"Hustle and network" with Monica Weintraub
Monica Weintraub hails from Phoenix, Arizona, where she has temporarily moved back to after living in China for the last seven years. Monica is the founder of charity subscription service, Down to Donate, where she doesn't want some people to donate a lot; she wants a lot of people to donate a little. Her long-term vision is to create the world’s most extensive network of philanthropists. She also hosts a podcast titled Good Work, which focuses on speaking to for-profit founders who make social good their life's mission.
Prior to Down to Donate, Monica founded her first startup at the age of 23. Monica’s writings and photographs have been featured in various outlets such as CNN, Elite Daily, Inc.com, Thrive Global, and Refinery29.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
Sure! I got my start into the world of philanthropy when I was an AmeriCorps member through their program Public Allies. The apprenticeship I had at a nonprofit, Asian Pacific Community in Action lasted 10 months with weekly community building and personal growth workshops at Public Allies. I was about 20-21 during that time, so I didn’t fully understand the importance of what I was doing and why it was impactful. After the 10 months were up, the members of our cohort were given an education award and would potentially try to get hired by the nonprofits in which they were apprenticing.
I had already made plans early on in the program to move to China and teach English, so I kind of checked out mentally from everything. It wasn’t until seven years later that I wanted to get back into the world of social impact and philanthropic work. It took me being in my late 20’s to understand why every little bit counts.
What inspired you to start your business?
Frustration, mostly. The idea of Down to Donate came to me when I was scrolling through Facebook and saw post after post of people who wouldn’t stop complaining about the election and the results it yielded. This was September 2017, and we had only just begun to feel the wrath of what this administration was capable or incapable of. I had thought to myself that if people actually showed up and took action instead of complaining on the internet, that things may have turned out differently. I was equally guilty of internet activism, also called Slacktivism. So I decided to create the product I wished I had, a charity subscription service that helped me give small amounts to the nonprofits who had more resources and could make a bigger impact than me.
Where is your business based?
On the internet! My team is small and we work remotely, but we will be relocating to LA in August.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
The first step was research. I started seeing if there was anything out there like it and saw a few similar projects that were no longer in existence. I then started visiting hundreds of nonprofits sites to see how they were asking for money, and it was all the same old thing; an automated $50 donation suggestion, which is way too high for a generation like mine that’s suffering from low income, a guilt trip, which is not the way to make people want to give, poor tech, which just doesn’t work in this day and age, and overall lack of community.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Press. We’re still so far off the radar. Any press helps us. But we’ve recently launched a podcast called Good Work that focuses on people in the for-profit world who make social impact the focus of their business. Our first episode launched mid-May, and our fingers are crossed that it will open people’s eyes up about what it means to be a philanthropist and how that definition has drastically changed over the last decade.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
Trust! For both potential users trusting us and us trusting the people/companies we choose to work with. I haven’t had any major breakthroughs with that, other than being cautious and being transparent.
How do you stay focused?
This is a tough one. Being a founder means doing a laundry list of boring tasks. The best way to get those done is to just sit down and start. Even if it means filling out a single line of an application or merely entering in the first few letters of the email address you need to send something to. You really just have to sit down and do the work.
Once I complete the boring tasks, I kind of reward myself with the fun and colorful ones. It’s all work, but the part where I get to be creative and have freedom makes the tedious stuff worth it.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
Our overall attitude and brand are completely different than any nonprofit’s out there. We’re kinda done being nice and cute. We demand action. And to be honest, we’re not even sure if people are ready for that attitude about donating. But we really do believe the clock is ticking when it comes to the future of the world’s success. We need to be putting money into the hands of nonprofit’s who can secure a safe and successful world for us and generations after us.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
We haven’t entirely gotten there yet being that we’re still in beta. What we have found that works best is that people want to be connected to something smaller and more personal. Something they can relate to. Story-telling is imperative to any brand’s success, and we’re slowly trying to get out the stories of what our nonprofit partners bring to the table.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Hurry up and do it. Failure can be a win too and I have had a significant amount of failure on this journey. In the end, people care too much about how others perceive them. Show ‘em you’re not afraid to win or lose.
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
My favorite app is probably Quip. It helps me stay on top of everything on all my devices and share ideas with my team. I don’t really have a favorite blog these days. I’m more into listening to podcasts, and my favorites of those are How I Built This, Girl Boss Radio, and Masters of Scale.
I’m admittedly a really bad reader and rarely have the mental capacity to sit down and fully indulge in a book, but recently I’ve read The Subtle Art by Mark Manson, which helped me more than I thought it might have, and I Might Regret This by Abbi Jacobson, which made me feel strangely okay about having such bad anxiety.
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
I’m a huge fan of the Female Founders Community on Facebook. Honestly anywhere I can connect with women going through what I’m going through helps. I’m also a part of the Ladies Get Paid Slack group, and those gals will help you with anything.
Who is your business role model? Why?
I say this in every interview I do, but almost 10 years later, I’m still obsessed with Sophia Amoruso. Not only her but the collective of founders she’s introduced the world to. She got me excited about business and all of the hard parts that come with it. She made being professional not lame.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
Hustle and network. I’m relocating to Los Angeles in August and am so excited to start connecting with women there who are pushing it. My podcast takes up a lot of my time, so I'm really hoping to start building a team and focusing on the success of Down to Donate.
How can our readers connect with you?
Visit and signup for www.downtodonate.com and listen to Good Work FM!
Twitter: IG: monpuffycombs/_downtodonate