Cauze – ‘Not your grandparents’ philanthropy’

By Sharon Fisher | December 14, 2021

A Boise startup has created an app, Cauze, that makes generosity a social experience.

“What Cauze has done is create a social network for good,” said Jason Hausske, founder and CEO of the company. “It democratizes philanthropy and removes the friction of giving at any moment of inspiration, for any charity and any dollar amount. It should be a social experience. You give with friends, it’s amplified, and you make it a part of your daily life.”

Cauze App

How do you give?

Once on the app, users create a profile to express the interests and nonprofits that are important to them, make a social connection with other people, and “amplify” giving with friends. “You give to an organization, and I am able to add on to that,” Hausske said, likening it to the “ice bucket challenge” in social media several years ago. “It turns a traditional transaction into a social experience that can be added onto.”

Philanthropy also provides a deeper social experience than sharing a photo of your dinner, Hausske said. “We have families that will come in – nieces and nephews and grandparents – and they all join each other,” he said. “It provides moments of discovery for new charities.”

In addition, foundations, influencers, and celebrities may offer to match donations; for example the musical performer Mackelmore started a cause for social justice that he promotes on Instagram, Hausske said. Plus, companies – including a number based in Idaho, such as Leadership Boise, Kount, and Lovevery – can participate, either by matching employee donations or providing funds to employees that they can donate themselves, he added.

At the same time, the app doesn’t reveal amounts. “We don’t judge how much,” Hausske said. “You can’t see how much anyone else gives.”

To whom can you give?

Thus far, the app supports only public 501c3 nonprofit organizations, Hausske said. In addition, the company has used the Southern Poverty Law Center “hate map” to remove those nonprofits from the list, he said.

That still leaves plenty of organizations. “There’s 4,000 nonprofits in Boise,” Hausske said.

At the moment, the site doesn’t link with charity watchdog sites that rank charities on factors such as administrative spending. “We don’t think it’s our job to rate or determine what’s important to an individual giver,” Hausske said. “We do believe there’s a massive opportunity for the community itself to offer ratings.” That said, the company is talking to third-party ratings services, which he didn’t name, about integrating with Cauze, he said.

Beyond that, giving is up to the individual user. “If they know where they’re going to give, they can search and find,” Hausske said. “The core thesis is that the curation will be social. You will discover ways to make an impact in your community based on others you respect.”

How many are giving?

Thus far, the app has about 10,000 users who have donated, collectively, a couple of million dollars, Hausske said. But he expects that to increase as word of the app gets out. There isn’t any limit to the amount people can give, or how many users the app can support. “This is not our grandparents’ philanthropy – it’s a new way to give, and we actually celebrate the microgiver,” he said.

“We are inspired often to give, but the motivation, especially for Gen Z and younger, to fill out a credit card form is pretty high,” Hausske said. “I can order a car ride, and have it pick me up instantly, but for donating I have to fill out forms. We live in a world of latent good, with a gap between intent and action. I don’t want to write a check. I don’t want to give my mailing address and track a receipt.”

That said, the app does provide receipts, though it doesn’t get down to the level of, for example, the Idaho tax credit for organizations considered educational, such as Idaho Public Television and Boise State Public Radio. “That’s a little more difficult,” Hausske said. “We’re all over the country.”

Where is Cauze going?

Hausske believes the app could change the paradigm of how people donate money, making it a more mindful activity. “What a lot of people do is commit monthly,” he said. “We have some high school kids who commit $10 a month to their Cauze account, and their parents match it. I commit a couple of hundred dollars a month, and it’s more than I ever gave before. I make decisions throughout the month. People think a lot more about giving when they commit to it.”

Eventually, Hausske would like to see giving events. “One of our ultimate milestones would be, we’d love to see a million people give a dollar in five minutes,” he said. “That’s our model.” Or at a Boise State football game, there could be a way for everyone to hold up their phones to donate $5 and have the aggregate matched by a sponsor, he said. “It’s social, simple, fun, and soul-filling,” he said.

Cauze itself has just five employees and has raised about $3 million in capital from a range of individuals, private foundations, and impact investors, Hausske said. “We’re pretty far down the road on ‘pre-Series A,’” he said.

Hausske isn’t sure yet what Cauze’s exit strategy will be. “We think we’re building the next big consumer app, with whatever exit that entails,” he said. “I think we’re building a significant company that has an amazing business model that will make an amazing impact on social justice and purpose. I have ideas, but who knows. We’re just focused on executing.”

This article was created as a collaboration between Boise Entrepreneur Week, Built in Idaho and Trailhead.