iGivefirst founder and CEO Sharif Youssef was watching Anderson Cooper’s coverage of the Haiti earthquake in 2010, when a young Haitian boy in the background was hit in the head by another Haitian to loot his valuables.
“Blood starts gushing everywhere and Anderson Cooper turned around,” Youssef said. “My stomach crawled out of my throat; my heart started beating a little faster. I’m sitting in a New York hotel room and all I wanted to do was help that little boy.”
Youssef, a former corporate data and technology expert who built solutions for companies like eBay and Amazon, said he founded iGivefirst to help people do just that with a simple button. He said he and his team bootstrapped the funds and set out to land the Give button “anywhere you see a share button or a Tweet button.” When clicked, the Give button links to non-profits that relate to the page’s content and the user’s location.
The Give button was tested out on about five articles during the forest fires near Denver and raised over $30,000 for related non-profits without even any marketing, Youssef said; now, the button gets about 500,000 clicks per month.
Today, iGivefirst has its eyes on the country’s top 10 media sites: “What we’re doing today is we’re talking to the top media publishers in the United States,” Youssef said. “If we get one of the big guys signed on, the rest will jump on.”
Featuring the Give button on popular media sites could increase overall giving in the country, since only 6 percent of charitable donations in 2011 were made online, Youssef said.
Not to mention, the button will remedy what Youssef calls a “confusing, frustrating, unsafe process” of giving to charities online; instead of spending weeks trying to find ways to help people like the injured Haitian boy on CNN, donors can give quickly and simply.
This convenience of the Give button is also beneficial to the for-profit media companies hosting the Give button: they no longer have to spend time and money finding ways to support the charities that will best connect them with their consumers.
“What we’ve done is help facilitate the emotional connection for brands through data,” Youssef said. “We want to bring sophistication to the giving model and we can do that by helping mainstream media and advertising start doing better things to help support humanity.”