Change Donations shows how a few cents can add up to a big impact

6 May 2019

Willie Conaghan and Lizzy Hayashida. Image: Change Donations

Our Start-up of the Week is Change Donations, a social enterprise that helps consumers not only get bang for their buck, but also be important agents of change in the world.

“Change Donations connects everyday people with good causes by automatically rounding up debit card purchases to the nearest euro and directing the surplus to the charities of their choice,” explained Change Donations’ co-founder Lizzy Hayashida.

Change Donations aims to make it convenient for people to donate to their favourite charities, all while maintaining control over how much and to whom their money goes.

‘We are building a community of everyday philanthropists donating one cent at a time’

The social enterprise’s platform enables donors to donate to multiple charities and keep track of these donations to see what kind of an impact they are making.

Last year the company won the top prize in the final of Trinity College Dublin’s (TCD) LaunchBox student summer accelerator programme. As a result, as well as winning a place on a start-up accelerator in New York, it also won three months at innovation hub Dogpatch Labs in Dublin and a cash prize of €3,500.

The market

“While millennials have less disposable income, millennials still donate more than any other generation,” Hayashida explained.

“They have grown up in a digital world and expect personalised communication. While trying to catch up with technological trends, charities are also facing a trend toward a cashless society, rendering many traditional collection methods obsolete.

“This issue isn’t limited to Ireland; this is an issue for charities and non-profits all over the world.”

The team

Hayashida came to Dublin from Silicon Valley where she spent eight years working on new product innovation at early-stage start-ups and large tech companies.

She was an early employee of (which was acquired by eBay), Y Combinator start-up Shoptiques and Affirm.

After graduating from Georgetown University, Willie Conaghan worked as a financial analyst and business controller for Nasdaq, where he managed more than $100m in assets, integrated six companies through acquisition, and managed the financials for the dark-pool trading and facial recognition projects.

They met while doing their MBAs at TCD.

The technology

The Change Donations platform allows donors to authorise round-ups through their card, rounding up their purchases to the nearest euro to donate to charities and non-profits.

“Donors can donate to one or multiple charities, set weekly or monthly limits, boost their donations, and turn round-ups off at any time,” Hayashida explained.

“Through our donor dashboard, donors can easily track their donations and see the impact they are having on the causes they are supporting.”

Hayashida continued: “We believe that making an impact is not about how much you can give, it’s about giving what you can to those in need.

“At Change Donations, we make giving easy. Our mission is to help people change the world through everyday spending. We want to make it easier for donors to support the causes they care about by bringing charities into the digital age and helping them connect with the new generation of donors. We are building a community of everyday philanthropists donating one cent at a time to incredible causes that are inspiring positive change across the globe.”

From San Francisco Bay to Dublin Bay

The start-up is currently beta testing early charity partners and is looking to close a seed funding round.

“We have been very well received by the Irish community, and we’re working with our partners to help them engage with lapsed and inactive donors,” she added.

“We have plans to launch an app this summer, and we welcome partnerships with any non-profits or charities who feel they could benefit from our platform.”

The biggest challenge has been building a transparent platform that puts both the charity needs and the donor at its core. “It has been a long road – lots of focus groups and user testing – I’m sure we’ll never be done perfecting it!”

Hayashida, who has experienced start-up life in Silicon Valley, says the Irish scene is taking shape.

“I’m from the Bay Area so grew up around tech and start-ups – couldn’t imagine it any other way. The start-up scene in Dublin is great; everyone is really supportive of one another and helpful where they can be, and it really feels like a community.”

Her advice to founders is to circulate and network. “Put yourself out there and get involved with as many start-up events and groups as you can. We’re all going through similar things, and building a network of people who can help you work through things is so helpful.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years