Fittingly, the co-founders of Giv Local got to know each other in the community.
Christian Baum, the co-founder of New Leaf Initiative and the co.space, was often at the bank where Sam Buckley was working, and he would bump into Buckley every so often. Eventually, Baum and Buckley — and Buckley’s wife, Shizuka — got to be friends. They chatted about their mutual enjoyment of games (board games and Nintendo) and got to talking more.
By the time Buckley decided to shift into an entrepreneurial career rather than banking, the trio, by then friends, wanted to pursue a business venture together and were trying to see if their professional skills had an overlap.
They found one in the creation of Giv Local, a merchant servicing company they recently started in State College. The company aims to work with local businesses in Centre County to put money back into the community through connecting businesses and nonprofits.
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How it works
Companies who partner with Giv Local can choose a verified nonprofit that they’d like their processing fee to benefit. If they want, businesses can choose more than one nonprofit to donate their fees toward — as long as the nonprofits pass the “Giv Test.”
When a person uses a credit card to purchase something at this business, Giv Local’s goal is to save the business money by matching or lowering their rate, Baum said. Through this system, 20 percent of the businesses’ processing fees will be donated to the nonprofit of their choosing.
“If you’re a local business and you’re interested in helping the environment, we can do that,” Buckley said. “If your interest is in pets and local animal shelters, we can do that. If it’s to help the homeless or help feed people or women’s resources or medical care for people in need, we have the ability to be able to help facilitate that and do that for the local businesses.”
There are seven nonprofit areas for interested businesses to choose a nonprofit to donate to, according to Giv Local’s website: Animals, Basic Human Needs, Children + Youth, Environment, Community Engagement, Civic Service and Women’s Resources.
The group has retained its spirit while giving back to the community. As homage to the games that they originally all bonded over, the group’s titles include “Charity Sorceress” for Shizuka Buckley, who works with the local charities and businesses, “Design Yeti” for Baum, who developed the company’s website and image, and “Processing Druid” for Sam Buckley, who uses his banking background to run the numbers and work with the financial aspects.
Businesses, nonprofits jump on board
For Alison Kurtz, the president of Ameron Construction, the thought of people going hungry is unacceptable. So when Kurtz, a friend of Baum’s, heard about Giv Local, she was quick to sign up as the first business partner — in Ameron’s case, the Food Bank of State College. In the future, Kurtz said she’d also potentially like to donate to an environmental cause.
“It’s brand new and it’s exciting,” Kurtz said, “so I’m excited for them and I’m excited for our community.”
On the opposite end of the transaction, Centre County PAWS has been chosen as the nonprofit recipient for Cool Beans, a cafe in Bellefonte.
Christine Faust is the director of development and marketing for Centre County PAWS.
Faust said that a large part of budgeting at Centre County PAWS goes to two items: providing medical care for the animals, and providing SNAP (the Spay and Neuter Assistance Program), which Faust said gives vouchers for the community to have animals spayed or neutered at no cost.
“Both of those programs account for a very significant part of our budget, so I would hope that that would go to help them,” Faust said.
Cindy Kolarik, the director of marketing communications and outreach at Leadership Centre County, and the director of The Jared Box Project, a nonprofit which aims to lift the spirit of children who are in the hospital, said via email that she admires the founders for thinking outside the box.
“Programs like Giv Local have the potential to make a huge impact,” Kolarik said, especially in terms of freeing up nonprofits to spend time usually used for fundraising on making more direct charitable impacts.
“As a director of a local nonprofit, I would be thrilled to receive some extra funding from Giv Local,” Kolarik said.
Plans for expansion
While Amazon Smile similarly offers patrons the opportunity to donate to a charity, Baum pointed out the donation is “hardwired in” with the Giv Local model, without the consumer having to do or pay anything extra.
Rather than focusing their company on making a profit, the company is focused on making a difference in the community, which Sam Buckley believes will allow for Giv Local’s business to operate with an advantage: rather than creating a business and then using it to create “something new and cool and positive” for the community around it, he said, Giv Local has found the positive element first, and created a business from that.
Though it started in State College, Giv Local has plans to expand, and has already heard from nonprofits in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Indiana who are interested in one day being a part of the program.
For the co-founders, the best part of the business is getting to see the positive impact that it could have in the community, especially in the excitement of the business owners who realize they have a chance to give back and become what Baum called “local superheroes.”
When talking with businesses, Sam Buckley said, there hasn’t been one business they’ve approached who has turned down the idea of potentially giving back if they’re able.
“It’s so exciting just knowing that we’re making a difference in the community,” Shizuka Buckley said. “For me, that’s heartwarming.”