A whopping 123.5 billion credit and debit card transactions are made in the U.S. annually, according to the Federal Reserve. Stephen Ready figured that one cent from each and every one of those purchases could raise quite a lot of money.
Thus was born the idea for Inspired, his LA-based company: create a system through which, each time participating consumers swipe their card, the purchase is linked to an online platform that donates a portion of the transaction fees to a charity, at no extra cost to the shopper. The result: Giving to nonprofits becomes a part of everyday life.
Founded in 2014, Ready’s service just left its beta phase, during which he focused on music and arts educational projects through DonorsChoose, the company’s first charity partner. It links teachers in high-needs communities to donors. A variety of celebs, like Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Martin and Adam Devine, got involved, according to the company. Some 23,341 children were impacted and 241 projects were funded.
“Our primary focus is giving consumers an opportunity to participate in doing good consistently, every day,” says Ready.
How does it work? Consumers link a debit or credit card to the platform. Then, when they buy something, it triggers a small donation—sometimes one cent, other times more—that is automatically sent to a charity platform listed on the site. Through partnerships with payment processors, Inspired is paid each time a card swipe happens, then takes a cent from that transaction and donates it. Thus the company’s tag line: “You live. We give.”
Ready could have allowed consumers to select whatever charity they want, of course. But if he had, he figured the total amount of donations to any one nonprofit would be a trickle. By limiting the possibilities to a few, the result is that donations can “generate maybe $1 million in funding, as opposed to splitting them in 100 different ways, with little impact,” he says.
Consumers also can get a real-time look at the impact they’re helping to create—say, a painting center for children at an elementary school, along with a fundraising goal and how much has been donated so far. They also receive updates about what’s happening through, say, photos and other messages.
Before starting Inspired, Ready, a serial entrepreneur, ran a company in Boston that, in addition to providing experiential marketing services, holds fundraising events at private country clubs. “I found myself clinking champagne glasses and feeling run down about the whole thing,” he says. “I wanted to make more of a difference.”
What he focused on was providing regular people an easy way to support nonprofits all the time. “I wanted to connect philanthropy to everyday life and make it fun, frictionless and free,” he says. After some digging, he came up with his concept.
But making it happen took a while—about three years to build the platform and integrate it into a variety of payment platforms. He also ended up moving headquarters from Boston to LA, after he decided to focus first on music and arts education. “We started having celebrities join our community,” he says. “I wanted to be be able to connect people in the LA community to kids in the LA community.” Along the way, he’s raised over $6 million in two funding rounds.