Is it easy enough for people to donate to charity? Nick Fitz doesn’t think so, and recent trends in philanthropy may support his point of view. A study by the Blackbaud Institute found that each generation of the U.S. adult population — other than baby boomers — gave less to charity in 2018 as compared with 2013.
The 30-year old Jewish entrepreneur is confident his newly released app Momentum will help turn the tide. His 20-month-old business is based in Berkeley.
“We want to make it easy,” Fitz told J., “but still relevant and meaningful to people.”
Released this month, Momentum doesn’t show a selection of charities above a big “donate” button. Instead, it allows users to base their daily routine around giving.
Users can set rules and parameters. For example, with the purchase of every cappuccino, a Momentum user can set up the app to automatically donate money to a clean-water organization. Or every time Steph Curry makes a 3-pointer, it would mean a small cha-ching for the Humane Society.
And one Fitz specifically mentioned: Every time President Trump tweets, you can donate to the American Civil Liberties Union.
According to their website, Momentum has vetted, with the help of several organizations, over 1.8 million charities that are featured through their app.
As of last week, Momentum had helped raise around $30,000 for charities, between its testing and public users, according to Fitz. He wouldn’t say how many people are using the app, only that it’s “in the thousands.”
We want to make it easy, but still relevant and meaningful to people.
Fitz was raised in Washington, D.C., in a Reform household where he learned values “around justice and giving back.” His mother, raised in a working-class Jewish community in Connecticut, gave him insight into “people who didn’t have a lot of resources but had lots of ideas.”
In college, Fitz tried to understand what drives people to make certain decisions, such as giving money. He went to Grinnell College in Iowa as an undergrad, then to the University of British Columbia for a master’s in psychology and sociology.
He went on to become a behavioral scientist at Duke University’s Center for Advanced Hindsight, where he met Ari Kagan, one of Momentum’s other Jewish founders.
The two shared a keen interest in how to help people do “the most good with your time.”
They then teamed up with the third founder, Ivan Dimitrov, who coded a barebones version of what would ultimately become Momentum. In summer 2018, Fitz and Kagan quit Duke to raise money for the company. “We realized, wow, there is something here,” Fitz said.
Backed by venture capitalists and investors, the Momentum app doesn’t take a cut from its user transactions, like Venmo does, Fitz said. Instead, Momentum asks for a tip each time a user gives money to a charity. The company is also looking for grants, Fitz said.
For now, the app is available only on the iPhone.
Looking forward, Fitz said his team is working on turning real-world interactions into charitable giving. He foresees the next version of the app allowing users to donate each time they run a mile, or, in good Jewish fashion, each time they call their mothers.