Charitable Impact’s John Bromley on the ‘Yelp of charity’ and hitting $1 billion in donations
The platform for giving is one of the only businesses of its type in the country.
John Bromley calls the idea for his company “obvious.” Just under 10 years ago, the Vancouver native founded Charitable Impact, a platform that would enable donors to log on and search out charities to donate to. To his surprise, he couldn’t find anything else like it.
“If you start looking into the charity space, you find a whole bunch of tech companies,” Bromley explains. “98 percent of them serve the charity, with fundraising pages, sales and marketing for them, that kind of stuff.”
There was nothing, says Bromley, geared towards the actual donor trying to decide what charities they should give to. He also argues that donors have highs and lows throughout their lives in terms of the amount of money that they have to give.
“Very few donors who actually participate in giving throughout their life choose only one charity to give to their whole life,” says Bromley. “It’s like a restaurant, no one acts that way, no one gives that way. So where's the Yelp of charity? No one’s there for the donor, and that's the story we’re founded on.”
It’s also the story that took Vancouver-based Charitable Impact to some 45 employees in the city (along with a satellite office in Bangalore, India) and over a billion dollars in donations from tens of thousands of people. Most of the latter came with a relatively small amount of marketing.
“Charitable giving is no different than other communities,” argues Bromley. “Like fitness or something, you recognize each other, talk to each other, it’s shared.” While some people “like to see their name in lights or on buildings,” says Bromley, a large majority of charitable giving is a fair bit quieter. “Generally speaking, it’s below the radar—the charities out there in our communities, you’ve never really heard of them.”
Part of that is also due to what Bromley points to as a lack of education around charitable giving in Canada. “Where do you go to learn about giving—to have it modelled for you and experience charitable giving? Generally speaking, outside of a seriously religious culture, the answer is pretty much nowhere,” he says.
That’s also the main reason Bromley states for there not being many competitors out there giving Charitable Impact a run for its (donated) money. Though even if there aren’t like-minded companies or platforms trying to get donors on board, there is one other entity that is after a similar crowd.
“The competition is in the banks,” he says. “Because behind charitable giving is money. And if a small little Vancovuer outfit can do a billion dollars worth of giving—a bank wants to be in that space. Not necessarily because they really want to solve charitable service problems for donors, but because they want to get assets under management.”
In the end, Bromley credits his company’s success to the generosity of Canadians more than anything. “They just want someone working for them to steward and service their charitable giving, but they don’t really know where to look for it,” he says.
“It’s like seeing a Tesla on the street once. You’ve never heard of it and then suddenly you see them everywhere. That’s what’s going to happen with the donor-advised fund. People are going to learn about it, realize it’s really useful and then keep using it throughout life.”