When Andrew Young III was growing up, his family home in Atlanta was always filled with exchange students or college kids who couldn't afford to go home for the holidays. There was an open door policy for anyone who needed a roof over his or her head or the warmth of a family.
His father, civil rights leader Andrew Young, instilled in him the values passed down by his own father -- that hard work and helping others is not a whim, but a responsibility.
Fast-forward decades later and the son of the former congressman and U.N. ambassador has forged his own path of giving back as CEO of Give Locally, a website that connects donors with people who are having a hard time making ends meet, allowing them to donate money with the click of a button.
"The thing is that most of my dad's life, he has always given back and found creative and innovative ways to create positive change in America and in the world," said Young, 38. "And one of the things we're finding with Give Locally, we are able to create similar change and help everyday people who are having a tough time."
As online giving and sites that offer such services continue to fill a niche in philanthropy, Young said that what makes givelocally.net different is that people have the ability to provide assistance to individuals, not just to organizations. Recipients are screened and vetted by the organization -- a for-profit business that takes an 18 percent cut of all donated funds -- and photos of them along with a list of their needs are also added online.
"When you give to most organizations, rarely do you know the specific person in need that your dollar is going to," Young said. "With Give Locally there's a level of transparency and efficiency that you won't find anywhere else."
Young took over as CEO shortly after the company was founded last summer, and since then the company has given out tens of thousands of dollars, he said. At any given time the site has about 100 recipients, with stories that signify just how much everyday folks struggle to keep the lights on or pay rent.
"We tend to focus on working class people who are going to work every day and putting in that 40 or 50 hours a week but are still unable to make ends meet," Young said. "Because there are nonprofit organizations and government initiatives to help indigent people or those who are homeless. But there is not really a group that helps working class people, that helps people who are going to work every day but are unable to sustain a living wage, and not because of any misuse of money on their own part, but because the job that they are able to gain is not providing them with a sustainable lifestyle."
The site takes in-kind donations, so Give Locally will purchase gift cards with donated money for an individual who needs things like groceries, Christmas presents or school supplies. If a person's rent or utilities need to be paid, the organization pays the landlord or utility company directly.
Young said that his company recently was able to help give $400 to a high-achieving but low-income Atlanta high school student so she could get a cap and gown, graduation photo and invitations -- things that her family simply could not afford.
In another case, a family with a sick daughter from a rural town in Indiana had to travel to a hospital far away from home for a surgery the girl needed. The procedure was covered, but the family couldn't afford the $230 they each had to pay for the hospital's meal plan. Donors on the site were able to come up with the money and get the family out of its jam, Young said.
Young said he hopes that Give Locally grows into a brand that will be talked about in families and shared among friends, and that celebrities and high-profile people will send their Facebook and Twitter friends and followers to the site.
"Our vision is that you see a family sitting around the dinner table and mom and dad are preparing dinner and the kids have the laptop out and they're going through Give Locally," Young said. "And in turn the family has a discussion around the dinner table about giving."
Most of the donors on the site give less than $100 or so dollars -- many give $10 or even $5. And that's exactly the type of donor who Young said he hopes to attract.
"We're looking for micro-donors," he said. "I think this model is setting the tone for working class Americans to help each other. We can't rely on the Bill Gates and the Warren Buffets to save the world."
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