Feb 6, 2013

Pure Charity: An Interview With Mike Rusch

Editor’s Note: Mike Rusch is the COO for Pure Charity. Pure Charity, a non-profit organization, makes it possible to leverage everyday spending, allowing you to support causes and organizations that matter most to you. We talked with Mike about how his work with Fortune 100 companies prepared him for work in a non-profit organization.

 
Q: Tell us about your career so far and the high calling of your work?
 
For the past 16 years, I’ve worked in some leading Fortune 100 companies within the field of Shopper Insights and Analytics, the study of how and why people make the decisions they do about how they consume, including all the influencing factors.
 
At the same time my faith has continually drawn me towards opportunities to serve those in need, both in my own community and around the world. Issues of homelessness, hunger and the orphan crisis have significantly shaped my worldview and how we’re called to help bring hope. 
 
Unfortunately, these two worlds seldom overlapped. When I was given the opportunity to work with some of the largest brands in the world to allow people to use the power of how they shop to fund the work of leading nonprofit organizations pursuing issues of justice and mercy, it was a no brainer.
 
Q: How did your previous experience prepare you for your current work?
 
From my background, I know that people will make significantly different choices if they know that what they are doing can help others in need.  It’s just a matter of context.  Unfortunately, the act of giving and the act of buying things are often done in silos without any way to connect them.  
 
Corporations are very active in donating money to causes (and that’s good), but if some of that choice was returned to the consumer, it would actually allow companies and nonprofits to perfectly align their efforts, allowing the consumer to make decisions about where to shop and where to give.
 
The Pure Charity team has invested a lot of time to build the technology to connect these worlds and we’re now seeing that people truly are using the power of how and where they shop to align with solving the world’s greatest social needs.
 
 
Q: I have $200 that I’d like to use to help a worthy project, say, for example, in Haiti. How can your organization help me do that?
 
We collaborate on projects and with organizations all around the world, working in one of six key cause categories: Food, Freedom, Opportunity, Health, Water, or Disaster Relief.
 
For example, you can easily see on our map all the projects currently underway in places like Haiti with Help One Now where I was able to see develop when I was there recently, or in Ethiopia with Compassion International’s Ethiopia Child Survival Program.
 
You could then add the $200 into your Giving Fund and donate towards the projects you want to support. Once you do that, you’ll receive regular updates about the status of the project and when the project is fully funded or work is complete. 
 
Q: I appreciate your emphasis on charitable giving -- that it's not about the giving. Tell us more about the focus on "human connection."
 
We’re very passionate about wanting to drive deeper engagement between nonprofit organizations and the people who support them in a way that goes beyond just giving money to a project. We know this happens in real life, so we want to help replicate and encourage that environment online using the most powerful social media tools available.
 
So, we built in the ability to follow organizations and specific projects.  This allows you to receive project updates and be alerted when new projects are launched and significant funding milestones reached to eventually become fully funded. You can also form groups and start campaigns and join together as a community to rally support for each project.  
 
Our hope is that through Pure Charity we’re able to offer an environment where people can be a part of a community of generosity and make an even greater impact together.  
 
Q: What criteria do you use to determine whether or not to partner on a specific project? 
 
In 2000, 189 nations made a promise to free people from extreme poverty and multiple deprivations. This pledge turned into the eight Millennium Development Goals, and this is where Pure Charity is focused on supporting organizations working towards these goals.  We’ve consolidated these eight goals into six cause categories to include Food, Freedom, Health, Opportunity, Water and added Disaster Relief.
 
We know there are other very important causes and we are supportive of people engaging in those issues such as ballot initiatives or referendums. However, we’ve chosen to be hyper-focused on these six cause categories to bring immediate and tangible support to the world’s greatest needs and the nonprofit organizations working so hard around the world to end suffering.
 
Q: What are some examples of success stories, ones you're particularly encouraged by?
 
It’s hard to pick just one as there are so many incredible organizations doing so much amazing work. But I was especially encouraged by the first project we ever funded. That project from CURE International was for one child in Ethiopia to receive life-changing surgery on his feet so that he could walk again.  
 
Since then, we’ve seen incredible stories of hope and the work of restoring this world such as the Haiti trip I was on in October with Deidra Riggs & Help One Now. In three months we saw this desire to help vulnerable children in Haiti go from a dream to a fully-funded ,$150,000 project that will build a school for the community. What a joy it was to travel there with her, and work together towards caring for the children of Haiti. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.
 
Q: What would you like to have accomplished a year from now?
 
Our goal is straightforward; we want to see “Lives Impacted.” That’s something we measure everyday and it animates where we invest our time and efforts. So, one year from now, we pray that we see “Lives Impacted” exponentially through the efforts of others coming together and funding the great projects within Pure Charity.
 
Everyday we continue to add new nonprofit partners and new corporate partners to ultimately empower givers to make every action of their lives a tangible act of generosity and giving. We’re excited to see how God will continue to move within the hearts and hands of all of those we have the privilege of encountering.
 
Image by Scott Wade. Used with permission. Post by Glynn Young.
 
 
 
 

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