A credit card that helps organizations do even more good


As a #Firestarter, you’re no doubt passionate about supporting the work of your favorite nonprofit organizations. You know all about the amazing changes they’re making happen in your communities and the world as a whole.


But what you may not know is that there’s one surprising aspect of nonprofit work that’s always been kind of a pain: credit cards. Organizations could use debit cards, but those carried security risks. Or they could apply for a business card — but only if someone like the executive director would sign on as a personal guarantor, making them personally responsible for the organization’s liabilities.


Social entrepreneur Stephen Garten knew there had to be a better way. And now his company, Charity Charge, offers one. Through Charity Charge, nonprofits can get a credit card that’s designed just for them — a card that helps them spend less time figuring out financial details and more time on their mission. With Charity Charge, Stephen became a #MovementMaker who empowers other #MovementMakers. That’s why I’m so excited to share his story with you.


‘I Felt Guided to Do Something Meaningful’


For Stephen, the desire to be a #MovementMaker started during a time of devastating pain and grief. When he was 19, he lost his father, who was just 53, to cancer.


Before that, Stephen had always figured that philanthropy was something you did when you were older — after you had worked hard your whole life and “made it.” But his father’s passing made him deeply aware that any of our lives could end at any time, and that we can’t put off making a difference. So he set his sights on a career that would enable him to give back. “I felt guided to do something meaningful,” he says.


His career path took him to the Austin Technology Incubator at the University of Texas, where he had another important realization about himself: He wanted to be an entrepreneur.


If you’re feeling like the stage is now set for one of those “light bulb” moments, you’re absolutely right. And it came at the unlikeliest of times. Stephen was online trying to redeem some of his credit card reward points for travel. But the dates he wanted were blacked out.


Still feeling frustrated, he then checked his email, where he found a fundraising message from a nonprofit he supported.


That’s when the epiphany hit: Why couldn’t there be a credit card that automatically donated your points to a nonprofit of your choosing?


A New Kind of Credit Card


Realizing he had discovered a true need in the marketplace, Stephen founded Charity Charge as a public benefit corporation. Charity Charge created the consumer card Stephen envisioned, and it was a hit.


 “Being a small nonprofit, we did not have established credit. Obtaining debit cards for our staff who travel and purchase was cumbersome and limited. Being able to have these credit cards enables us to begin to build credit and obtain credit cards for our valuable staff,” says Lori Divine, Treasurer at Buddhist Pathways Prison Project. 


Leaders at nonprofits took notice. And they had one question, Stephen says: “When are you going to make a version of Charity Charge for our organization?”


After learning more about nonprofits’ frustrations with their existing credit card options, Charity Charge launched a card that’s designed for nonprofit expenses. It’s the only one of its kind.


The Charity Charge nonprofit card doesn’t just get rid of the need for a personal guarantor. It also has a variety of other features that make it easier for organizations to manage their finances and spend smartly. There’s no annual fee, and organizations get an automatic 1% cash-back rebate so they don’t have to worry about managing reward points.


They can easily add and remove cards from their account, and they have a dedicated account manager to answer questions. “They can directly call someone to help them,” Stephen says.


One of the biggest perks of the Charity Charge nonprofit card is that it includes free online expense reporting, which reduces administrative work. 

“We love the customer service that Charity Charge provides! Usually, when we have a question regarding a charge, we have to call the bank and sometimes have to wait to be transferred to the correct person. With Charity Charge, all we had to do is call up Abby and she talked to the bank for us. This saved us time and took one more thing off of our plate since we are a small
administrative team” says Claire LaChance, Financial Officer at Kirby Hall School.

On top of the perk of customer service, cardholders get discounts from more than 200 vendors, such as FedEx, Enterprise and Staples.

Nonprofits both small and large are embracing the card. The organizations using it range in revenue from $50,000 to $100 million. They include local chapters of the United Way, The Junior League, YMCA, Global Impact, The Toby Keith Foundation and 1% for the Planet. 


Join the Movement


If you want to start your own company that creates real social impact, Stephen has some advice. It’s important to be business savvy even as you work to do good. That means knowing how you’re going to generate enough revenue to survive and how long it’s going to take to create that revenue. You should also look carefully at whether your idea addresses a real problem in the marketplace.


Besides starting your own movement, you can also support Stephen’s. Are you a staff member of a nonprofit who’s interested in Charity Charge? Request an application online.


You can still be part of the movement even if you don’t work at a nonprofit. One way to do this is to tell your favorite organizations about Charity Charge. Another is to get a Charity Charge consumer card that automatically donates your cash back to your favorite nonprofit. Run your own business? Set all of your employees up with the Charity Charge business card.


Copyright (c) 2019 Williams Strategies, LLC. All rights reserved.