Aha! Cares — A New Model for Corporate Giving

Aha! Cares philanthropy program

“A startup is for adventure.” I wrote that when we founded Aha! in 2013. Along with my friend and co-founder Dr. Chris Waters, I was energized about how we could change the way that product teams work. And since then, we have achieved some worthy milestones together — from hiring our first teammate to celebrating our 5,000th customer to publishing Lovability, a book about the philosophy behind the company.

In that bestselling book, I described Aha! as “grandpa-inspired.” Both my and Chris’s grandparents put a real value and focus on serving people and building up the towns they lived in. We try to do the same and create real value for customers, our team, and our communities. Today we honor them and the importance of philanthropy with Aha! Cares.

We are redefining how for-profit companies support nonprofit organizations — we have already granted more than $100,000 in 2019.

This is not your typical corporate philanthropy program, because Aha! is not your typical company. We are a self-funded company (and a profitable one). We are entirely distributed — with nearly 100 teammates working remotely across six countries. These two factors give us enormous flexibility to pursue what we think is right. We do our best to create real value and put people first. This is just one reason that we have been remote from the start. It only makes sense to hire talented people and allow them to work from where they are happiest. 

Why not take the same approach to financial donations that we do with hiring — enable the team to act with kindness locally?

From the very beginning, we have wanted Aha! to make a positive impact. We have always made financial donations to nonprofits in the places where we held onsites. Usually we volunteer together during those trips too. And we offer nonprofits a discount on our software. But we wanted to do much more. Our success and rapid growth gave us a number of options. We ultimately decided to put teammates in the position to drive a substantial financial giving program targeted at hyper-local nonprofits.

First, we set the focus — funding people’s basic needs. This includes food, safety, and shelter. And we committed to a dollar amount of $100,086. (86 represented the number of Aha! teammates at the time.) We then asked individual team members to champion an organization in their community that they believed in, and to apply for financial funding on behalf of the nonprofit. We were overjoyed with the response.

Here are a few of the organizations we have funded through the financial giving program within Aha! Cares so far:

  • Community Action Network (Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA) — $10,800 to feed kids at camp
  • Broomfield Fish (Broomfield, Colorado, USA) — $10,000 to stock a food bank
  • Family Promise (Plainfield, Indiana, USA) — $5,000 for temporary housing
  • Matthew’s Crossing (Chandler, Arizona, USA) — $10,000 for food and a new freezer
  • My Friend’s House (Collingwood, Ontario, CA) — $7,000 for new cooking classes 
  • New Hope for Youth (San Jose, California, USA) — $7,000 for summer programs
  • Peace House (Park City, Utah, USA) — $10,000 for transitional housing
  • Safe Passage (Coeur D’alene, Idaho, USA) — $10,000 for safe shelter
  • Seedling (Austin, Texas, USA) — $7,000 for mentorship matching
  • Table (Carrboro, North Carolina, USA) — $9,000 to feed at-risk kids
  • Veggielution (San Jose, California, USA) — $1,000 for community farming

Seeing the potential ripple effect of this approach has been incredibly humbling and rewarding.

Humbling because I am consistently in awe of the need that is out there — for basic human necessities and for our most vulnerable communities. Rewarding because even at our size we have been able to make a real impact for thousands of people in need. And we are just getting started. Our team will be submitting the organizations that they want to champion for 2020 giving soon.

Imagine if more companies encouraged employees to advocate for local nonprofits (whether remote or not) and then gave generously? It could be world-changing. I know that for our own team, even those who did not champion a nonprofit this funding round were inspired to seek out worthy organizations in their community to volunteer or donate to — from shelters to food banks. This brings me great joy because every act of kindness serves at least two people well.  

We view ourselves as morally obligated to assist others who are not as fortunate as we are.

For-profit companies have a responsibility to give back to our nonprofit counterparts. If you feel the same way and want to explore starting a similar program at your company, we put together some resources for you. These include the definitional elements of our charitable giving program as well as template downloads for key aspects (such as communication and impact reports). We hope you will be inspired to do what you can to help repair the world. 

Learn more about Aha! Cares.

About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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