This New Giving Platform Makes Having Impact Easier for You
Andi Thieman's PennyLoafer Allows Donors to Pick a Cause and Delegate the Work Behind Effective Giving
Devin: What do you see as your superpower?
Andi: I think my superpower is a bias towards action. And what I mean by that is I'm willing to take a leap before I feel completely ready. I'm okay with being uncomfortable and getting outside of my comfort zone. And maybe I would state that I'm more afraid of never trying than failing at something. So I'm willing to take kind of that first step.
Have you ever given up donating to a cause because it became too difficult to choose the right nonprofit? Andi Thieman did. So she decided to create PennyLoafer, a platform to allow interested donors to select a cause and let Andi and her team do the rest.
“The idea actually came in in the summer of 2020, in the midst of a pandemic and a reinvigorated racial justice movement,” Andi says. “It felt like a lot of people were scrambling to help, but they weren't really sure where or how.”
The idea grew out of her self-awareness and recognition that her experience may mimic others’ experiences.
When I looked at my giving as a whole, it just felt very disjointed. There are these big things like climate change and the mental health crisis and racial justice that I really care about. But when I reflected on what I am actually doing on an ongoing basis and strategically to help organizations that are addressing these things, I didn't have a great answer for that.
I wanted to build something that would help me but also people like me who want to be doing more and know they should be doing more, but maybe just don't really know where to start or don't have time to do that research.
So, Andi created PennyLoafer, where you can sign up to donate as little as $5 per month to one of four causes. Andi pools all the donations for the chosen cause and donates the money to one or more nonprofits doing great work in that space.
The four causes featured on PennyLoafer today are:
Each month, donors receive a newsletter describing the work of the nonprofits receiving the donations.
“We're already thinking about causes to add,” Andi says. Still, she never wants donors to feel overwhelmed by that decision, so the list will not likely include every possible cause. She focuses on making giving simple and effective.
Early signs are good; the model is working. “We launched in September, and it's been growing each month, which is awesome to see,” she says. “In our first six months, we've given over $10,000 to nonprofits and we've supported 28 nonprofits at this point.”
The task that Andi tackles is daunting. There are about 1.5 million nonprofits in the United States alone.
Today, she’s using four criteria to guide her when choosing nonprofits:
Impact trajectory: What has the nonprofit done? What does it plan to do in the future?
Homegrown: How representative of the community they serve are the people running the nonprofit?
Capacity: Does the leadership team have the ability to effectively utilize additional funding?
Transparency: Looking at the IRS filings (990s), year-end reports, and communication strategies, she looks for clear, effective accountability.
Andi focuses on finding impactful, less well-known nonprofits. “I'm trying to highlight smaller, more grassroots nonprofits, things that people wouldn't necessarily find with a couple of quick Google searches or that they haven't heard of right off the bat.”
Andi sees additional social benefits coming from supporting grassroots organizations. “What you often see, especially with some of the smaller community-based organizations that are more grassroots, is that it's the people who are most impacted by environmental injustices or racial injustices, things like that, that are trained up to eventually work at and lead some of these organizations.”
She anticipates growth will enable new processes. “I do plan as we grow to shift to a guest expert model and using expert broadly to be it could be foundation staff at national foundations, it could be changemakers, policy experts, even community organizers, just people who are really close to these issues, who are on the ground, who understand them.”
PennyLoafer is a manifestation of Andi’s superpower: a bias toward action.
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How to Develop a Bias Toward Action As a Superpower:
“PennyLoafer is a testament to my ability to take a leap and to channel my energy into building something from an idea to an actual breathing, functioning thing and putting it out there to the world,” Andi says.
Success and impact are driven more by action than planning. Developing a bias toward action can help you do more good in the world.
Part of the process for gaining this strength is to be more self-aware. You’ll want to recognize when you allow your nerves or other excuses to slow you down.
A key aspect of building your bias toward action is shifting your thinking about failure to a growth mindset, Andi says. Look at failure “as an opportunity to grow and learn.”
Don’t beat yourself up over failures. Value them as learning opportunities.
A former improv performer, Andi adds, “I'd also try improv. It's a scary thing to try.” The “yes, and” thinking required in improv focuses on accepting things as they are and pushes you to move forward with creativity in mind and a smile in your heart.
By following Andi’s example and insights, you can develop a bias toward action as a superpower that will help you do more good.