Woman Founder Stories: Monica Weintraub
You don’t have to be a billionaire to give back like one.
Interview by Julia Kramer
Monica Weintraub is en route to starting a life in Los Angeles after living in China for the last seven years. She’s the founder of charity subscription service, Down to Donate, where she hopes to increase nonprofits’ low recurring donor base with a set-it-and-forget-it style of donating. In her free time, she hosts Good Work, a social impact podcast.
What is Down to Donate and what inspired you to start it?
Down to Donate is a charity subscription service that offers users a variety of curated non-profit organizations to donate to on a monthly basis.
What do you hope to achieve at Down to Donate?
We want to make giving back an ongoing event – not just an urgent one time response to something. A lot of times when something happens in the news – for example, the recent abortion ban in the South – people react by giving back. Local grassroots nonprofits receive an influx of one time donations – which is great – but then people forget. We want to change that.
A nonprofit support base is made up of less than 10% of recurring donations. Our goal is to have at least 20,000 users donating on a monthly basis to vetted non-profits in our network. This adds up to nonprofits consistently receiving an upwards of $10,000 monthly.
How does Down to Donate work?
Our users pay $8 a month, and close to 100% of their donation goes to the non-profits of their choice.
With so many nonprofits out there without a clear understanding of where your money goes, it can be confusing. We introduce users to a curated selection of 50 unique nonprofits.
I wanted to find grassroots organizations that have really unique missions.
For example, we partner with Give Back Yoga Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit committed to helping others kickstart yoga programs to under-sourced communities and fund clinical testing that shows how yoga benefits those suffering from PTSD and mental health.
How does Down to Donate differ from other donation programs?
We focus on community, diversity, and convenience.
Community – We want donating to be a normal part of your life.
You don’t have to be a billionaire to give back like one. We want to redefine the word philanthropist that is often reserved for ultra wealthy families.
You can start at a very local level with a small contribution and make a huge difference over time.
Diversity – A single donation can be split between up to three nonprofits on our platform. Each nonprofit is typically working on two to three causes, so one donation can have a diverse impact.
Convenience – We want to be a stepping stone into the world of philanthropy. If you choose to donate directly to a nonprofit, we highly encourage that, but we make it easier.
We’re like the Birchbox of donating.
How did your previous experiences help get you to where you are today?
I apprenticed with a local nonprofit through Public Allies (a branch of AmeriCorps), called Asian Pacific Community and Action. I learned about building community and giving back, but I wasn’t sure how to implement these skills quite yet.
After moving to China to teach English, I built my first start up and slowly moved away from nonprofit. When the 2016 elections rolled around, I noticed an influx of political posts and opinions. I realized people were complaining but not necessarily donating to the nonprofits that could influence policy change.
I challenged others to stop posting and start donating. My friends would reach out with questions and tell me how confusing it was to donate.
I knew we had to get around these roadblocks to make real change. Living abroad, I realized just how different the US is compared to the rest of the world. Americans are so charitable – we give back $410 billion annually.
So, I decided to create Down to Donate to make giving back easier.
What are some things that keep you focused and motivated as an entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur is one of the loneliest experiences. I’m involved in several communities to help with this. The stories of success and failures from these groups keep me going.
Constructive outside feedback is not always easy to hear, but it’s so important to your success.
I recently requested outside feedback on my website from a 6,000-member marketing group. It was hard to hear some of the critique, but so useful to building the best possible business.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Stay the course, and everything else will follow. It’s never been easy to start a business.
What is your greatest tip for other women considering starting their own business?
Just do it. I think everyone should try to start their own business. The majority of my skills I learned from being an entrepreneur.
The less you have the more creative you get.
When you look back on your legacy, what would you like to be remembered for?
Being vulnerable and just trying is the scariest and hardest thing you can do. If you don’t just try and fail and get up, you will never know.