It’s JustGive’s 15-year anniversary! As the year of celebration starts, Founder Kendall Webb took time to talk about how JustGive got started, and reflect on accomplishments.
Q: You started JustGive as a nonprofit when others said it couldn’t be done. Tell me about that.
A: We started JustGive to create a single technology platform so all nonprofits—small and large—could have equal access and outreach at a low cost. We thought it was important to operate as a nonprofit to maintain a single mission and build trust. But everyone in the Internet sector literally said we couldn’t do this because of the cost of technology. I didn’t want to “take the poor public” so I found a way. I got the community involved, asking for every kind of support. It was the early Internet days and we had a lot of companies who believed in us and helped by contributing their contacts, money and pro bono services. That made it less expensive for us to launch, and we got high quality services for free.
Q: How has JustGive kept going when it got tough and continued to make things happen?
A: We’ve sustained ourselves during market crashes and are better suited to do this because we’re a nonprofit. We have more channels of support and capital that are not available to for-profit companies, and there’s no venture capital investment to overextend or distract us.
We’re not doing this for a quick expansion or to go public and make money. Our single goal and focus is to increase giving and we’re 100% guided by our mission.
Our founding team in 2000—Lynda Greenberg, Orla McKiernan, Claire Bowen, Kristin Kennedy, Kay Kirman, Doug Abrams, Kendall Webb, Kirsten Johnson, Jen Chapin
Q: In the first five years, JustGive sent $37 million to charity. At 10 years, it was $130 million, and today, it’s more than $450 million. What are the driving forces behind growth?
A: Two key things. One: At first, individual donors were scared to give online. Over the years, they’ve become more comfortable with the Internet, know it’s safe and trust the process. It’s commonplace now and we’re a trusted brand in the sector. Our products are not just a nice option for online giving—we make giving easier and provide something donors need.
Two: We’ve leveraged our growth through corporate partnerships that help us expand our products and connect with a much bigger audience. Companies are in a great position to offer charitable programs, extending our reach.
Q: Over the years, JustGive has launched a lot of new products, including charity fundraising registries, charity gift cards, rewards points for charity, and more. What new giving are you most proud of?
A: All new giving excites me, because it increases philanthropy. But I’d have to say I’m most proud of charitable redemption points because it’s a big channel of fundraising that we identified, developed and operated before others did. Individuals and companies were accumulating huge volumes of rewards points, and CEOs felt torn about what to do with this build up of points. We gave them a solution. This got companies to think about their philanthropy more—outside of their foundations—and was a launching pad for corporate social responsibility. Redeeming rewards points for charity helped them connect philanthropy to their products and location, and give back in local communities. That kind of new giving shows JustGive’s uniqueness and creativity from start to finish—and our overall impact.
JustGive’s 15 Year Timeline
Q: Did you envision JustGive would be what it is today?
A: We’re much bigger in scope than I thought we’d be. It’s been exciting to grow beyond direct, 1-person-to-1-charity donations (where we started) to fundraising, charity gifts, corporate giving and social responsibility programs. I’m thrilled to see how charity has penetrated into so many parts of life, and how multiple products are used in so many different ways!
Q: What other JustGive accomplishments are you proud of in the past 15 years?
A: I’m proud of all the unique channels of giving we’ve built. Like working with Monster.com to use $1 million of charity gift cards as a trade show giveaway. And expanding the definition of a benefit concert with The Dave Matthews Band by letting fans choose the charities to receive money.
Click to view full size
I’m proud of the level of respect and integrity JustGive has built as a trusted leader for companies, nonprofits and donors. I know we’ve earned this through hard work and staying true to our mission.
And I’m incredibly proud of our longevity. Withstanding all the changes in the stock market (2 crashes and recession) and in the charitable market is amazing. It’s strengthened who we are.
I’m proud of our prominent national exposure—from TV mentions on PBS NewsHour and CBS News, to articles in the New York Times, USA Today, and Huffington Post. Not to mention being recognized as one of the best of the web by Forbes.
I am most proud of our team. Their passion has fueled our growth, and the impact we’ve had on a limited budget is mind blowing. That’s because our team is creative and really believes in what we’re doing.
Q: What are the most important changes you’ve seen in philanthropy in the last 15 years?
- The Internet has become a common channel for giving, and it’s given small organizations a louder voice.
- Young people are more involved in giving at a younger age. They consider philanthropy part of what they do, who they are, and what they expect from a company where they work.
- There’s been a huge increase in peer-to-peer giving, crowdfunding and the social side of giving.
- Corporate social responsibility has grown tremendously. Companies used to manage giving through their foundations, and philanthropy was about giving for branding reasons. Now it’s an important way to be good corporate citizens, and they’re becoming more proactive, with strong and directed giving.
Q: What would you like to see companies do to make more of a difference for philanthropy?
A: I’d like to see more companies invest in the business value of charity – including it in their budget so it’s not funding they have to “find.” I’d also like to see them integrate charity into their large gift giving funds for holidays, incentives and loyalty rewards. And overall, to continue to be open minded and consider more creative ways to make charity an integral part of their business.
Q: Where are your personal hopes for JustGive in the years ahead?
A: My hope is that JustGive continues to be a leading force for philanthropy, generating new pools of capital for the nonprofit sector.
Q: If there was one message you could get out in the world about charitable giving: What would that be?
A: Make giving a part of your everyday life. I’m not just talking about giving money, but about volunteering your time, and helping out in your community or doing something for someone in need. Giving isn’t isolated to a charity. It’s something we can all do every day with little moments of helping make things better for a person, a community, and ultimately the world. These small acts of kindness become contagious, spreading goodness that can make a difference.
– Candy Culver