Buy Nothing meets GoFundMe: How a new website aims to 'revolutionize' philanthropy

Kelly Smith, Star Tribune on

Published in Business News

Other local efforts have started up in recent years to boost philanthropy in new ways.

When the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered in-person events in 2020, Athletes For MN Kids, a north metro-based nonprofit, couldn't hold its usual golf tournaments and gala.

The founders — former Wild player Jason Zucker, former Vikings player Kyle Rudolph and two Minnesota entrepreneurs, Joel Kunza and Jon Walburg — created Alltroo in 2021, a website where people can donate to a charity and enter sweepstakes contests, such as winning VIP access to a concert or meeting a pro athlete.

In nearly three years, Alltroo has raised $5 million for charities, Walburg said. The four founders aren't taking a salary and Walburg said the organization took a $1 million loss last year. But they're growing the business, which now has 17 employees and is working with music and Hollywood celebrities.

Walburg said Alltroo aims to raise $10 million this year and can reach a broader audience than traditional fundraising events.

"If you're doing a golf tournament, you only have room for 50 people. Or if you're doing a gala or an auction, it's only the people in the room," Walburg said. "Our goal is to capture a whole new generation of donors who don't typically donate to charity."

In Rochester, Chris Wall started 4Giving in 2017 for schools and nonprofits to fundraise online for free. He said 20,000 donors have supported 1,100 organizations so far, including Rochester schools' sports teams.

After seeing a church passing around a bucket to collect spare change and cash to buy a new air conditioner, Wall launched 4Giving so organizations could share a QR code for donors to give online.

"We want to make it easy to donate," said Wall, who runs 4Giving as a volunteer gig.


RedLadder offers a new angle on digital fundraising, Ackerman said, by trading items for free.

"It's a great experiment; no one has done this before," Ackerman said. "We're leveraging technology in an innovative way to do something good for society."

Since soft launching in February, RedLadder donors have added about 100 items worth at least $20 that will benefit 31 churches and nonprofits, mostly in the Twin Cities. So far, none of the ladders have closed out to donate to a nonprofit, but Ackerman said he hopes the number of items, trades and donations will increase starting in May.

He said he's using artificial intelligence to help assess when to close a trade ladder, with RedLadder selling the item. Ackerman is running RedLadder by himself as a volunteer, part of a nonprofit he started a few years ago. Ackerman is paying the fees and costs to run RedLadder out of his own pocket, he said, but he hopes to eventually draw a salary and pay for employees with a portion of the trade sales.

CaringBridge, the Bloomington, Minnesota-based free health journal website, encouraged its employees to use RedLadder. At CaringBridge, where Ackerman was a former board member, about a dozen employees have donated items.

"It's a really clever idea," said Stephanie Schmid, CaringBridge's chief growth officer.

CaringBridge has long relied on online donations, so Schmid said they're looking for new ways to fundraise so they can expand staffing and technology, starting in-person fundraisers last year and applying for more grants. RedLadder is another new way to spark donations, she said.

"It's a really innovative solution both for the community and for nonprofits," Schmid said. "I'm excited to see where it goes."

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