CSR goes downstream: Bright Funds to launch charitable giving tool for businesses
You’re the giving type, and you care about starving children and clean water and trees and all those things you listed as key concerns on your Facebook profile to make everyone think you’re virtuous. It’s just that you forget, sometimes (all the time), to send money in the direction of those causes. Other things happen – those new heels, that latest phone, those undeniable ales – before you can get to the “save the world” corner of your bank account. You wish someone could just direct cash straight out of your paycheck into the causes you care about, and that maybe your company will even match what you give. Just like a pension plan.
If you happen to work for a Fortune 500 company, there’s a good chance you already have access to such a system, even if it’s a bit old-school. And if you don’t? You probably don’t.
Bright Funds' portfolio dashboard
Charitable giving platform Bright Funds is trying to change that. Last September, the San Francisco-based startup launched a cloud-based tool that lets people find out about worthy causes, donate to them, and then manage a portfolio of their “investments” via a pretty dashboard that provides analytics and updates. This month, Bright Funds is adapting that platform for enterprise customers large and small, offering a solution that integrates into a company’s payroll system (provided it’s ADP) and spits out visual feedback on all their good-doing. So, whether they have five employees or 500 employees, companies can get an overall sense of what causes their employees care about, and how much money the company is sending to those various causes, whether it be clean water, alleviating poverty, improving education, or helping the environment.
“We make it possible for companies to offer employee giving and even employee matching without the overhead of a burdensome installation,” says Bright Funds co-founder Ty Walrod. The company, in other words, can just sign up for the system and forget about it. Bright Funds’ technology does all the hard work, making the “responsibility” part of CSR a minimal commitment.
For a limited time, it’s also free for companies. They only have to pay if custom integration work is required for a third-party payroll integration. But Bright Funds will charge at some point in the future. In the meantime, Bright Funds makes its money by taking a small percentage of donations, and it also charges the nonprofits receiving the payments. That’s a deal the nonprofits are willing to take, because it essentially comes out of their marketing budgets. For them, says Walrod, it is a low-cost investment: about 7.5 percent of money raised via Bright Funds, as opposed to the usual 10 percent for fundraising costs by other means.
Walrod says the startup doesn’t know whether or not its enterprise product will ultimately become more important than the consumer product, but Bright Funds sees “tremendous opportunity” in both areas.
One of the challenges Bright Funds faces is scaling the company on limited resources. It is a three-person team, with three contractors, and seed money of $350,000. It is, however, getting a leg up from social-good focused ideas incubator and VC firm Hattery, which is giving the startup office space, and creative support. Hattery’s creative team designed and built the existing product. The firm also took part in the seed round.
Bright Funds launches with its first enterprise partners later this month, at which point the tool will be available for all-comers.
[Picture credit: Wikimedia]