Give Back: The People’s Foundation

Give Back: The People’s Foundation

What would you do if you suddenly found yourself with $1 million and a directive to give half away and keep the other half?

When Stephen Paletta won Oprah’s Big Give in 2008, this instantly became his reality.  He did what most of us would do:  started a foundation with the intention of highlighting great causes leveraging his newfound friendship with Oprah to spread the word.

What’s In It for MY Cause?
As Stephen started talking to people about causes he felt were particularly compelling, he quickly realized something.  Although people listened politely as he shared the causes about which he was passionate, almost everyone he interacted with wanted to tell them about their favorite cause.  Whether it was a church, international NGO or community organization, people wanted to talk about and advocate for the causes with which they were already engaged.  Stephen explains,

I realized that in many ways, most people were in the same place I was before being on Oprah.  Even if people had a cause they were passionate about, they never had enough of their own money to give away and no real platform to promote the cause to people with money able to offer support.

Consumers were hungry to engage with the causes they cared about, not only the causes companies chose on their behalf.  While consumers may support companies with a commitment to a cause, they were missing that personal sense of empowerment in their personal giving.

Armed with this experience and realization, Stephen made a decision.

Oprah gave me money and gave me a platform, I wanted to do that for everyone else.  We created GiveBack to be the vehicle to fulfill that vision by allowing each person to set up their own foundation for free.

Serving as the “official” umbrella foundation under which individual foundations could be established, the GiveBack Foundation developed a model that would enable consumers to set money aside via credit card or payroll deduction and then give it when they were ready.  But another dimension was needed to increase the level of funding for each foundation.  Stephen explains that dimension.

It was important the we solve the “not enough money to give away” issue.  So I looked at the cause marketing world and realized that companies are all trying to connect their cause marketing dollars back to their customers.  What better way to empower your customer and connect directly to what is near and dear to their heart than by putting cause marketing dollars into each person’s foundation?

GiveBack is all about empowering the consumer to make a difference.  It’s also all about companies partnering with their consumers to change the world, both locally and globally.

To achieve this vision, GiveBack recruits businesses to offer percentage-of-sale donations that are unlocked upon consumer purchase.  The donations go directly into the consumer’s foundation and the consumer maintains complete control over how, where and when their money is directed.  In addition, 100% of the money goes directly to the selected charity.

Establish Your Personal Foundation

Here’s how it works:

Log into GiveBack and create an account, which establishes your personal foundation.

Fund your foundation via credit card and/or make a purchase from any one of the 430 merchants currently on the GiveBack site and a specified percentage of your purchase will go directly into your GiveBack foundation (soon you’ll also earn donation dollars by using your pre-registered credit card at participating retail locations).

Direct the money in your foundation account to any registered 501c3 immediately or in the future.

The Benefit for Business
Participating retailers benefit by gaining information on the giving preferences of their customers via GiveBack.  Which causes receive the most donations?  Are their customers giving to local or national charities?

Participating in the GiveBack program doesn’t interfere with a company’s own charitable giving but rather leverages existing marketing dollars to give consumers an additional way to support their own selected charities.  In addition, the GiveBack community will undoubtedly be a receptive audience with whom companies can share information about their existing charitable efforts.

The Benefit for Non-Profit Organizations
Non-profit organizations, both large and small, will be able to establish a presence on the GiveBack site by customizing a charity page.  In addition, they’ll have access to consumers with built-in, active donation accounts.  It’s a simple way for a non-profit organization of any size to both engage with new donors and also enable existing donors to direct additional dollars through everyday purchases.

The Benefit for Consumers
In the future, you (the foundation holder) will be able to create campaigns where you can advocate for your nonprofit organization or charity of choice among other GiveBack community members. Suddenly your $50 donation can be converted into a much larger, crowdsourced-type donation effort.

GiveBack community members are likely to donate to your cause because they have available donation dollars in their own personal foundations, just waiting to be allocated.  If you’re not the activist type, you’re sure to find plenty of amazing causes within the GiveBack community (just wait ’til Oprah announces the site in the Spring).  Stephen explains further,

Most average Americans would never be able to get a grant from the Gates Foundation, even if they were very passionate about health issues.  The GiveBack Foundation, as it grows in membership, will become the peoples Foundation.  Imagine billions of dollars aggregated through millions of individuals that each member has the ability to access by creating a campaign.

Now, with GiveBack, even the person with just $50 to give and a passion for something can have access to millions of dollars and millions of people who can come along side of the cause and make a big difference.  The GiveBack Foundation is every person’s Gates Foundation.

The Benefit of Engaged Communities
Stephen’s vision is to increase not only the consumer empowerment piece of charitable giving, but also the cause engagement piece where donors can opt to receive a feed of information from non-profit organizations they care about.  Imagine getting special invitations, regular updates, individualized messages,  pictures or videos directly from charities to whom you donate via your foundation dashboard.  It’s giving gone social and it’s powerful.

In the movement toward integrating charitable giving into our daily existence, this consumer choice piece seems to be the common denominator.  I’m fascinated to watch how companies empower consumers to make their own personal giving choices while still communicating a clear message about what their brand truly stands for via a cause-specific affiliation.

What do you think of GiveBack?  How do you see companies navigating this cause evolution?

My social media outpost of choice is Twitter.  Let’s chat!


Megan Strand is a project manager, creative marketer and proponent of authentic communication… passionate about spotlighting, connecting and supporting businesses that are doing well by doing good. Megan Strand writes exclusively for InCouraged Communications.