Raising the bar on raising funds: Pear is changing the fundraising game

by Maura Gaughan
October 20, 2014


How does a little kid with a trumpet get money from Verizon? And a professional starting a learning community get t-shirts from Ritz Bitz? Fundraising between corporations and small organizations is no longer apples and oranges — it's Pear.

Pear co-founders Jared Golden and Amish Tolia were early innovators in the custom-order t-shirt industry. They company started out in 2009 as Apparel Media Group, raising a total of $1.8 million by the end of 2011. They realized that while custom t-shirts were becoming accessible to the organizations they served, access to sponsorship capital was not. They did some research and discovered that the local “grassroots fundraising” market was relativley untapped — and valued at about $30 billion. 

“Big brands weren’t able to get into the mix because it was so fragmented and wasn’t easy for them to measure [the return on investment] until we created our system,” said Golden, President of the company.

So in 2012, Pear was born to build an online bridge between big brands wanting local connections and small organizations needing funds.


Pear migrates the offline experience of fundraising (think candy bars and tin cans) to social and web channels. Here’s how it works: companies like Tide and TruMoo agree to sponsor a local community organization. The big brand sets up “Engagements” for the group and their supporters to participate in, which are actions including everything from “Likes” to “watch this video” to “opt in for our e-mail updates” to something completely customized. Group members share the platform, engage and earn up to the amount set by the sponsor.


There are over 300 kinds of groups and organizations that fit into the Pear taxonomy. Events, college groups, professional organizations and clubs can all utilize the platform to raise money for things like food, beverages, t-shirts or simply a cash donation.




"We don't see what we're doing as advertising, it's more authentic relationship development," said Golden. To give an example, Meance Ultimate, an ultimate frisbee team out of the University of Illinois, partnered with Apartments.com to raise money for custom t-shirts. They rallied the community, got people to “Like” Apartments.com on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and opt in to their e-mail list. As a result, Apartments.com connected with 140 new people and Meance Ultimate raised $730.


How can a digital startup win on Pear? Just ask famed Chicago startup Pack Back, the online platform that rents digital textbooks. Using Pear, they sponsor student groups on college campuses and get their product directly in front of their audience while developing positive brand association. Any startup can use this platform to incentivise their target constituants - whether it’s to download an app, sign up for a mailing list or ramp up social media followings.


Pear currently has 30 employees in Chicago and said that they grew in manpower by 30% this past year. As they have their corporate sponsorship program running smoothly, they expect to add more team members as they build their Small-Medium Business division.

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