Giving in the Time of Covid-19:

Patricia O’Connell

Rachel Klausner designed an app, Millie, to help millennials like herself be more thoughtful in their giving. She saw the need when she realized how much money she ended up giving as a result of friends making specific requests on social media.

While happy to give, Klausner felt that her money often wasn’t targeted at causes that resonated strongly with her. Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, the way people think about giving has changed. While the shifts may be temporary, they’re notable. Klausner shared her thoughts with This Is Capitalism.

What changes are you seeing now as a result of Covid-19?

We’re in a weird, uncharted, time. People are definitely looking to have an impact and are looking for ways to help that fit their situation.

How does that show up on Millie?

There are two challenging pieces to what we’re seeing now. One is we’re all stuck at home, so people’s first instinct, which is often to give back by volunteering, seems thwarted because people don’t necessarily realize that there are ways to volunteer from home.

There are nonprofits we work with that have great volunteer opportunities including virtual ones so I encourage people to look into those. But it starts with realizing those opportunities do, in fact, exist.

Is connecting volunteers something you would ever branch into? 

I think it’s well covered. Our focus right now is on corporate giving so we have a bunch of companies that are starting to use it for their employee matching—and many of those programs offer opportunities for employees to volunteer. Based on our last few months, it looks like most of our focus will be on helping companies start giving and impact programs.

Is it coincidence that this is the way it was heading, or has this been in response to Covid?

We’ve been working on that piece of the platform since November. Things are in flux right now about how companies and individuals are giving. There’s not one better spot to be in. But it’s just worked out that this was the direction we were heading in. But with everything going on there are a lot of uncertainties that the companies we are working with are facing.

Do you ever see yourself getting away from being a platform where individuals can give?

I think we’ll always have a platform for people to be able to give on Millie and we built out all the bells and whistles that you would want from an individual giving platform. From a business perspective it makes way more sense for us to focus on company giving because it’s more sustainable for us and we’ve had a lot of success in getting companies to launch their giving programs.

Have you seen changes on Millie in terms of traffic, or the types of organizations that people are expressing interest in or are reaching out to be part of your platform?

I think it’s more around how our current donors are giving differently now. Re-invigorated donors who were a little quiet for the last months now are coming on and giving specifically around food, shelter, and medical relief.

Also, those are the areas we’re promoting actively right now. Each one of those areas has a bunch of high-impact organizations. In medical relief, there’s a lot of focus around creating the vaccine.

We’ve had so many organizations join since we launched and some of them are doing really creative work around giving: creating branding curated content, tracing where the money goes, and packaging it as an entire experience for the donors.

What changes are you seeing on the giving side?

On the one hand, we’re seeing a lot of new donors, which is great, and a lot of new, interesting engagement. There are new kinds of organizations that people are interested in. On the other hand,  there is a cloud that is making people hesitant to give right now.

It seems like the situation is creating greater need, but is limiting the supply.

Yes. So many people feel insecure about their jobs. I think that definitely is going to be reflected in giving. In normal situations when there is a big crisis, everyone loves to give and there is a big effort around it. Now there is definitely a desire to give, but there is a conflict around it that people don’t normally feel in a crisis.