Stock, church, nonprofits: 3 new easy ways to give
By Jeff Herman
March 10, 2016
Simple and easy — that’s the common theme of three new card innovations aiming to change how we buy stock, donate to our favorite cause (or candidate) and give via a digital collection plate at churches and fundraisers.
Here’s a look at Stockpile, MyChange and Pod:
Buy stock gift cards at your favorite retailer
Stockpile, which enables a gift card buyer to purchase stock, had such a great first holiday season it’s scaling up — way up — from gift cards on racks in 400 stores to “30 times” that number — for “grads and dads” season, says Stockpile’s Chief Commercial Officer Dan Schatt.
Gift cards have “made it easy” to give stock or buy and own stock, says Schatt.
The gift cards — including cards for fractional shares of about two dozen big publicly traded companies such as Facebook, Google (Alphabet Class A) and Tesla or cards that let the recipient choose a favorite stock or exchange traded fund — are sold in denominations of $25, $50 or $100. A processing fee ranging from $6.95 to $9.95 is tacked on to the final sale price. Once a brokerage account is opened at redemption at Stockpile.com, stock trades cost 99 cents.
At the website, e-gifts of up to $1,000 of shares avoid the added costs resulting from the physical gift card (plastic, packaging, credit card fees).
What did Palo Alto, California-based Stockpile learn in its holiday test? Unlike with traditional gift cards — most of which are given as gifts — about half of all Stockpile cards were kept by the purchaser to buy stock in her or his own name. The stores registering the highest gift card sales were Kmart and Wegmans, the high-end Northeast supermarket chain. The most popular stocks given as gifts were fractional shares of Google and Apple.
“We had grandparents calling customer service,” Schatt says, likening the stock gift cards to the savings bonds grandparents used to give their children as gifts.
The fine print? Only U.S. residents can purchase the gift cards, and the brokerage account is held at Stockpile Investments Inc.
Gift card recipients under 18 can own stock by having an adult on the account with them. Among retailers adding Stockpile cards to gift card racks are Toys R Us stores.
By May, “we’ll be in virtually every grocery store,” Schatt says.
MyChange rounds up charges for nonprofits, candidates
Every card swipe or dip rounded up, with the extra change donated to a favorite cause or candidate — that’s what year-old MyChange does.
“Spare change is something people put in a jar somewhere,” says Ng’ethe Maina, one of four MyChange co-founders, all of whom have years of experience with nonprofits or political campaigns. “Why not put the digital equivalent of your spare change to good use for a cause you believe in?”
MyChange digitally routes the rounded-up credit and debit card amounts to organizations or people chosen by the cardholder. The app “makes it easy” to support a favorite nonprofit through the year, Maina says.
MyChange also makes it easy at tax time. In January, each cardholder giving to a 501c(3) organization via MyChange will get a PDF noting his or her donations through the year. Users also can set a monthly cap on donations to a cause or donate as much as they want — if they want to give more than spare change, Maina says.
The Texas Observer is one of about 200 hand-picked organizations using MyChange. “Round up your change to help the Observer. … It’s just three simple steps and you can help support our work,” the nonprofit news organization says in its weekly emails.
Groups have to apply to MyChange and then be invited to use the app. MyChange screens applicants to ensure they align with the app’s mission and message of creating change through digital spare change. Don’t have a favorite cause? Answering a few questions on the website will help you find possible matches.
MyChange, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, had to win approval from the Federal Election Commission for donations to political candidates. FEC rules are why MyChange only works with personal credit or debit cards and not business cards. The FEC does not allow donations from corporations.
Cost? MyChange charges a 10 percent fee, which comes out of the monthly round-up amount. Of this, 5.5 percent goes toward merchant and processing fees and 4.5 percent goes to administrative expenses.
MyChange is set to get a lot more attention this month as the rounding up app — now in early release — was among 10 finalists at the ReleaseIt competition at SXSW Interactive 2016.
Pod: A digital collection plate for churches
Pod, which is passed from person to person at houses of worship, lets users swipe credit or debit cards for donations.
Our goal was “keeping it simple for both the user and the churches,” Pod co-founder Michael Yonke says of the square-shaped donation device. Each side of the Pod has a card swipe for $10, $25, $50 and $100.
With each card swipe, Pod blinks blue, signaling that the card has been processed for the selected amount, and the device is ready to be passed to the next person.
The average donation: $50, Yonke says.
Pod is one of a handful of digital collection plate ventures being used and developed across the globe. Others include Tithe.ly, PushPay and EasyTithe.
The idea for Pod came to co-founders Ben Royal and Yonke when they were attending Bishop Dwenger High School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “We never had cash,” says Yonke. “We were very willing to give, but we didn’t have resources.”
The two teamed up in Carmel, Indiana, just north of Indianapolis, to create the card-swiping device to make it easy for “unplanned givers” to donate. Pod is being used in about a dozen Indianapolis-area churches.
“The demand is high both in Indianapolis and outside of Indianapolis,” he says. “But we are releasing our product slowly to keep satisfaction high and avoid any mishaps.”
Plastic has its advantages — especially at tax time. “When you give with cash, you and the church have no record of your gift,” he says. “With Pod, we keep track of each person’s donations in our system. A user can create an account online after the church service … to get a donor statement from that day or for a specific time period.”
For churches, there’s a dashboard to help track the Pod donations, and Pod is working with church management companies to sync donor data with the church’s software.
The cost? Pod takes 3.5 percent of each donation, mostly to cover card processing fees.
What’s next: “We’re gearing up for scale,” Yonke says. The Pod patent application has been filed, and a national launch is planned for 2017. Most Pods currently are being used in churches, but Yonke says the device also has worked well at fundraising events for nonprofits. Instead of passing the hat, the Pod is passed.
And what about those EMV chip cards that are increasingly in our wallets? How will Pod adapt to that?
“We’ve always said that Pod will accept whatever the majority of consumers use,” Yonke says. “Right now, that is cards with a magnetic stripe.” No matter what kind of card, “we plan to keep the action of giving with EMV chip cards as simple and fast as swiping a card,” Yonke says.