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Calgary app makers pioneered the new wave of online giving

Are you looking for a way to get out and about this holiday season? Well, there could be an app for that.

In Canada, charitable donation is growing, reaching nearly $ 13 billion in 2014. Much of this will be donated during the holiday season.

But how people give changes, and enabling that change is big business for an emerging group of social entrepreneurs like Bryan de Lottinville, founder of Benevity in Calgary.

Benevity has succeeded in marketing its software that helps employers and employees more effectively donate time and money to some of the largest companies in the world.

De Lottinville says that more and more people want to give where and when they want, often with their smartphones or tablets.

“With young people, ‘I want transparency, I want accountability, I want interactivity,'” said de Lottinville.

With Benevity, around two million employees at companies such as Apple, Google, Coca-Cola and Nike can now use the company’s software to support charities in real time.

Bryan de Lottinville, who founded Benevity in Calgary seven years ago, believes it could raise half a billion dollars for charity in 2016 (Benevity)

To date, these employees have used Benevity’s platform to donate nearly $ 400 million to 60,000 charities around the world over the past seven years. The company expects donations of nearly half a billion dollars in the next year alone.

Largest online donation platform in the world

“It’s a small decrease in the total, but even with those numbers, we’re probably the largest online fundraising platform in the world, and we’re based in little old Calgary,” said de Lottinville.

And Benevity isn’t the only Calgary company breaking new ground in giving.

Jay Baydala co-founded Goodpin, an app that lets people use their smartphones to support charities. This is a huge draw for millennials who will soon make up half of the country’s workforce.

“Catch them in a moment, remove the barriers, make it easy and do them things because they change the world and make a difference,” Baydala said.

Baydala adds that the keys to Goodpin are his immediacy and his ability to instantly incentivize potential donors.

“I would walk down the street with my Goodpin app on my phone … and it would tell me there is $ 10 free money I can give to charity from Starbucks, if I donate my own money too. ” then the same institution can … give me a free coffee or an offer, “he said.

Calgarian Jay Baydala co-founded Goodpin, an app that lets people make donations to charities using smartphones. (Erin Collins / CBC)

Goodpin then makes its money by accepting tips from the brands they represent and the people who use the app.

Baydala sees such mutually beneficial interactions as the future of charitable giving and believes smartphones are key to making them a reality.

“The turn to the mobile, the turn to the visual and the turn to the social, it is only natural that there would finally be a step into the socially-good space,” said Baydala.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Calgary has become a hub for charitable businesses. Donations in Alberta have doubled annually from $ 1.2 billion to $ 2.4 billion over the past decade.

“There’s something very special going on in Calgary these days … people are really creating new and interesting ways to be social entrepreneurs, to make a difference in the world and do business at the same time,” said Baydala.

Enable easier giving

Gena Rotstein is another of these entrepreneurs.

Rotstein has just released thecardthat.gives this holiday season, a twist on the traditional gift card where the donor loads the card with cash that the recipient can donate to one of more than 1.5 million charities in North America.

Rotstein’s company then charges a small fee to activate the card.

“We’re actually making giving easier … why don’t we make it super easy and empower people to buy things that can actually do other good things?”

Rotstein believes that giving relief means more people are donating to charity, “to make the cake bigger”.

She says her card will also make charities more efficient. “We do the reporting and documentation so the charities don’t have to worry … finding the volunteers to manage the flow of donations or pay the administrative costs associated with the transactions.”

Business of the boom

Rotstein says there’s a simple reason so many social entrepreneurs are popping up in Calgary: “Alberta and Calgary have such an entrepreneurial spirit that someone still answers a call from us.”

Gena Rotstein launched thecardthat.gives this Christmas season. It enables the recipient to donate the contents of the card to a charity. (David Dean)

That spirit and a concentration of wealth make Calgary the perfect place for business to add to the boom, she says.

James Stauch, director of the Institute for Community Prosperity at Mount Royal University, agrees. He says the real growth in charity will be happening online.

“You really have to have a charity website, but beyond that, it really needs to be optimized for mobile devices, which is a really critical point.”

According to Stauch, one advantage of charities working online is that potential donors can easily verify that they are legitimate.

One way to check is to visit the Revenue Canada website and search for the charity.

The quickest way to make sure a charity is overboard is to ask for their company registration number, which always includes a RR0001, says Stauch.

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