Happy News gives us a Happy Birthday

The Happy News

September brought with it another Charitocracy birthday! We've been online, spreading your dolla dolla bill to worthy causes, for 3 years now!! Whether you've been with us the whole time, or just joined us recently, THANK YOU. It's your birthday. And we have some happy news to share.

Or better put, The Happy News has us to share! Thanks to donor Ealish Wilson, Jessica and I have been nominated as Everyday Heroes! Aww, shucks. ☺️

Benj Lipchak and Jessica Sands as Everyday Heroes

Big thanks also to Emily Coxhead for publishing Ealish's kind words in her extraordinary newspaper, and for making Charitocracy's birthday extra happy this year. ❤️

Search and Ye Shall Find

Benj drags Charitocracy into the early 1990s with search

I have some big news.


Are you sure you're ready for this? Maybe you should sit down.

Charitocracy (OMG OMG OMG) has joined the millions of other web sites on the Internet... to offer site-wide search functionality!


Simply type in one or more keywords, which are just fancy names for things you want to search for, and Charitocracy will return all matching nominee voting pages, blog posts, comments, etc. All in a fraction of a second*!

So visit any page, click that little magnifying glass in the top-right corner of the menu, or hiding at the end of the menu if you're on a phone, and search your heart out! American Heart Association will be returned, among others.

* AOL customers may be looking at a fraction of a minute here.

There's got to be a better way to search that groovy charity

It’s scary how much we’ve raised for charity!

Money Kills by WhiteEyedFrog

Including the check we wrote this month for September's winner, Youth Pride Inc., we've awarded over $30,000 in grants to our monthly winners at Charitocracy. And we have over $10,000 more raised already for the next 12 monthly winners.

While we still need to crack the code on how to grow this thing into the future, it's nice to look back at how far we've come. I've included an October 31 snapshot of our Winners page. You can see it for yourself here.

Winning Cause Month Pot Votes Voters Nominator
Youth Pride Inc. 2018-09 $1753 18.7 20 melissa745
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society 2018-08 $1391 26.5 27 amrizzo01
RAICES 2018-07 $1375 26.83 28 TdotWING
Together We Rise 2018-06 $1237 25 27 SuZQ
Sky's the Limit Fund 2018-05 $1114 34.67 38 obxlisa
Outer Banks SPCA 2018-04 $1103 27.34 29 bjstager
National Public Radio 2018-03 $1073 30 31 Maurice
Innocence Project 2018-02 $1072 26 27 cperg814
mikeroweWORKS Foundation 2018-01 $1478 31 33 emily0153
International Justice Mission 2017-12 $1520 27 28 Alistair and Rebecca
ALS Guardian Angels 2017-11 $1540 30 30 Maggie
UNIDOS Disaster Relief Fund @ HF 2017-10 $1465 35.5 37 TdotWING
Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund at GHCF 2017-09 $2571 48.39 51 brun064
Special Olympics 2017-08 $1281 30.34 32 obxsunny
American Civil Liberties Union 2017-07 $1241 24.75 27 TdotWING
Planned Parenthood 2017-06 $1225 28.24 30 Bethany
It Gets Better Project 2017-05 $1222 30.4 32 Stephanie
Comfort Cases 2017-04 $1242 29.5 31 OBXHubands
Children's Hospital Medical Center 2017-03 $1218 29.34 33 Maurice
Southern Poverty Law Center 2017-02 $1171 38.83 41 damianf
Feline Hope Animal Shelter 2017-01 $752 34.75 36 obxlisa
Girls on the Run 2016-12 $731 28 29 Elinora
Kids in Need Foundation 2016-11 $524 23 26 SeattleStrong
Fisher House Foundation 2016-10 $539 28.5 32 Sue Wilkerson
The NEA Foundation 2016-09 $500 26.29 31 sherylwthorp
Total Distributed $30,338

Happy Halloween! And don't forget to get those votes in before midnight!!

Occupy Sydney, Day 5, "THE NEW GLOBAL CURRENCY IS LOVE" by Newtown grafitti

Money Kills by WhiteEyedFrog (at the top of post) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Occupy Sydney, Day 5, "THE NEW GLOBAL CURRENCY IS LOVE" by Newtown grafitti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

Thirteen is the Luckiest Number


Twelve is the new Thirteen

I have ended the tyranny. Since Charitocracy day one, September 1, 2016, there has been an automatic 8.3% "tax" or "tip" to cover Charitocracy's overhead. A 13th month of contribution, essentially. We've used those funds to cover credit card fees, nationwide solicitation registration, web site hosting, software licenses, insurance, advertising, postage, inkjet ink, etc. But those days of mandatory tipping are over! $12 is the new minimum donation, with 100% going to winning charities.

Why now, Benj? Why ever?

I've been trying to put myself into the shoes of strangers. [Not literally, because if you're familiar with my feet, you know they probably wouldn't fit.] These strangers hear about Charitocracy from a friend, or see an ad on Facebook, or see me rocking a Charitocracy sweat jacket, running shirt, or coffee mug. They visit our web site, and then NOTHING happens.

One of my theories is this: they see a $13 donation where $12 goes to 12 charities. They think: scam alert! Charitocracy is skimming a buck off each $13 donor, and probably using it to charter flights to the Caribbean.

Not a bad theory. 59 cents of that $1 goes straight to credit card fees, but the remaining 41 cents would add up fast. Almost fast enough to cover our other expenses it turns out. But luckily we have donors whose employers match, or even double-match, their donations. So we've found ourselves plenty of breathing room for paying the bills while sending 100% of web site donations (and Facebook donations) into the monthly award pots for the winning charities. Still no Caribbean vacations, so clearly we have some kinks yet to sort out.

We appreciate each and every mandatoryincluded tip we've received from our early adopters during our 1st two years. You've paid for our setup costs to get up and running, and we're ever grateful. But from now on, these tips are entirely optional! You can go to My Account > Donation Change to switch to a non-tipping annual donation at any time. And new signups will not have this tip selected by default. It's an opt-in for all new donations. Maybe everyone will still choose to donate a "baker's dozen" 13 months worth every year, but this could be one less red flag for new donors who don't know us personally like many of you do.

In Other News

  • We had a larger than usual monthly pot of $1753 for September winner Youth Pride Inc! That's thanks to $2 matches per new social media Like/Follow, as well as matches for each new/upgraded donation. Well done!
  • We're continuing this promotion, so keep on inviting friends to join us or at least like our various social media accounts! Potential $8 in the October pot for follows: $2 each for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. And then if one joins at the $12/year level, that's an additional $24 we'll match!
  • Despite the busy month, huge gain in likes (over 800 now on Facebook), and big pot, we had fewer voters in September than usual. Combine that with a swing of only 2.5 votes between 3rd place and 1st, your vote would certainly have an impact in selecting the winner. Get out the vote!
  • Just a few more hours to sweeten the pot for Youth Pride Inc. or to nominate a new cause for October. Looking forward to another great month!

I mean, really it's your choice.  But $13?  Still the best donation.

Hello Terrible Twos and Huge Matching Funds

Every Like and new donation gets matching funds!

Okay, so you've heard we just turned two, right? Key word: "We." This is us. Together we made it this far. Two years, 24 monthly winners later, we've distributed nearly $30,000! WE.

Growth report: 😭

I don't want to sugarcoat the growth situation. We gained some and lost some over the past 12 months, and ended up right where we were last September. Our generous donors opened their pockets wider, in some cases dramatically and overwhelmingly wider. But the donor count is just above 200 like it was on our first anniversary. I have yet to crack the code on how to turn advertising $ into new donors. Not for lack of trying!

We received significant major donations this year, along with employer matches, which the donors earmarked for attracting new donors. Experimental advertising has come out of these funds, and we'll continue learning the art and improving those efforts. But we saw some success last year incentivizing new signups and social media follows by releasing matching funds into the pot. So we'll try that again this year, using this same new donor attraction earmarked money. Without further ado...

Announcing return of $1 Likes

We just crossed the 600 Like mark yesterday. 615 at the time we went to press with this blog post. Each and every cumulative new like will get a dollar of matching funds tossed in the current monthly pot. So if you invite 100 friends to Like Charitocracy's Facebook page (instructions in this blog post), and 30 of them actually listen to you for once and do it, that's $30 extra for September's winner! Nice and simple. Additional Twitter or Instagram followers get the same treatment. We're at 60 and 116 followers on those platforms, respectively. This can add up really quickly, and we have plenty of matching funds to back it up. The goal is to get more folks tuned into Charitocracy so that we can over time convince some of them to pony up $13 and join us for real!

Also return of $1:$1 matching funds for donation increases

If any one you were on the fence about increasing your annual donation (or to switch to one of our new monthly plans), let me help pull you down and drag you to your wallet. If you decide, for example, to bump up to $5 per month, we'll throw an extra $5 per month, for a whole year, into the pot. Nudge, nudge. That fence is a lonely place. Added bonus, this doubling will be counted in your Giving Tree as a matching donation, as if it came from your employer. (If your employer also matches it, that of course gets counted, too.) You may not be too familiar with your Giving Tree, but read on to the Leaderboard section...

New this year: $2:$1 matches for new donors!

Every new donor's initial donation, whether $13 or $390, will get tripled out of the matching funds. I have a feeling incentivizing new donors in this way will cost less than acquiring them through advertising. And this money will go to winning charities instead of social media companies, another big win in my book! So be aware of this incentive when talking to friends about Charitocracy or inviting them over email.

Leaderboard coming...

All of my work trying to crack the social media advertising nut has deprived me of my true love: coding up new features and ways to streamline and push the envelope with Charitocracy. But one of these months I'll crank out the leaderboard where we can recognize extraordinary efforts by donors to grow Charitocracy. Not just in terms of their own donations, since many of us prefer to keep those private. But by recognizing donors' Giving Tree growth, which includes new donors they invite (or gift) into Charitocracy, we could bring a healthy competitive aspect to Charitocracy.

I'm thinking categories like these:

  • Biggest Giving Tree
  • Fastest Growing Giving Tree
  • Most New Donor Recruits
  • Most Generous Individual Donor (opt-in)

Your ideas are always welcomed, and may I say even critical to our success! So please reply to this blog post, to our social media accounts, or directly on our site.

And your Like gets a dollar...  And your Like gets a dollar...

Stop the presses!

Wait, no, don't stop! Keep that press cranking!

The first Charitocracy article ever, printed in actual ink no less, appears in the new issue of North Beach Sun. This is a quarterly magazine for locals and tourists in the Outer Banks of North Carolina where we live. We made it into the summer edition, their most widely read of the year for a beach magazine, I have to imagine?

On any given Friday on the Outer Banks, you can stroll into Waveriders Coffee, Deli & Pub in Nags Head to find local Benj Lipchak tucked away near the corner of the cafe, sitting in what he refers to as "the comfy chair" -- a cushiony throne complete with beige upholstery and two oversized arm rests that can double as small desks. Amidst coffee enthusiasts and nine-to-fivers on their lunch breaks, the young entrepreneur works tirelessly on his graduate school project turned passion: Charitocracy.

We were honored to have an editor of the local First Flight High School's Nighthawk News tell our story for North Beach Sun. Arabella Saunders expertly captures who we are and what we're all about. And Kati Wilkins's photo puts us right in our natural habitat. Waveriders is where Charitocracy makes its giant leaps of forward progress each Friday.

Thanks to Amelia Boldaji, editor of North Beach Sun, for running into me months ago at Waveriders, being curious enough to ask about Charitocracy, and make this story happen. She also encourages me to drink beer after a certain hour. You can probably imagine my violent protests.

@ Waveriders, Benj far left: the young entrepreneur

Show me yours, I’ll show you mine

Don't be all private like this guy. Show your face @ Charitocracy!

Was that a clickbait enough headline for a blog post about privacy at Charitocracy?

I want to highlight three things in this blog post:

  1. Your privacy settings: what they mean, and how to adjust them.
  2. The activity log: where it is and what it looks like.
  3. Call to action: loosen your privacy settings and make friends to bring the activity log to life!

Your privacy settings

Especially in today's climate of social media data privacy concerns, I want to be clear that Charitocracy respects your privacy. We don't sell it or give it away. We don't use your data in any weird or unexpected way. And finally, we don't ask for more than we need to make the web site kick ass.

If you go to My Account > Settings > Privacy, you'll see this:

Share these portions of my data with...

There are 5 categories of data:

  • Donation amounts: dollars contributed
  • Voting history: causes that have received your votes
  • Rough location: zip code as used by donor map (if supplied)
  • Friends & Giving Tree: friends list, and who invited whom to join
  • Activity log: history of donating, voting, friending, etc., with details filtered out according to your other settings above

And there are 3 privacy settings for each category:

  • Public: anyone and everyone can see it
  • Friends: only your friends on Charitocracy can see it (default)
  • No one: not even your friends can see it

By default, all categories of data are visible only to friends. And by default, you have no friends on Charitocracy. So you start with a clean slate of no data visible to others. (But what fun is that?! I have more to say on this topic in the next sections.)

Note on Friends & Giving Tree data: privacy settings for both sides of each connection are respected. So if you make your friends list public, it doesn't mean all your friends will be revealed. Only if their privacy settings are sufficiently open will others be able to see them on your friends list. So no need to worry about outing someone who may want to remain private. They're still in full control of their own data.

The activity log

On the dashboard you can see everything happening on Charitocracy. Every vote, every donation made, every profile picture updated, etc. But which details you see depends on the privacy settings of the donor who took the action (and any other donors involved in the action for things like friend or invitation acceptances).

Activity log

This is what the activity log might look like to a random user right now. Plenty going on all the time, but who's doing it?! Notice a couple early adopters have loosened their privacy settings so we can see their activity and their vote recipients. Wouldn't it be great if more of these activities had names and faces associated with them?

A call to action

After all that talk about how private your data is, now we'd like you to loosen the drawstrings and let the cat out of the bag. If you love something, set it free! Change some/all of your privacy settings to Public!

Here are reasons to make your data public:

  • Donation amounts: When others see your dollar amounts, big or small, they're more likely to give more (or more often) themselves! For once, try to be less modest.
  • Voting history: How better to hype your favorite cause than to show everyone your support for it?! And remember, this isn't a government election. There are no bad choices on the ballot to be ashamed of! Just a variety of 501(c)(3) nonprofits competing for your vote.
  • Rough location: This is just a fun way to see how far-flung (or not) other donors are. We're only talking about zip codes, or even states or countries. Street addresses aren't accepted even if you want everyone to know!
  • Friends & Giving Tree: This helps discover more friends on Charitocracy and encourages bringing more friends into Charitocracy, and in turn growing the monthly pot for our winners!
  • Activity log: This is the way to get your name and face on the activity log when you do stuff, even if you've redacted some/all of the details above. The less anonymous, the more fun and vibrant for everyone!

If some bits make you panicky and others don't, only make public what you're comfortable with. And if you don't want to share everything/anything even with friends, you can change settings to share with no one, and then feel more comfortable making friends on Charitocracy with hasty abandon. That's another way to improve the activity log: make more friends so you can at least see their stuff (still subject to "no one" privacy settings) and vice versa.

Here's looking forward to activity logs full of friendly faces and full-fledged facts and figures!

If you love something, set it free.

Platinum Stars for our Foreheads

GuideStar Platinum Seal of Transparency

Going Platinum

Facebook informed me today about an anniversary. Exactly one year ago I posted about earning GuideStar's gold seal of transparency. Well guess what? Today I'm here to announce that for 2018 Charitocracy has earned their platinum seal. That's GuideStar's highest level of transparency.

Indulge me for a moment while I pretend it's been a major endeavor. Wait for it... okay... The jig is up. Achieving this status is pretty much just a matter of sharing data that already exists. No sweat. We share details about our organizational structure, finances, mission and programs. GuideStar makes it super easy, so with a few hours effort, any 501(c)(3) could progressively qualify for silver, then gold, then platinum levels.

Check out our profile on GuideStar to see what's on there. This is a great site to check out before nominating at Charitocracy or casting your vote!

PCI Compliance

Another one to note in passing: we've dotted the i's and crossed the t's for credit card data handling.

We've always used Stripe for all our donations. They offer the best nonprofit discount we've found in the industry. Fees are 2.2% + 0.30 per transaction, with no fees on the first $15,000. That saved us hundreds of dollars last year. I'm grateful for that. But they've also offered the easiest and most attractive credit card entry UI in my opinion. (Maybe I need to rethink my life choices that have led me to blogging about the sexiness of credit card UIs.)

Stripe is also a breeze to setup and maintain on the backend. And one of their features is easy filing of PCI compliance documentation. This should be easy, since Charitocracy never touches your credit card data. It's stored only in Stripe's data vault, which I picture to exist deep in a mountain cavern guarded by Velociraptors. When you enter your credit card number on what appears to be Charitocracy's web site, really it's going into a separate browser "iframe" talking directly to Stripe's servers. Charitocracy simply gets a transaction reference token we can use to confirm that the donation went through okay.

All of that is to say: Stripe makes it easy for us to file our PCI SAQ A, attesting that they've taken on all the risk and corresponding security requirements themselves. We simply need to ensure Charitocracy uses encrypted protocols. And we do, via our free TLS certificates from Let's Encrypt.

We're doing everything we can think of to put you at ease, safely making your donations at Charitocracy! Let us know if there's anything else you can think of that will give you peace of mind or answer burning questions you have about Charitocracy.

Benj is back at it upgrading security protocols @ Charitocracy

Over $20,000 served!

$20,000 served

The check we wrote to mikeroweWORKS Foundation this month put us over the $20,000 milestone! That's 17 checks so far, averaging almost $1200 each. And tomorrow, when we award the February pot, that total will go even higher.

You, our donors, got us here. Dollar by dollar, month by month, vote by vote: you make the world a little better. $20,000 is just the beginning!

Imagine $20,000 per month

Imagine the day when we can award $20,000 every month! We can get there. Charitocracy has the capacity to serve many more donors, making philanthropy more fun and an everyday part of more people's lives. That's our mission. Not to shake more money out of you, but to reach more people and engage them to give charitable dollars regularly.

It's not a big ask. Considering one movie ticket often costs $13, a year of Charitocracy is a bargain! And donors are more than welcome to do both. (But at least Charitocracy.)

It is not just the extra dollar in the pot that comes with each new donor. It's a new voice and unique perspective on which charities are best. It's another source of ideas for new nominations and a cheerleader to rally the votes. And another social network to spread news of the good things we're doing here at Charitocracy.

How you can help

Very simple. Think of the one person you know who most belongs on Charitocracy but isn't. A best friend? A sibling? Someone who loves philanthropy, and might enjoy a fun new outlet? Someone who's new to adulting and might get hooked early on warm fuzzies from giving? Maybe you owe someone a gift anyway? Then, simply make it your project: convince your prospect to join!

Tell them about Charitocracy in person. Show them a video or the brief slide presentation. Email them an invitation, and follow up afterwards. Seal the deal. Always be closing.

You are our sales force. Tell us what other tools you need to do your job effectively!

Thanks for this milestone, and let's work hard together to expedite the next one!

Charitocracy is for closers. *Coffee not included.

The Perfect Last Minute Gift

Felicity was a good sport, helping me throw a last minute video together for our last minute gifts! Plan A was to do a Home Alone themed video with Harry, but when that diva bailed on me, Felicity was quick to volunteer in his place. But she wouldn't accept the fact that it could no longer be a Home Alone video. (Only Harry can rock a bathrobe like that.) "Nevertheless, she persisted..." Hence her choice of sweater and hair, which now she regrets. So be it. Can't argue with volunteer talent!

If you need any last minute gifts (in convenient multiple-of-$13 denominations), cute stocking stuffers, or just want to spread Charitocracy to the masses, be our guest! Email with gift codes and PDF foldable gift boxes are sent instantly. Then you choose whether to forward the email to that special someone, or better yet hand deliver it with a kiss! I am Charitocracy. You are Charitocracy. We are all Charitocracy. And the more of us the merrier!

Over the last few days we've been experimenting some more with Facebook ads. I have to be honest, it's not going well. We still have plenty of matching funds on hand, earmarked for growing our donor base. Incentivizing likes, donation increases, and sign-ups by throwing extra $ in the pot is win-win. We get more activity, and the money goes to the causes. Not so much with the ads: they're generating pitifully little activity and all the money goes to Facebook. We'll keep trying, but I'm more and more convinced that the organic approach (meaning: you and your friends and family) is going to be the most cost-effective. And that doesn't necessarily mean slower growth, either, based on our poor ad results to date.

I have more organic growth ideas. Don't take my growth rate disappointment to be any kind of resignation. It's a challenge, and I rise to those! I just need to crack the code of incentivizing the spread of Charitocracy like wildfire. Sorry, probably a bad choice of analogy these days. Better than spreading Charitocracy like a disease, right? There must be some positive way to spread something... Okay: I need to incentivize the spread of Charitocracy like peanut butter. Or frosting. Like peanut butter frosting. Done. But not if you're allergic to peanuts, in which case I recommend almond butter.

Go forth last minute and spread Charitocracy