Santa Fe Startup’s MyChange App Aims To Turn Pocket Change Into Social Change

By Bruce Krasnow The Santa Fe New Mexican.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr)  A new app called "MyChange" is allowing users to use their extra pocket change to fund their favorite cause or candidate.  Using an online payment application such as Mint.com, a donor can make a purchase for gas or groceries, and then he/she will have the opportunity to round up the amount to the next dollar. That additional money then goes to a preferred political candidate or organization. Founded in part by Santa Fe native Sandra Wechsler, this is creative women entrepreneurship that inspires social good!!!!!!

The Santa Fe New Mexican

Many young entrepreneurs start a business with the hope it can eventually give them more time and money to do what they love.

The founders of MyChange hope that the fundraising application itself will help them better connect with their passion for progressive politics.

Co-founder Sandra Wechsler was raised in a political Santa Fe family. She received her bachelor's in social thought and political economy from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and her master's in public health from The University of New Mexico.

She has been involved in the campaigns for former Mayor David Coss and helped start the Progressive Santa Fe PAC, which spent money to support the efforts of Mayor Javier Gonzales and others.

Co-founder Eli Il Yong Lee came to New Mexico to organize young people as part of the Center For Civic Policy and the Southwest Organizing Project. He was appointed to the MLK Commission by Gov. Bill Richardson and was involved in the city of Albuquerque's charter review process. He has been involved in the Asian-American community in New Mexico and was a staff member at the American Values Project, which has created an online resource for progressive points of view.

Lee also is a longtime board member of the Andrew Goodman Foundation, founded by Carolyn Goodman, the mother of murdered Civil Rights worker Andrew Goodman.

The other founders are Adrianne Shropshire, who worked as a community organizer in Los Angeles and is now based in New York, and Ng'ethe Maina, who is pursuing a master's of public administration at New York University, according to the company website.

But unlike some progressive groups that seek to get money out of politics, Wechsler and Lee hope MyChange can even the playing field so groups and candidates that back their beliefs will be able to turn pocket change into social change.

"There are a ton of people who want to give but don't feel their contributions are significant enough," Lee said.

This has taken on a new urgency, Lee said, in light of the 2010 case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court known as Citizens United that essentially allows unlimited contributions to political campaigns by corporations and other associations such as labor unions.

Lee said this has opened the spigot for business and conservative groups looking to further their agendas.

He and Wechsler hope MyChange can help small donors offset that advantage. They estimate their users would contribute an average of $20 a month, all in small amounts, after purchasing everyday items such as gas, coffee and groceries.

"We harness the power of small donors and bring that to an organization people really believe in," Wechsler said.

The analytics so far indicate that groups might be able to raise $50,000 a year through MyChange, enough to hire an additional staff member. For statewide or national officeholders who use MyChange over several years -- U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., is one of them -- the amount can ultimately be much higher.

Using the application requires an online payment application such as Mint.com, and there are several others. Then whenever the donor makes a purchase, they will have an opportunity to round up the amount to the next dollar. That additional money then goes to the preferred candidate or organization.

Though the application is still being tested, that refinement is being done in conjunction with dozens of candidates and groups throughout New Mexico. So those interested can contact their preferred organization and get a link with more information on how to participate.

The most important element of the coding is ensuring the financial data are secure and donations are logged and distributed to the right organization. Donors receive a running total of their contributions -- as do the member groups.

In return, MyChange will keep 10 percent of the money as it moves toward profitability, a process that can take two years. Wechsler and Lee will get a better sense for their staying power this week at the South by Southwest arts, culture and music festival in Austin, Texas.

MyChange has been invited to participate on March 11 in the StartUp Village at the SXSW Interactive Festival along with new businesses from Atlanta, Tokyo, San Francisco, Dallas, New York and Berlin. The Austin festival is the same venue where Twitter first presented its application, boosting its brand globally.

MyChange is not the only New Mexico group attending South by Southwest. Others sending a representative include Meow Wolf, Turquoise Trail Productions, Wyrd, Siarza Social Digital, ABQid Accelerator, BounceChat, BuckleDown Systems, Ceoncept Flux, Cultivating Coders, Emergent Wave, the New Mexico Film Office and the New Mexico Technology Council.

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