I don’t think I was bad at making donations to environmental charities, but it did feel like something was lacking. I built PennyLoafer to help fill this gap.
Despite our best intentions, a lot of things get in the way of our charitable giving. Maybe we don’t know where to start, or we don’t have time to do the research. We’re busy with school, jobs, kids — with life. We may be skeptical that our giving will truly make a difference, especially on big issues like climate change and the mental health crisis. This was certainly the case for me.
In the summer of 2020, amidst a global pandemic and racial justice movement, I took stock of my giving habits. They seemed disjointed and often reactive. I would donate when crises happened, or requests came my way: a friend’s charity run; a drive for my cousin’s classroom supplies; or supporting a local food pantry during the pandemic. To be sure, it always felt good in the moment, but looking at my donations as a whole, they felt impulsive and it was hard to deduce what I actually valued.
If you can relate to this, know that it’s human. In fact, donors rarely give as much as they intend to and often have trouble explaining a consistent approach to the charities they choose. One study from the Center for Advanced Hindsight found that, on average, people want to give 2.5 times more than they actually do. This difference between intention and action got me curious.
I considered what it would mean to have a giving strategy: What did I care about most? And how could I do more about it strategically and on an ongoing basis?
From that came the idea for PennyLoafer, a platform that makes charitable giving simple and more strategic. We do this by creating ongoing giving strategies around select causes like climate change, with the goal of getting more people donating regularly to causes they care about and learning along the way.
Impact Made Easy – Eliminating Barriers to Charitable Giving
PennyLoafer is designed to address several common barriers to giving:
- Choice overload. There are more than a million nonprofits in the U.S. alone. Decision paralysis is a common pitfall. PennyLoafer helps you out by researching and vetting a diverse collection of nonprofits so you can simply start giving based on your priorities, and have one less aspect of your life overwhelmed by choices.
- Time. Responsible giving requires time to research issues and charities. People are busy. PennyLoafer builds giving into your life, taking care of logistics and keeping you informed along the way.
- Feeling overwhelmed by issues. We’ve all been there: What can one person do to make a difference, especially for complex issues like the climate crisis? With PennyLoafer, our members join other like-minded donors in a giving strategy. Ten dollars a month might not seem like a lot but it quickly adds up when we combine donations.
- Unclear impact. You’re not giving into a black hole with PennyLoafer. We keep you updated on the impact of your giving and engaged in the cause via our monthly newsletter.
Keeping Donors Informed About Issues
Perhaps the most important aspect of PennyLoafer is the monthly newsletter. I didn’t want this to be another fund that people can donate to and never really hear anything again. It’s important to me that people feel impactful with their giving, learn about different nonprofits and the various strategies employed to address issues like climate change.
Donors receive consistent feedback every month. The newsletter highlights the selected nonprofit, including its leadership, approach, and why it was chosen. It also shares relevant news and information about the cause. For instance, our climate change newsletter might cover a piece of climate legislation moving through Washington or interesting facts about renewable energy developments.
Since our launch in fall 2021, PennyLoafer donors have sent thousands of dollars to charities fighting climate change across the country. In the process, they’ve learned about a variety of organizations and different ways to address the issue. From national NGOs, such as Carbon180, which works on federal policies that increase funding for carbon removal, to smaller, grassroots nonprofits like Native Renewables, which is bringing solar power to the Navajo Nation.
The Social Venture Model
We made an intentional effort to be accessible and affordable. PennyLoafer does not take a share of donations or charge platform fees. We partner with a 501(c)(3) charity, Charityvest, so that all donations through the platform are tax deductible.
Donors can start by giving as little as $5 a month, and change their regular donation or cancel at any time. Donors also have the option to leave a tip to help PennyLoafer cover our operating expenses. At its core, PennyLoafer is built to get more individual donors meaningfully connected to causes they care about, learning and feeling the difference they make — no matter the amount they can give.
To learn more or start giving regularly to causes that address climate change and other issues, check out pennyloafer.org.
About the Author
Andi Thieman is the founder of PennyLoafer. Her background is in nonprofit consulting and human services. Her career has focused on strategic planning, capacity-building, grant writing, and best practice research for nonprofits and public agencies. She is a Pittsburgh native, currently living in San Juan, Puerto Rico.