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What is inLieu and why did you start the company?

It goes back several years. I began to realize my frustration with attending friends’ events with the obligatory hostess gifts, the birthday gifts, the thank-you gifts, etc. You know: the flowers, candles, bottles of wine, gift cards, the bakery platter of cookies or cake — it began to feel like wasteful giving. I was (and many of us were) spending what adds up to a lot of money on “things” that weren’t representing the gratitude, the appreciation and the love I meant to convey with these gifts. I realized that I was participating in repeated “empty-giving” — gifting probably unneeded or unwanted bric-a-brac that would end up being re-gifted or unused.

I wanted the next gift to my friend or family member to be more meaningful. I wanted my gift dollars to go to impact social change, a more meaningful and long-lasting present, to the charities and causes they supported. Thus, inLieu was conceived.

Then I looked for online platform where I could donate, easily and quickly, on behalf of my friend to any nonprofit in the U.S. And it just didn’t exist. So, based upon my own passion and frustration, I decided to build a mobile app supporting meaningful gifting.

Did you have a tech background?

I did not, but I found good people, willing to help, who did.

I had some experience and understanding of the nonprofit world because I was on several nonprofit boards and had chaired quite a few development committees. I understood how hard it is for nonprofits to raise money and that every dollar can make a difference. I realized inLieu could help.

How does inLieu work?

Benefiting from inLieu is easy for nonprofits: they need do nothing but collect checks in the mail, via our app. All U.S. IRS nonprofit registration information is already loaded in the app and easy to select. The donor, the nonprofit and the honored recipient are notified via text or email when a donation is made. There is nothing to download and information on donors is never sold or shared without permission.

In other words, the app is seamless: you go in, you select what friends you want to donate in honor of, and then you can search and find the nonprofit donation organization best suited to that donation.

If your honored friend happens to have already used the app, they can save their favorites to their profile, building awareness of which nonprofits they are supporting and what causes they champion.

Any contributor can use inLieu for direct donations, as well ― you don’t always have to donate in honor of someone else. Instead, for instance, you might go to a cause-based event and wish to donate $500 or $50 directly to the charity organization. Then, you could send a message to other friends about how important the cause is and ask them to donate.

inLieu is also very social in nature: it includes a social feed so you can see what other people are giving. Conversely, the donor can choose to privately make the donation. For those donors who choose to make their nonprofit selection public, inLieu is another way to build awareness for those nonprofits.

How can inLieu contribute to social change?

I want people to give back and I want people to think about giving differently. I feel that if we can give donations in lieu of material gifts, then we can all make an impact.

There’s no minimum gift on the platform, so everyone can participate. You can give $5 or you can give $50 or you can give $500. Nobody sees the amounts, so nobody feels “less than.” It’s all about the act of sharing. Even the smallest of gifts can drive big outcomes.

For instance, right now, there is $45 billion sitting on unused gift cards. Can you imagine what we could do to change the world with $45 billion? Another example: in the U.S., we spend over $400 billion on gifts in a year. There is clearly a lot of potential out there to make a societal shift and have huge impact.

As a user-friendly bonus, we keep track of your donating history so you can review how much you’ve contributed to what nonprofits. At the end of each tax year, we send you one receipt and then an Excel file with all your itemized donations.

Are there fees for using inLieu? Is it different based on the amount?

The inLieu transaction is just one dollar for any size donation. Whether it’s $5 or $500,000, we take only $1. And we access a lower than normal credit card transaction fee because we are a nonprofit. Some nonprofits are telling their users to donate on inLieu because it’s cheaper than donating on their website.

How big is this gifting for the social change movement today?

We are a startup and have a small but mighty team of professionals committed to social change. While today inLieu has about 4,000 users, we project 50,000 users by the end of 2019.

Are you available for use outside the U.S?

Not right now, but we plan on being selectively international in the next few years. It really depends upon access to information on registered charities outside the U.S., which can sometimes be challenging.

What else is coming up for inLieu users?

We are building a gift card option. Say you want to donate in honor of your friend, for example, but you don’t know their causes and they don’t have an inLieu profile. So instead of going to buy that iTunes gift card at the grocery store, you go on the app and select the Give inLieu Foundation gift card option. We send your friend a link and they choose the nonprofit to receive the funds. We know that there’s going to be people who don’t redeem that gift code. If so, the Give inLieu Foundation guarantees distribution of those unclaimed funds as grants — it will all go back to support the community.

A word about the Give inLieu Foundation

The Give inLieu Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3). It’s the Give inLieu Foundation that processes and facilitates the charitable donations that are made in the app. When you are donating in the app, you’re donating to Give inLieu Foundation and then our foundation is instantly regranting that to the donor’s selected nonprofit.

To learn more about inLieu, please check out their website at www.inLieu.com

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Co-founder and CEO of MissionBox, founder and president of MissionBox Philanthropic Fund, founder and past CEO of Community TechKnowledge

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