a leading online giving platform that has processed over $1 billion in donations for over 100,000 nonprofits since 2001. Cardholders will be able to use the Charity Charge app to track and see their charitable impact while Network for Good will provide donation receipts to document the cardholder's donations. In the future, cardholders will also be able to make donations directly through the app, creating a one-stop place for all their charitable donations.
Next up, Charity Charge is looking to team up with a bank that is truly aligned with the company's values and vision. "We want to make sure that our banking partner truly shares our commitment to making the world a better place," Garten said.
This has also proven to be the case with Charity Charge's landlord for their offices in Austin, Texas. Located in South Austin, Charity Charge found a landlord who truly believes in Charity Charge and insisted on giving them space large enough for its 2 full-time and 2 part-time employees at a very reasonable price. And there's room to grow into the plan to have 6 full-time employees on board by the end of the year.
Finding the right credit card company to team up with is also crucial. They are currently facilitating a competitive bid process and want to team up with a company whose card is accepted around the world. Partnering with a major credit card company will result in cardholders generating donations the same way they would have been generating airline or other reward points. Charity Charge also intends to cover all the donation processing fees for cardholders so 100% of what is earned goes to the cardholder's charity of choice.
Charity Charge Receives Honors From IBM
Last week at SXSW Mr. Garten was chosen by IBM as one of the top 10 Millennial social entrepreneurs in the country. Garten was filmed while living in a house with the other 9 top social entrepreneurs while they competed in various competitions over 3 days. Garten described one of the social media challenges which was aimed at getting the most impressions of specific hashtags to demonstrate one's ability at generating a buzz and a social media following.
Garten was invited back to live in the house with the top 5 contestants in April. This time, each team will bring its co-founders to participate as a team in the various competitions IBM has in store for them.
"It's great to be honored by a company like IBM that cares about Corporate Social Responsibility," Garten said. "It's amazing to be included with like-minded entrepreneurs and to be able to meet and interact with them. It's great exposure for us to help us continue to spread our message of "everyday giving."
Garten also appreciated the opportunity to form relationships with other entrepreneurs around his age. He said, "Entrepreneurship can be lonely, so it was a very calming experience to talk to my peers about the challenges we all face while trying to build a social impact focused startup into something great."
Forming a relationship with a company the size and stature of IBM is a tremendous benefit for Charity Charge. Participating in IBM's A New Way To Startup Competition is likely to provide Charity charge with the right kind of publicity at the right time. IBM gave 10 startups focused on social good missions a chance to raise their profiles and compete to win software, services, mentorship and a trip to [email protected]. The action will be documented in a series of webisodes to demonstrate how these innovators are working with IBM to transform their big ideas into big change. It's a new way to start up.
Maybe it's my background in the nonprofit world. Maybe it's the idea of Millennials taking steps to make the world a better place for us all. Maybe it's a disruptive idea whose time has come. Whatever it is, I'm a fan and I'm rooting for Charity Charge to be a huge success. Be sure to check out their website, Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter and Instagram. Do you have anything to add to this story? If so, leave it in the Comments below.
top image: Stephen Garten, CEO; bottom image: Stephen Garten, CEO; Nicole Murphy, Marketing Director; Scott Jacobs, COO