Rhea Claus
Team Lead of Change for a Dollar

In Canada there are 4.8 million people living below the poverty line, unfortunately one quarter of those are children. Globally 38% of workers are living on less than $1.90 a day, that’s less than $60 a month. There are many charities and indeed entire governments working to reduce this number. In fact in 2015 193 world leaders added ‘No Poverty’ to the list of the United Nations Development Program’s 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. The goal is to reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty by 2030. There’s no doubt that it will take immense effort to achieve this goal, it cannot be accomplished by one single entity but rather by collective effort.

This is how the idea for Change for a Dollar came to be and how we aim to be part of the solution.

I take the subway to work, there are often charities in the stations collecting change. Many of these support those in the community living in poverty; Covenant House, Salvation Army and Second Harvest to name a few. While theoretically I support all of these causes I would find myself walking away because, like many Canadians today, I rarely carry cash. In fact with the rise of cashless payment methods (chip and tap technology as well as Apple Pay) some business are ceasing to accept cash all together. Anyone who has carried a purse has done the move where you grab the top of your bag with one hand and tilt it 45 degrees while using your other hand to sieve through the miscellany that has collected, all just to find a few coins.

Cashless is convenient but at what cost?

By nature I’m curious, I like to understand and problem solve. Perhaps this is why I’m so drawn to being around entrepreneurs. I couldn’t leave this idea alone and so began to research. How much do people give to charity? How much of that is cash? As we embrace these new technologies, what will happen to these charities that depend on cash donation? How does age influence giving? What technology already exists to solve this problem? and on and on.

As it turns out we’re generous, 93% of Canadians believe charities are important and collectively we donate over $10 billion annually. The true problem lies in the future because way we give is changing. The future of charitable giving is digital and if we don’t explore and create better ways to give then charities – and more importantly those who depend on them – will lose out.

The more I looked into this the more the idea began to come together. Giving to charity is personal, we all have a cause we care about so how can we reduce the barriers to giving? Why can’t we give digital change? Why can’t it be convenient, transparent, and accessible? Most importantly how can we empower the next generation of donors?

And there in a sea of questions was Change for a Dollar.

We would build a platform linking your bank account to the causes you cared about. Then as you live your life – buy groceries, pay your bills or go out with your friends – Change for a Dollar would round up your purchases to the nearest dollar and donate the change. Donors could give small amounts (because it isn’t about how much you give it’s about how many of us give) and charities could communicate directly to their donors, thank them and let them know how their gifts have made an impact.

The Breakout Project is really where Change or a Dollar took off. We went in with an idea and we came out with the support of over a dozen charities, connections in fintech, philanthropy, business as well as innumerable words of encouragement and support. Since then we’ve refined the idea further and are now actively seeking seed-stage funding to build out our MVP (tech jargon for the first usable version of a product) and begin testing in the marketplace.

Our hope is that we can empower the next generation of donors to give. Such small amounts of money may seem insignificant to those of us lucky enough to live with the concept of ‘spare change’ but think back to those who live off $1.90 a day. Those in our communities who rely on shelters or food banks. And then remember that it’s not just your change but all of ours together that makes a difference.