On a Mission: Purpose Portfolio Helps Companies—and their Employees—Give Back
In Haiti, where dirty water causes life-threatening dysentery, school children are sipping on clean H2O through their own LifeStraws, the chunky straw-turned-water-filter that removes bacteria, protozoa and even viruses. Along the Israeli-Palestinian border, Jewish and Muslim youth attend a Good Water Neighbors camp where they collaborate on sustainable water management—while building relationships and increasing cross-cultural understanding. Thirsty communities in India are drinking from clean water stations. And Kenyan neighborhoods are escaping waste-borne diseases with the arrival of much-needed flush toilets.
This river of clean water support is helping improve health around the world, and one of its tributaries might surprise you. We’re not talking about large corporate donations (although those are also valuable)—one of the sources is actually humble monthly paycheck donations from Experticity’s 60-plus Salt Lake City employees. With self-directed donations that range from $5 to $150 per paycheck, they are on track to donate more than $17,000 this year to five clean water nonprofits—and they just got started this summer, with help from Salt Lake City-based Purpose Portfolio.
“We had on our 2015 agenda the goal of giving our culture more of a charitable focus,” says Heather Mercier, Experticity senior vice president of finance and talent. “We had been talking about it over the course of several weeks, wondering where to start, whether to create a charitable committee to identify causes … it was a struggle to know where to begin.”
Mercier says Purpose Portfolio, a Utah start-up dedicated to connecting companies with vetted charitable organizations around the world, happened to reach out to her “at just the right time.” Experticity, which itself is dedicated to connecting expert influencers with the world’s top brands, liked the idea of working with a company that could help make selecting causes—and giving to them—easier.
As a rule, Purpose Portfolio encourages companies to bring employees into the decision-making process, so the organization helped Experticity put together a company-wide event, complete with video profiles of suggested causes, to empower employees to vote for their favorite: clean water, women and children’s issues, extreme poverty and access to education. Clean water won, and the floodgates immediately opened. Over 25 percent of employees signed up to give within the first four hours of the campaign, and more continue to join daily.
“Employees want a high level of confidence that their money is actually doing good in the world, and Purpose Portfolio does the work of finding organizations that are high-quality, vetted nonprofits,” says Mercier.
Purpose Portfolio is the result of a collaboration between co-founders SaraJoy Pond and Chase Murdock. They first worked together a few years ago, when Murdock was interning at Pond’s crowdfunding startup, TippingBucket.org. Murdock went on to build his own startup, Dress Code Custom. The two stayed in touch and recently began brainstorming ways to leverage technology to help companies fulfill a growing desire to engage in the community.
“We share a lot these days about user experience, in the physical space or with software platforms. But that’s something late in coming to the philanthropy stage,” says Pond. “The whole advantage of Purpose Portfolio’s technology is it’s user-centered.”
In other words, it’s incredibly simple for employees to sign up, identify a dollar amount from each paycheck that will go directly to selected charities, and stay in touch with the results of their giving, thanks to an online “impact dashboard.”
From the corporate side, it’s also seamless for corporations to implement. Purpose Portfolio’s technology is designed to integrate with companies’ existing payroll systems, making it virtually plug-and-play to automate employee sign-up and manage the paycheck donation program. Companies pay Purpose Portfolio just $1 per employee per month, and 100 percent of employee paycheck donations go directly to the charitable organizations.
As for the causes, Purpose Portfolio puts together specific suites of nonprofits, cultivated around charitable themes, such as access to education or helping children in need. “We create mission-aligned portfolios—it’s a very curated process,” says Pond. “The nonprofits we work with represent some of the best work in the world. They are getting results, affecting people for longer periods of time.”
Murdock says their most popular portfolios focus on nonprofits that utilize technology to do good in health or education.
BrainStorm, Inc., the American Fork-based provider of Microsoft-centered training programs, recently enlisted the help of Purpose Portfolio. As an education and technology company, it has selected nonprofits like Living Goods, a worldwide microenterprise organization that focuses on healthcare development, and Homeboy Industries, a group that helps former gang members transition through meaningful employment.
“Our organization has always been very focused on giving back, so Purpose Portfolio fits really well with our culture,” says Todd Kirk, BrainStorm’s manager of product development and chair of the company’s giving committee.
Individual choice is important to Purpose Portfolio, so its platform allows employees to choose from a variety of organizations within their company’s selected portfolio. For example, say an Experticity employee wanted to give $50 from each paycheck. She could direct $25 to go to the LifeStraw program, $10 to Good Water Neighbors, and $15 to water stations in India.
Having opened its doors just this year, Purpose Portfolio’s client roster is rapidly growing. “We have been well-received, mostly because companies really want to do this,” says Murdock. “We are the solution to a problem—how to give back—that’s been compounded partially by millennials who want purposeful work. It’s been reported that over half of all millennial employees will turn down higher pay to work for companies that have a higher sense of purpose in their culture or mission. We’re a scalable solution that works for small to large companies.”
“It sounds cliché, but this really is an idea whose time has come,” adds Pond.