“Donate for free to charity.” That motto is the driving force behind Ribon, the Brazilian socialtech determined to revolutionize the way Brazilians practice philanthropy. The challenge? Turn charitable donation into a habit in a country that lacks a strong culture of individual donation. Founded on the pillars of social impact, technology and innovation, Ribon drew the attention of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and was the only Latin America startup recognized as one of the 10 most creative and innovative digital solutions in the area of daily donations to charity in the world.
The recognition came about through the Reimagine Charitable Giving Challenge, a partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and IDEO, one of the largest design studios in the world. Agus Galmarini, who serves as program officer with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, told LABS that the challenge was designed to attract a broader range of innovators. The ultimate goal came in the form of a question.
“We posed this question to our global community of innovators,” says Galmarini. “How might we reinforce a culture of generosity by creating charitable giving solutions that are more accessible, inclusive, and effective?”
Out of nearly 400 projects evaluated, only 10 made the final cut. Ribon stands apart as the only Latin American company and non-English-speaking solution in the pack. It also stands out for its unique approach to digital giving.
“We also thought the ability to connect large donors and small donors through this tool was something we hadn’t seen in the market to date,” says Galmarini.
Ribon’s ace in the hole is its unprecedented business model, which offers a donation experience for individuals while increasing institutional donations by up to 60%. In other words, if a foundation or company has BRL 100,000 to donate, it can significantly increase the amount of its total donation through a partnership with Ribon. How?
Using the Ribon platform, individual donors can earn a “Ribons” (a virtual currency), and then they’re invited to make a free (virtual) donation. They can also direct their donation to a specific cause. For example, to help pay for a person’s medicine or to help teach children to read and write. Upon completing the donation, Ribon tells donors which philanthropic foundation or company made their contribution viable.
Ribon hopes that, by creating a positive donation experience, people will eventually also make actual paid donations. Naturally, a socialtech that promotes donation culture bets on solidarity and individual engagement.
Rafael Rodeiro, who co-founded Ribon with Carlos Menezes and João Moraes in 2016, explains the company’s dual purpose. Transform individual charitable donations in Brazil into a habit and also help large institutional donors raise more money and benefit more people.
Ribon’s business model increases the volume of donations philanthropic foundations and companies make while stimulating the culture of individual donation, a practice that is not very popular in Brazil. In this scenario, everybody wins: foundations and companies raise more money, more social projects and communities receive help and more people become connected by a sense of social responsibility that, more than ever, requires a sustained commitment.
How does Ribon, a company that defines itself as a for-profit startup in a non-profit environment, make money? It takes a cut of only the paid donations that ranges between 10-30% depending on the original amount donated by the institutional donor and the amount collected through Ribon.
Ribon, along with the other Reimagine Charitable Giving Challenge winners, will receive $10,000 USD and refinement support from IDEO designers. They’ll also participate in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Greater Giving Summit.
Everyday giving, a core philosophy that both Bill and Melinda Gates call vital, may not be part of the Brazilan culture, yet. But Ribon is determined to create that shift. “This recognition, as an example of the future for global philanthropy, is a sign that we are on the right track,” says Rodeiro.
Solving a social and cultural problem
Prior to creating Ribon, co-founders Rodeiro, Menezes and Moraes realized that their friends and colleagues spoke frequently about purpose and working to make the world better. “However, when we talked about donating to charity, there was noticeable resistance,” says Rodeiro.
The problem they found is that while Millennials and Generation Z are much more aware of social justice than other generations, they have little donor engagement.
“The problem is the way we traditionally make individual donations. There are many ways to collect donations by boleto (as a cash voucher or bank slip), a phone call or in person. But these methods do not facilitate routine,” Rodeiro explains. Today, digital giving is the fastest way for individuals to build a charitable routine.
It’s that type of thinking that earned Ribon world-wide recognition from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Digital giving opens up opportunities – to better understand donors, to find and recognize organizations doing amazing work, to make giving more social and collaborative, and to make it easier for donors to give,” said Agus Galmarini. “Ribon is a perfect example of that.”
The company’s bet on innovation, technology, and solidarity seems to be working. In slightly more than five years, Ribon brokered the donation of more than BRL 600,000 and has helped more than 180,000 socially vulnerable Brazilians. Now, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s recognition, Ribon wants to go further. It will not be difficult since the socialtech company already has a waiting list for large donors seeking partnerships.