Click, Click, Give: Charity Startup Goes Mobile
A new app allows PocketChange to reach more people than ever before
The first time Christian Dooley met Reyn Aubrey, he figured he could help his classmate’s startup with some Twitter posts. That day, he helped create an account for PocketChange, a company determined to make philanthropy easy and accessible.
Never could he have anticipated that, a few years later, PocketChange would have its own mobile app, which would help it raise more than $3,100 for charities on a special day of giving May 5.
“The fulfilling part is not about ‘oh we did it,’” says Dooley, a senior at the Daniels College of Business and now head of operations at PocketChange. “[It’s] the ability to see how long [it takes] and hard it is to get something to where you want it to go. And having that moment of satisfaction but also that hunger of, ‘Imagine what we can do this year.’”
PocketChange courts people who are scrolling through social media, reading the news and looking to make a difference. With a few taps of the app, users are linked to vetted charities that are working to tackle an issue discussed in a particular article. Donations ranging from 25 cents to $2 — hence the company’s name — go directly and fully to the charity of choice. Those “drops in the bucket,” the thinking goes, eventually add up.
Aubrey’s idea was good enough to win the quarterly Madden Challenge in 2017, his freshman year. Slowly, over the last three years, what was once an extension on the Google Chrome browser has evolved into a newly released smartphone app.
“It’s at a place where we’re really happy to get it out there,” Dooley says. “People are signing up as total strangers, seeing it, using it. Now we can start to build more of the platform vision we’ve always had.”
Thanks, in part, to a viral video on the Tik Tok social media app, more people than ever before are learning about the PocketChange vision and embracing its mission of easy, accessible giving.
On a special Giving Tuesday during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, PocketChange facilitated philanthropy from 1,217 people, more than doubling its goal and securing matching funds from private donors.
“Empathy and kindness are how we’re going to be able to get through this pandemic,” says Reese Arthur, the company’s head of charity and a senior at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies. “Finding ways to allow people to take action in more accessible ways through PocketChange is what it’s all about. You don’t have to have a huge amount of money. It’s all about intentional acts of good.”
As Arthur has ascended the PocketChange ladder over recent years, she’s watched the company grow. The startup routinely offers internship opportunities for students on campus and employs a team almost exclusively composed of DU students. On-campus resources from incubators like Project X-ITE have helped the venture mature.
“I’ve been able to learn about the business side of things and how to apply that to any idea that anyone has,” Arthur says. “I’m doing the things I’d like to do as a working adult in the future, but I’ve been able to do it during my four years at DU.”
Both Arthur and Dooley plan to continue their work at PocketChange after they graduate in June. Now that the app has launched, the startup is working to give it more of a social media feel. Ideally, the app can be a place to see where friends are contributing their cash and learn about other important causes that warrant attention.
“We don’t want to guilt people into fundraising,” Dooley says. “The beauty of what we’re doing is it’s not a fundraiser. You’re permanently empowered to take the actions you want on your own terms. Now more than ever people want to be supporting these types of things, whether it’s COVID or natural disasters. Startups kind of go obsolete during these times, but this is what we’re meant to do.”