Call it crowdfunding with a conscience.
At this point, we all know the concept. The public pools its money to support a business or artist, and receives some sort of benefit or perk. However, a new Greenpoint company, The Mutual, which began operations earlier this year, is turning that model on its head by providing the same types of benefits to the public, but in exchange for charitable donations.
A $10 monthly contribution earns membership in The Mutual, along with a month of benefits, from their approximately 150 corporate partners including Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn Kitchen, Miranda Restaurant, Spritzenhaus and Play. Perks include free drinks, 10% discounts on Spin classes, 2 for 1 cupcakes, and a $25 lunch for two. Experiential perks, like priority restaurant seating is available as well. “I like to think of it as a gym membership for good,” said CEO and co-founder Dan Vallejo.
Currently, The Mutual’s several hundred members support five charities: Carbonfund.org , Oceana, The Trust for Public Land, World Resources Institute and the Center for Ecoliteracy. With their business catching on, they are hoping to develop relationships with local charities, like the Greenpoint Reformed Church’s soup kitchen and Camp Brooklyn. Compensation for The Mutual is 20% of contributions, which they say is standard for a non-profit. The other 80% gets passed on to their charities.
The Mutual, which operates out of Nassau Avenue’s The Yard, is comprised of Vallejo, a former Ogilvy & Mather employee who helped create Ogilvy’s Earth, a specialty group that focuses on environmental marketing, CTO and co-founder Matt Pestritto, (who met Vallejo at a tech meet-up in NYC last year) and Vallejo’s high school friend, COO and former financial services professional Matt Crawford. For a crowdfunding-style business, it seems like the perfect marriage: marketing guy meets financial services guy, meets tech guy.
The three share a passion for environmental issues and applied it to choosing their initial charities. “[Since environmental issues are so expansive], we brought together the five areas we thought would collectively have the greatest impact,” said Vallejo. As their membership has grown, The Mutual has begun asking members and corporate partners which charities matter most to them. They then “do the due diligence to find the best nonprofits in that area and bring them on…We’re bringing on [our corporate partner’s] nonprofits, so they’ll be more likely to promote the Mutual and their nonprofit and grow the community as a whole,” Vallejo said.
So far, their corporate partners, who are mostly based in Greenpoint, Williamsburg and DUMBO are thrilled by the arrangement. Josh Gunsberger, Center Director at PLAY Greenpoint called it “a win win! It’s a no brainer way to contribute to helping the world we all live in, create a sustainable future for our children and assist local small businesses to connect with their community.” Maria Baugh, Co-Owner of Butter Lane Cupcakes called it “such a great concept that makes charitable giving super easy. And it’s cost-free for us.”
Encouraging more people to give charity is high on the list of goals for The Mutual. “I would love for this to democratize people’s abilities to do good,” said Vallejo, noting that 80% of the $10 contribution is tax deductible and “if you use more than three perks per month, you’re going to save more than that $10.” Pestritto added “We’re helping people convert intent into action by enabling them to spend the same dollars they would have on products and deals, but have the bulk of it go to charity.”
Looking ahead, Vallejo hopes to see membership skyrocket. “If we were to get 5,000 local residents as members that would be a massive boon to the local economy and $50,000 to charity monthly,” he said. Long term, The Mutual hopes to replicate their model throughout NYC and beyond.
Vallejo plans to expand on the perks as well. “My dream would be Starbucks,” he said. “I don’t want a free upgrade on coffee, I want express checkout from 7-9AM on weekdays.”
To become a member or for more information, visit www.themutual.com.
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