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For new generation, an app to give local

MIT Sloan alumna crosses new digital divide, connecting millennials with local nonprofits

May 3, 2016

Envested

The much-discussed millennial generation has come into its own. And it has money to give. How millennials give, like everything else, will be different.

“Boomers have the discipline to write a check at the end of the year,” says Isa Watson, founder of North Carolina-based giving company Envested. For millennials, “being easy is the baseline for any product. The non-profits I’ve talked to … tell me ‘We can’t reach millennials, they’re not in our donor base.’”

Eat local, buy local, act local—all movements that capture a generational spirit to foster sustainable communities through spending choices. But that spirit has sometimes eluded nonprofits serving communities, with more than 85 percent of resources going to the top 1 percent of nonprofits.

Isa Watson, MBA '13Isa Watson, MBA '13

Watson, a 2013 MBA graduate of MIT Sloan, launched Envested to connect local nonprofits to a generation that demands convenient online experiences, starting with Watson’s hometown of Chapel Hill, N.C.

Envested works to ensure more of each donation goes to nonprofits, rather than the platform, and focuses on local organizations. Small, local nonprofits, Watson says, struggle with reaching millennials. According to the Case Foundation’s Millennial Impact Project, the digitally connected 19-36 demographic is indeed charitable—84 percent of millennial employees made a donation in 2014—but struggle to find local organizations to support. More than half say they’re motivated to give through a personal connection to the organization.

While developing Envested, Watson found millennials want to help their communities, but lack means to connect. They want more of their dollar impacting the organization, rather than fundraising apps or companies. Above all, millennials need the ease of experience that exists in the digital world, Watson said.

“There’s a huge shop local and buy local movement, and that can be applied to give local,” she said. “We’re driving value to the nonprofits that need it the most, but [millennials] need a convenient way of doing it.”

On Envested, users browse local fundraising “challenges,” give, share their activity with friends, and are notified of the progress and results of the challenges.

Envested charges only credit card processing fees to nonprofits, and even then there’s no charge for the first $15,000 raised. Where similar giving companies take as much as 10 percent of the donation, over and above credit card processing, Envested is looking to corporate sponsors to cover overheard and make matching gifts, Watson said.