SELFLESS redefines charitable giving for the modern age

July 17, 2014

When was the last time you donated to a charity and how did you do it?

• Pick up your dog treats at PetSmart and "donate $1 to the animal shelter" at checkout?

• Automatically donate a portion of your paycheck to your company's charity?

There's a lot of new options for those of us in a position to give back, but SELFLESS is looking to redefine the space with a business model and convenience factor that goes far beyond the rest.


I had the chance to speak with Luke Jensen (pictured above middle), CEO & Founder of SELFLESS, who hasn't always worked in the charity space, but felt compelled to change it for the better.

"I was out at the bars, dropped over a hundred dollars somewhere downtown, and came home to the late-night donation commercial we have all seen before. This time it hit me though, I had just spent so much money on my night out to wind up at home, watching television. Clearly I had the money to start donating to a charity so something had to change in my life and I also wanted to insprire others to do the same."

Any effort to inspire charitable giving, whether it's a famous actor calling for help on TV or "Salvation Army Santa" ringing the bell in 20 below zero around Christmas is a truly remarkable thing, but Luke saw room for innovation that would offer a solution to many of the hangups associated with today's donation methods.

Jensen did a lot of research and found several key factors associated with consumer donations:

• Needs to be convenient
• Needs to be trustworthy
• Needs to be affordable
• Needs to have a call to action that will stimulate donations
• Needs to show people a tangible, quanitifiable impact

Jensen came from the digital deal space so he understood quite a bit about consumer purchasing behavior and decided to use that knowledge to turn his passion into a "giving network".

Through SELFLESS, customers can receive exclusive deals or "perks" as they call them at hundreds of local businesses for donating just $9 monthly to one of SELFLESS's partner charities. Their mission: "Make philanthropy easier for the masses". After signing up, your phone acts as a membership card, entitling you to the long list of deals and events available for immediate and repeat use simply by presenting your phone's member screen to the participating businesses.

Where does your $9 go? 80% will go to a partner charity of your choosing, 5% will go towards credit card processing fees, and the remaining 15% will go towards keeping the SELFLESS business running. "In many cases, the rewards are worth far more than the $9 monthly donation", said Jensen.

Since 2009, SELFLESS has grown to a 15 person team, expanding their network of partners to 30 charities and 200 businesses in the Greater Chicagoland area. This year, they are focusing on expanding to other cities, hiring another 20-30 employees to set the foundation for expansion, and enhancing the technology by enabling your every day credit card to act as a charity card for you to redeem your "perks". They also plan to close their Series A funding in the near future and are currently setting up meetings with interested parties.

Jensen encourages the public to give SELFLESS a try for the same price of a cocktail downtown, enjoy one or more of the free rewards, and if you're not satisfied then you can cancel at any time.

Great cause. Great technology. Great for the city of Chicago.

- Sean McClure / @sampraspro3