Robert Grosshandler: The Founder Of iGive.com Teaches Us To
“Do Good, Make Money & Have Fun”
Robert Grosshandler, founder of iGive.com, is one of the funniest, most gracious, and intelligent gentlemen I’ve ever met. I kid you not!
A natural born entrepreneur, leader, and philanthropist, whose commitment to improving the world began innately but grew out of circumstance, Robert is an amazing example of how “making money, doing good, and having fun” needn’t be “mutually exclusive” -- despite what some might have you believe.
Brilliant as he is, Robert came up with a superb idea in which to help thousands of social causes raise the money they need, even through the toughest of financial times. Called iGive.com, Robert’s concept is “simple.” That said, as many of us have learned down through the years, “In simplicity harbors genius.”
Sounds about right when it comes to Robert. There is a method to his madness, for certain, and it’s a “method” millions of others are benefiting from, enormously.
Such is the case, as you learn about the man behind one of the largest ePhilanthropy success stories around, you might just consider joining him in his innovative quest to make the world a better place for all. Doing so takes less than a minute to ensure and, as you are going to buy that widget anyway, why not make it count for more than just you.
In the words of Robert Grosshandler:
Please share your name and provide a bit of your personal background and current-day life.
Robert Grosshandler. I’m the founder of iGive.com. I spend my work day and night guiding this company to newer and bigger things. I was born less than a mile from where I live now, but I grew up in a northern suburb of Chicago. My father was a lawyer-entrepreneur and my mom, a top shelf legal secretary. I have three younger brothers, two of whom still live in the Chicago area.
I’m married to a nun. Ok, I need to elaborate on that. My wife has played “Sister” in Late Nite Catechism (a one woman show) for about 15 years. She wears a full habit, custom made by a little old Italian lady who specializes in habits. She’s performed at Langley for the CIA. She still talks to me, but I have to sign a nondisclosure. More importantly, she talks to our two kids -- a daughter (twenty-three years-old) who just finished her fourth year of a five year Masters in Architecture program, and a son (twenty years-old) who just finished his first year of a four year (we hope) BA in something Liberal Arty that intersects with Finance. Both kids took a year off, Our daughter is interning in Manhattan and our son is trekking in Nepal -- amongst other things.
Have you always been driven to become involved in philanthropic endeavors?
I've always had a personal philosophy of “do good, make money, have fun”. That hasn’t always meant philanthropy, but it has always meant understanding that I’m a part of something larger where I can give back.
You founded iGive.com in 1997 after a successful history in technology, software, and real estate. What made you want to found iGive.com over alternate possible ventures?
My spouse was helping out at “yet another fundraiser” for “yet another charity”. I said, there’s got to be a better way. At the same time, I had sold a business, and she didn’t really like me underfoot. So the pressure was on. I like working at the intersection of technology, distribution, and marketing. The internet has been all of those things.
What is iGive.com exactly?
It's a great way to help a cause that’s important to you as well as raise money at no cost to you and no cost to the cause. You shop at your favorite stores. And because you shopped via iGive, those stores make possible a donation to YOUR favorite cause. They do it because they want to reward you for being a customer, and they want to keep you coming back. Lastly, they hope you’ll spread the word about how “good” the store is.
How many employees do you currently have?
There are four full time employees and then teams of contractors working on specific angles and efforts.
How many charitable organizations participate at present?
How many retail partnerships participate with iGive.com?
About 1600 -- from Macy’s to Nordstroms, Amazon to Walmart, REI to Victoria’s Secrets.
How does it work?
Really easily. All a person needs to do is to sign up for iGive (telling us which cause she wishes to support) and then use iGive to at the beginning of her shopping trip. She can do it by using the links on our site, by having the iGive Button (a browser extension / app installed) or by using our Android or Apple apps. She could just type in iGive.com/Amazon into her browser if she wants.
And if her cause isn’t already listed, she can take an extra five or so minutes, list it, and then get her friends to help support it alongside her.
With so many charitable organizations out there, name some of your little known favorites.
They are all my favorites, and the bulk of them are little. There are causes that save ferrets, causes that are fighting terrible diseases, causes that are working to send a missionary on a trip to Africa.
How many companies would you say are involved in the ePhilanthropy movement? What makes iGive.com unique?
ePhilanthropy is a really big, all encompassing term. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of companies that are working to use the tools and technologies that the internet provides to help worthy causes.
iGive has been doing this for 18 years. That alone makes us unique. I think we’ve been able to weather lots of storms because we’ve been very open about what we do, and how we do it. For instance, not only do we list the checks and check numbers of the checks we’ve sent to your cause, we tell our members whether their cause actually cashed the check.
You have demonstrated through the success of iGive.com, how "ingenuity" can overcome incredible obstacles to enact change. What advice do you give others interested in expressing their own ingenuity in similar ways?
One of the challenges of doing something "new" is that there are going to be lots of naysayers. Listen to them, glean what you can, and then ignore them. Another facet of doing something new is that you’re going to have failures. Try to figure out how to fail quickly and cheaply, so that you can take that learning and improve upon it.
Why is "giving back" so important in your opinion?
I think it’s a very personal thing. Not only whether you should give back, but how you should give back. It gives me pleasure to do something for others. It’s something we’ve tried to teach our kids. There’s a self-interested side to it, as well. You never know when somebody will give something to you that makes your life better. Living in a world where that happens a lot is just an easier world to live in.
Do you find that people who have "less" actually give "more" or vice versa?
Not really. They may give in different ways. And they may measure it differently, but I think that most people care about the world around them and work to make it a better place. And they do that regardless of economic status.
How do you think the challenging U.S. economy has impacted charitable giving over the last ten years?
I don’t think I’m an expert on this, just what I’ve observed -- people tend to help as much as they feel able. During hard times, they feel less able. At iGive, we've experienced people shopping less, so the result of that was that iGive’s growth slowed.
I think that "where you are in life" counts for even more than the economy. My kids “care”, but half the reason they care is because their friends care, and they get to “care” as a group activity. As I see generations age, they seem to care for more altruistic reasons.
What would be your response to people who state the following, "I barely have enough for me. Why should I give to others? No one is giving to me!"
I’d probably find somebody much more interesting to talk with. I have found no linkage in life between economic success and willingness to share.
When all is said and done, how do you want others to remember you?
There is no doubt in my mind that Robert Grosshandler will be "fondly" remembered, today and for years to come. His deck was stacked with an extra helping of brains and kindness when he arrived to this earth and every one of us is all the better for it.
Robert has helped thousands through his efforts and, I'd suggest (especially as we move into the "gift giving" season), we help him help thousands more by signing up for iGive.com. It's a nifty way of helping your bretheren as you check off all of the required names on your holiday list. I am sure "grandma" will be even happier you bought her that sweater knowing full-well, that part of the cost of it was donated to saving the kittens at the local shelter or eliminating global hunger.
Boosts the meaningfulness of the gesture up just as it boosts the spirit of humanity higher
altogether...now, don't you think?
Thank you to Robert Grosshandler and iGive.com For Making This Interview Possible