What with the planet collapsing and democracy under constant attack from all quarters -- you know, just the usual -- one or two members of the global population have, idly or not, wondered if the private sector might want to step up? I mean, as well as shooting billionaires into space. At the same time, even! Luckily, many businesses want to do better. But there are one or two hurdles. Incorporating “purpose” into their digital offering, such as donating to a nonprofit at the end of a moving documentary, is harder than it looks. Businesses don’t have the capacity to build in donation software; they can’t continually verify and audit good causes; and processing donations is fraught with legal complications, compliance and regulatory risk. What is to be done?
Pennies is one organization that bills itself as the digital equivalent of the traditional charity collection box. However, perhaps what we need is… drum roll… an API?
Step forward Percent. Founded in 2017, Percent provides an API allowing firms to customers to donate to good causes, matching a donation made when making a payment, or rounding up a financial transaction, for instance.
It’s now closed a $5 million venture round led by Morpheus Ventures, allowing it to expand in the U.S., as well as its existing presence in the U.K. and Australia. The U.K.’s Nationwide Building Society -- also an early investor and customer of the product -- is a co-investor in the round.
The company says its API-first platform takes care of auditing and compliance processes to prevent fraud and money-laundering whilst also parsing tax-efficient disbursements of funds into 200 countries worldwide. It says 7 million nonprofit causes have been added to the platform and it has vetted the potential recipients of donations.
Henry Ludlam, founder, and CEO of Percent, said: “Percent was founded to become the global API-first infrastructure behind all giving. This will be the foundation for a better, fairer future of capitalism in which every financial transaction has social and environmental good built into it.”
In an interview I asked him if the pandemic had accelerated the opportunity: “Because of COVID, suddenly now we have brands that are really desperate to build purpose into their business in a way that they just weren't doing 18 months ago. It’s really been an amazing shift. We’ve just seen a huge shift in what consumers expect from businesses. Consumers expect businesses to build purpose into what they do now.”
He said that the product could be even built into -- surprise! -- streaming services: “Say you’ve seen a documentary. And at the end of the documentary, you feel particularly moved, like you watched a David Attenborough or something like that. You could then actually be able to quickly and easily build donations into the end of it. So using our API, it would pull up a list of nonprofits, so right there and then the customer could make a donation. We're also working with a crypto platform where you can round down your transactions and donate to any nonprofit as well. There's loads of really cool stuff we are working on which is coming out soon.”
Kristian Blaszczynski, managing partner of Morpheus Ventures, said: “With the events of the last several years, it has become more apparent that aligning brands with purpose is driving consumer behavior and spend. However, today, the process of donating to nonprofits is incredibly archaic, manual and inefficient… Percent’s API-first platform abstracts away all of these complexities and automates the processes, allowing businesses to align closer to their stakeholders and focus on their core business.”
Percent could well be pushing at an open door. Kantar Research says that only 22% of people could name a brand they thought was doing a good job addressing issues such as climate change, plastic waste and water pollution. On the flip side, 95% of businesses think that “purpose” is at the heart of what they do. The disparity could not be more stark.
Is Percent the stripe for donations? We're about to find out.