Fundraising Without the Checks

Business maven “upcycles” unused electronic items, spreads her model to bar and bat mitzvah students.

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It is noted that on average Americans have 34 gadgets not in active use per household. Julie Shane's venture—Causes International—“upcycles” unused gadgets as an avenue for fundraising. Credit: Curtis Palmer.

Julie Shane is a serial entrepreneur, even referring to her family as her “most cherished entrepreneurial experience.”

A true business maven over the past 20 years, Shane’s latest venture, Causes International, promises not only a significant model for fundraising, but for protecting the environment as well.

With her first venture—an asset management company in the real estate market—coming at age 26, Shane would continue to found two more successful organizations before leaving the business world to raise her three children.

After a 15-year hiatus (during which she founded her fourth company) Shane returned to the business world in 2010 with her fifth venture, Causes International.

“I wanted to make a difference. I researched for two years before founding the company.  We are a green cause marketing company that focuses on sustainable creative giving,” Shane explains.

Causes International partners with a variety of clients to help them expand into being environmentally responsible while simultaneously fundraising for their favorite cause. It’s called “upcycling”: participants are encouraged to collect their unused consumer electronics (old iPods, laptops, Gameboys, etc.). Then, depending on the state of the item, Shane’s company will either dispose of it responsibly, sell it, or refurbish it and then sell it. Ideally of course, most of the items should be sellable.

“What people do not understand is that something obsolete to them may have great value to someone else. Our goal is to raise revenue while protecting the planet,” Shane says.

And raise revenue they do; when marketed properly campaigns have the potential to create tens of thousand of dollars for a cause.

Organizations are particularly inclined to work with Causes due to the minimal effort required on their part. “We take care of it all—all they do is drop the items in the bucket,” Shane says, “So, we give them a new avenue to support the causes they desire—and no one has to write a check!”

Shane insists that from Causes’ side, each campaign is about far more than dropping used iPods into a box. “We take into consideration each clients mission, heart and purpose and put together campaigns that honor all the elements,” she says.

Shane recently opened a “It’s a Mitzvah” division for bar/bat mitzvah students. She fully provides them with the tools necessary to run upcycling campaigns within their communities to raise funds for their favorite charities. The student needs only to spread the word, and collect the items.

“We turn [those items] into revenue, and they donate it to whatever cause they like.” Shane says, “We’re launching it nationwide, it really has a life of its own.”

While barely a year old, Causes International already has representatives throughout the country, and can boast an impressive client base, including various learning institutions, members of the health industry, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Institute for Energy and Sustainability, the Healthworks Foundation and Hadassah among others. Shane’s goal is to break 70 campaigns by the end of this quarter, and reach a thousand campaigns, with a million electronics collected, by 2012.

Business maven Julie Shane. Credit: Courtesy Julie Shane.

According to Shane, who lives in the Boston area, the values she holds as a Jewish woman have framed the way she has done business over the past 20 years. Each venture was founded to help those around her.

Shane was inspired to found Causes, in part, from the realization that 400 million items a year were being disposed of, 82 percent in Asia, India, Africa due to their lax environmental regulations.

“Tikkun Olam has been a way of life for me,” she says, “I found a way…to honor the nurturing side in me with the entrepreneurship.”

Masha Rifkin is the Managing Editor of JNS.

Posted on September 13, 2011 and filed under Bar Mitzvah, Business.