Optimizing Corporate Giving with Givinga Co-Founder & CEO Joe Phoenix

Corporate giving programs are a beckoning field ripe for disruption as millennial employees, and frankly society in general trend towards a desire to squeeze more meaning out of their day job. Gone are the days where corporations could hold up one big check a year to charity and call it a day.

With a growing desire for social impact and meaning in our day jobs, corporations are having to take a hard look at whether or not they are optimizing their giving programs to fuel employee retention and satisfaction. Now more than ever, the philanthropic portion of business is having a relatively direct impact on the bottom line.

That’s where Joe Phoenix and the Givinga team see things heading and they plan to optimize corporate giving programs by providing the much-needed tech support to streamline, simplify and amplify social good programs for the better! Check out how in our discussion below…

CL: Prior to founding Givinga you spent over 20 years at Putnam investments and had a successful career. So why now do you want to go back to the beginning and start up at Givinga?

JP: It’s never too late to start from the beginning! My time at Putnam gave me the business experience plus the foundation that I needed to build Givinga. I worked for some remarkable people there who really taught me the business fundamentals required to be successful.  It was an awesome company, but after 25 years, it was time for the next chapter.

CL: For those that don’t know, can you define Givinga as a business?

JP: Most giving in the United States is reactive.  People wait for a cause, pull out a credit card, pay a high fee and then wait for the next cause. It’s super inefficient.

Givinga combines the power of financial technology with products and services that, until now have been available only to the largest, most well capitalized philanthropists. The entire platform is designed to help corporations and individuals be more organized, proactive and efficient with their giving strategies.

CL: Can you talk more about the pain point you are solving for the with the Givinga platform?

JP: Givinga’s mantra is “Together, we are powerful” which highlights the critical issue we are addressing. Most giving is done in a vacuum. Companies understand the importance and power of inclusive corporate giving, but they’ve lacked a platform that facilitates and manages these interactions. Most employees give “reactively” without access to tools and vehicles that would make their giving more impactful.

Charities tend to chase large donors because they lack the time and technology to develop the next generation.  What I love about the space we’re in is companies have been researching how to more effectively engage with their employees.  Employees are demanding more accountability and transparency from their employers, and charities are realizing that the old ways of engaging donors are no longer working.

Technology changes this dynamic.  It fosters democratization of systems and opportunities.  It levels the playing field.  And in our case, it gives these three groups a centralized platform to interact, collaborate and really make an impact.

CL: Do you have any early measures of improvement you see in terms of how much money gets dispersed from a corporate giving program utilizing Givinga versus prior to utilizing the platform?

JP: The real power of the Givinga platform is that it focuses on maximizing the impact of every available resource.  Empowering employees to direct corporate funds to charity creates corporate ambassadors, improves employee retention and increases the number of charities the company supports. Adding payroll deduction increases the amount each charity receives from the corporate “community”.

Linking to employee social networks amplifies that impact further. Utilizing financial technology significantly reduces cost and time of administration and provides analytics that the company can use to build its external brand.

Early results are showing that companies using this platform can double the number of charities they support, increase their giving footprint by 3x improve employee retention by 20% and cut costs of administration by half. It’s pretty powerful.

CL: What types of organizations are you seeing have interest in this type of program?

JP: We built the platform to be scalable, meaning its designed really for any company that is actively engaged in charitable giving.  We think C- Corporations and companies with an active giving platform will be early adopters.  The platform is also ideal for benefit corporations that have the ability to really leverage their added tax benefits.

CL: Why do you think it is important to enable individuals within an organization to play more of a role in deciding where giving funds get dispersed to?

JP: Because it’s win/ win/ win. The best corporations are literally defined by their people and today’s employee is demanding more involvement with corporate giving initiatives. A company that builds an active employee giving program will attract and retain the best of today’s talent.

Working together with their employees allows companies to dramatically increase their giving spectrum.  And when you layer in lower cost and better reporting that now gives the company the ability to effectively project that increased impact back to the marketplace.

CL: It appears that you also provide a vast list of charities on the Givinga website with ratings. What do you hope to enable with this feature?

JP: Knowledge is power. Being proactive versus reactive is critical. And having access to research and analytics before making a giving decision is really important.

Our platform is structured so that every Account Holder is assured that the money they are giving only goes to an IRS approved 501c3 charity.  Our partnership with Charity Navigator allows users access to research and ratings and gives them the ability to dive as deep as they want before making a decision.

CL: In today’s purpose driven work environment having social impact programs is more important than ever to engage employees and prevent churn. Do you have any quantification for how having a better managed social giving program can help with this point?

JP: Our opinion is that corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs are rapidly moving from an employee “benefit” to a corporate requirement. There’s a ton of research on this with some of the most extensive coming from CECP and Cone Communications, both of whom have multi- year research databases on the subject.

Some of their key findings: 60% of all job applicants consider CSR commitments when deciding to join a company. Over half won’t work for a company without a strong CSR driven culture. And employee retention increases by over 20% when companies add an active CSR program. This is important across the employee spectrum but is really important to the new generation entering the workforce.

CL: It would be great to hear a bit more about the technology you are putting in place and how that cuts out friction in the current corporate giving program process?

JP: When we started building, we focused on flexibility and scalability as our two North Stars and we created a platform designed to help companies leverage their existing CSR budget.  We do this by providing employees with personalized tax deductible giving accounts that can be funded by the employer, the employee, or both.  Employers can contribute directly or through matching programs, and employees can set-up automatic payroll deductions into their accounts.

In addition, employers can control not only who participates but what charities are supported.  The employee is empowered to direct funds to charities of their choice, while the employer receives comprehensive reporting on all grant activity.  Employees are empowered and engaged, and the employer is able to expand their giving footprint and project social contributions externally.

Givinga also provides a full-service administrative platform that allows companies to proactively manage and track all of their charitable activity.  The crowd-funding aspects of the platform allow employees to further amplify any grant by running a personalized “Campaign” that they can link and share directly with their social networks.  The Campaign feature is really exciting in that it allows text, pictures, video, and customization to assist the user in maximizing impact. In addition, the platform provides full charity research and consolidated tax deductions meaning no more searching for misplaced receipts come tax time.

CL: What is the Givinga monetization strategy and how will you manage revenue optimization while also ensuring that giving programs aren’t hampered by cost?

JP: Givinga is a for profit technology company so we really focused on creating a unique, inclusive business model that charges companies a fair price for services while encouraging individual users to access the company.  We did this by creating a fully inclusive SaaS pricing model that covers all aspects of the platform including administration and reporting.

The corporate pricing structure allows us to offer personal accounts on the platform free of charge which we hope will entice individuals to create separate accounts for themselves and their families.  As our user base increases, we’ll add optional fee based services and in some instances be able to further reduce pricing.

CL: Can you talk a bit about the team you have assembled at Givinga?

JP: Givinga was founded by three partners.  Chris Shields is the brains behind the tech.  He has 15 years of experience, most recently as co-founder of a software development/support and data architecture company.  Sean Taylor also has a technology background, yet focused on consulting.  His work over the past 15 years with many businesses across a wide variety of industries has given him invaluable insight into the challenges, needs and opportunities that Givinga will encounter as we launch and expand the company.

I am a 30-year veteran of the financial services industry, where I built and expanded asset management businesses in the US and abroad.  I love thinking about ways to grow Givinga and to get people excited about the platform.  I am 100% dedicated to making sure that we, as a team and as a company, give every person access to a world-class platform that will organize and amplify their charitable giving.

CL: Will you be looking to raise any funds during the next year and if so what will these funds be used for?

JP: We’re actively engaged in fundraising now. We’re in a pretty unique position in that the founders were able to fund and fully develop the technology platform and then Beta test and adjust before we launched.

We are currently engaged with an advisor who is helping us raise capital which will be used to execute against our model with our top priorities being sales, client service marketing and technology enhancements.

CL: With it being the beginning of 2018, what are Givinga’s 2018 goals?

JP: Because we were able to build, test and launch the technology platform in 2017 we can now turn our 2018 focus to 5 key execution initiatives: Grow our corporate Accounts, raise capital, build our internal infrastructure, develop our brand, interact with early adopters to improve and refine our technology.  Simple!!

The Minute Rundown with Joe Phoenix

CL: If you could provide one tip to someone considering starting up what would it be and why?

JP: Do it!!  But be brutally realistic. Starting a new company is one of the most rewarding jobs on the planet.  It’s also really hard. No day is the same and I’ve been amazed at how quickly momentum shifts throughout the process- sometimes in the same day! I’m relatively new at this but the one tip I would offer would be to establish realistic milestones for your business and then listen carefully to customers, competitors and the market to help you honestly (and quickly) assess if you’re making progress.


CL: If you could model yourself after one founder who would it be and why?

JP: Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia. In my opinion, the first true social entrepreneur. He transformed his passion for climbing and the environment into Patagonia and pioneered the ideal of a for profit entity also having social responsibility.

His unwavering focus on combining capitalism with activism led to Patagonia’s strategy of paying employees who worked on environmental projects as well as the company’s “1% of profit or 10% of sales” commitment. I really respect how he built a company that is not only a great success but also a leader and innovator in the in the global CSR movement.

In closing:

It’s not often that you see a big banking veteran jump ship to pursue a philanthropic endeavor, but at the same time, we live in a new day-and-age where doing well is just as important as doing good. And more and more we are seeing amazing individuals like Joe giving it all up to try and make a real impact on the world.

It’s a refreshing attitude that can have major socially beneficial implications for all of us in the coming years. Its pretty awesome to sit down with an individual like Joe at a place like WeWork and see his upbeat attitude and energy about his work that mirrors that of his 20 year old counterparts, even if he is much more seasoned than most.

I think he brings a steady hand and set of vision and wisdom that will serve him and the Givinga team well as they look to reimagine corporate giving programs.

Thanks Joe and the entire Givinga team for investing in truly Simple.Innovative.Change