"I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver."
With the televised Army-Navy game recently, college football fans had some very new options. Of course as always, they could enjoy watching the game; root for their team; and eat and drink themselves silly. But this year, they could also give to Toys for Tots or Operation Gratitude at the same time.
If their team won (or even if it didn't), they could designate a penny, quarter, dollar or more to one of those two charities or another of their choosing entirely, based exclusively on a set of almost unlimited parameters they designate.
There's a new high-tech start-up in Austin, Texas, called Snoball that has a different twist: empowering 'micro-donations' over the Internet while also tying in those donations to a fan's sports, entertainment or even routine (think a Starbucks in the morning) passions.
Now, Snoball is making it possible to donate during the big, upcoming BCS (Bowl Championship Series) of college football. This pivotal series of games crowns the No. 1 team in college football and puts an exclamation point on college sports for 2011 with the Rose, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta Bowls and capping those off with the Bowl Championship game between top-ranked Alabama and LSU on Jan. 9th, 2012 in New Orleans.
It's glaringly simple. Go to Snoball.com's BCS page, sign-up, and start your own 'Snoball' which can be yours alone, or all your friends and family can join giving whatever pennies they want to your charity or to charities they designate. The idea is that you can start your own Snoball or join another like-minded person's Snoball along the way. You won't be asked for your credit card until later in the process after you authorize and approve the giving you've set-up.
The big games (and charities Snoball is associated with -- or you can pick your own too) coming up are:
Michigan vs. Virginia Tech
Boy's & Girl's Clubs
Oklahoma State vs. Stanford
Communities in Schools
Clemson vs. West Virginia
Wisconsin vs. Oregon
Big Brothers & Big Sisters
Bowl Championship Game
Alabama vs. LSU
St. Jude's Children's Hospital
According to Snoball co-founder and CEO, Jeremy Kelley, "Americans are famed for giving and we're just trying to make it easy and fun for them to give to their favorite charities. All four of the founders of Snoball come from non-profit, academic, philanthropic background," Kelley mused, "you know, we all wanted to make the world a better place, we were hippies and nerds wanting to create something special using our technology skills."
When I asked Kelley if he was having fun in his start-up he said, "It's surreal. We've got 15 employees now and it's just great working with so many really smart people. It's 'the curse of the start-up'... you can only stay awake so long," he said with a chuckle.
"We thought tying peoples' 'micro-donations' to their passions was a really interesting idea. So if Drew Brees throws a touchdown pass, his fans could give a dollar to their favorite charity; whether they designate it for one TD pass, one game or every time Brees throws one during the season."
Kelley is right -- it would max out at about $40 donated for a whole season of the Saints' QB's aerial successes.
Kelley's background includes stints at IBM, where he was a founding member of the IBM Security Intelligence group and the U. S. Department of Defense's (DOD) Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT). Kelley, who adds to this deep technology background "a thread of faith" that runs through all the founders, calls the entrepreneurial momentum behind Snoball "passionate nerdery."
"We serve any entity which is a 501C3, C7, C12... literally all 'the C's'... IRS certified non-profits or not-for-profits," Kelley stated authoritatively, "Snoball now has more than 2 million charities in our database which our donors can support so chances are, we have your charity."
"What we're really trying to do is change the way charities operate. Normally, they try to have a big, expensive event and make a lot of money or try to get one big donor to write a $1 million check. We want to help charities get one million $1 donations over the Internet."
In the analog charitable world, the charities' expenses can radically reduce the final donation amount which is received by the needy. It wasn't unusual for something under 50 percent of the money to reach those that needed it. Kelley says, "Because we use the 'Internet-scale,' 95 percent of donations get to the charities. We want Snoball to grow large by taking as little of each donation as possible in order to maximize the good the donations can do. For the charities that don't have a big IT staff -- and they almost always don't -- we can act as their Internet fundraising arm."
One thing needs to be crystal-clear: Snoball is not a charity itself. It is a for-profit start-up designed to increase donations over the Internet and then the impact of those donations to the needy. Snoball is a cost-effectiveness enhancer for charitable donations. As Kelley says, "It's a way for us to do well by doing good."
Amen Brother, we Americans need to do more giving during the Holiday Season when we're having such a good time ourselves; you know, 'goodwill toward men.' I say, "Roll on Snoball."