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“…join their pledge and make a donation for every pound the pledge hero loses or for every win by the St. Louis Cardinals.”

As a Wharton MBA, Leonard Fishman cultivated his passion for entrepreneurship and social impact, finding an opportunity to fuse the two after joining up with, Vikram Bellapravalu, to launch pledge4good. Previously, Lenny worked at Lehman Brothers / Nomura as an investment banker, during which time he launched a mentorship program for one nonprofit, helped raise thousands of dollars in nonprofit donations, and remained active in several nonprofits.

Lenny and Vik started pledge4good to let motivated people give to their favorite nonprofits (charities, schools, etc.) without changing their daily habits by allowing users to tie donations to everyday activities.

Leonard Fishman, Pledge4Good - Co-Founder

MO: How does pledge4good work?

Leonard: pledge4good.com lets people donate without changing their daily routines by tying donations to everyday activities. To create a pledge, users select (1) any IRS-recognized 501(c)3 nonprofit to support, (2) an achievement—losing a pound—or an event—a win by the St. Louis Cardinals—to which donations will be linked, and (3) an amount to donate (as little as $1) for each achievement or event occurrence. Users can invite friends via Facebook, Twitter, or email to join their pledge and make a donation for every pound the pledge hero loses or for every win by the St. Louis Cardinals. In this way, pledge4good adds zest to daily life as friends and family share in each other’s lives by taking part in and commenting upon pledges. One pretty cool way our platform is being used is by the Real Diaper Association, as the organization attempts to break the Guinness World Record for number of real cloth diapers changed simultaneously in its the “Great Cloth Diaper Change” on April 21. To allow individuals that are unable to participate in the event an opportunity to contribute, the organization’s Executive Director, Heather McNamara, created a pledge on pledge4good.com to allow supporters to donate $1, $10, or $50 for every 1,000 diapers changed – they’re targeting 10,000 – during the “Great Cloth Diaper Change”.

MO: How long did it take from having the initial idea to actually getting it online and running? What did your development process look like?

Leonard: pledge4good.com started as an idea that Vik and I submitted to the Wharton Business Plan competition in early 2011. As we continued getting positive feedback through the different rounds of the competition, we also continued researching alternative fundraising platforms and developing our business plan. After winning the Peoples Choice Award at the competition, we decided to spend last summer developing our technology. By early fall 2011, we started testing the site with a small group of friends and family to get user feedback and ensure our technology worked. Slowly, we expanded our group of Beta testers to the point where we felt comfortable opening it to the public, which we ultimately did earlier this year. Since opening the platform to the public and purely via word of mouth, our platform has processed over $15,000 of donations to date.

MO: Where does your passion for entrepreneurship and social impact come from?

Leonard: I was raised to value community involvement and to take pride in giving both time and money to those who were less fortunate than myself. My parents, and I think this may apply to their generation, think of philanthropy from the perspective of individual contribution. However, as friends and family become ever-closer through the use of Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc., I think a strong case can be made that individuals can have an outsized impact by quickly and efficiently harnessing the collective efforts of social networks. It was really the belief that by building pledge4good.com that Vik and I could have a much more amplified impact than either of us could ever have individually that prompted us to start the Company.

MO: Have you noticed any interesting or surprising trends on the site so far?

Leonard: Vik and I have been very pleased with our users’ activity on the site. On average, visitors to pledge4good.com view a bit over seven pages as they create, join and comment upon friends’ pledges. What’s more, we’ve seen that people are increasingly willing to engage with and donate to a nonprofit to which they have no prior connection by joining a fun pledge, such as donating every time a friend dunk in a basketball tournament or donating for every A a grandchild receive in school. In fact, and our nonprofit partners have really appreciated this, 75% of donations on pledge4good.com are to organizations to which a user has never made a donation.

MO: Do you think that by making donating easier and more social, that it could help establish a new culture of philanthropy?

Leonard: Absolutely, and in fact, we want pledge4good to be considered the tool that galvanized Millennials and established a new culture of philanthropy. As corporate and government grants dwindle, and where the tax deductibility of larger donations is under assault, it Is becoming increasingly important for nonprofits to cultivate a new generation of donors. So while the Internet and social giving have always offered great promise, the actual results have been disappointing. In fact, NTEN research estimates that nearly 80% of nonprofits generate less than $1,000 of donations from social media. To reverse these trends, we designed pledge4good as a fun social game that gets people excited about giving. We accomplish this by providing our users with a platform that assists with pursuing personal goals such as losing a pound, exercising daily, or getting As in school. Further, pledge4good allows users to easily share these achievements and engage their social networks in a new way as they support a nonprofit.

MO: Can you break down how pledge4good is enhancing the online fundraising capabilities of nonprofits?

Leonard: Amazon one-click checkout, micro-transactions, Foursquare check-ins, Facebook and Twitter’s real-time interactions: these are the most powerful dynamics on the Internet for engaging users and satisfying consumers. So, we wanted to bring these same concepts to nonprofit fundraising. Specifically, pledge4good enhances the online fundraising capabilities of nonprofits by: (1) allowing for two-click and micro donations; (2) harnessing proven game mechanics and fully integrating into Facebook and Twitter; and (3) tying donations to recurring life achievements, as opposed to one-time grants.

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