Several years ago, while working as a derivatives trader at Citigroup, Rhoden Monrose ran into a situation that’s typical of many young, driven professionals. He wanted to find a way to give back to the community, but his time (and money) was limited. Then he discovered that he could join an associate board at Row New York, a nonprofit that introduces teenagers from all backgrounds to the sport of rowing while providing academic coaching.
Associate, or junior, boards operate much like traditional nonprofit boards, minus the fiduciary requirements that most nonprofit boards have. For Monrose, that gave him the chance to set fundraising goals and organize various activities and events to generate contributions and cause awareness. He was able to meet other board members and tackle those challenges together.
That solved his problem, provided great professional experience, and ultimately led him to found an entirely new business. In January 2016, after two years of working on the concept, Monrose officially launched CariClub, a subscription-based matching platform that charges companies for the chance to connect their employees with a wide array of nonprofit associate boards.
For companies, the service is seen as a retention and professional development tool for cause-minded millennials. For nonprofits, who aren’t charged to join, it’s a chance to connect with new donors and advocates, whose influence will only grow as their careers advance. “There was this tremendous opportunity to rally a whole generation of professionals to get involved in philanthropy at a much earlier stage,” Monrose says. “I think every nonprofit that cares about longevity needs to have an associate board because they need a way to connect with that next pipeline [of supporters].” For groups that might not have associate boards or know how to form them, the company has also started a website with the template and best practices needed to start one.
CariClub (a play on the Latin word for charity) currently charges companies between $600 and $1,200 per employee on the service annually, depending on volume of memberships requested. The platform has over 2,500 members from roughly 20 companies including Unilever, Deloitte, and Citigroup, and expects the number of participating companies to double by the end of the year. The service includes access associate board positions at over 1,000 nonprofits, including Teach for America, the American Red Cross, the American Cancer Society, and the Museum of Modern Art. The more options, the better: Joining some of these boards is highly competitive. There’s no hard rule, but many associate boards are often limited to between 20 and 30 members.
On the most basic level, CariClub’s works much like an online dating service. Members and nonprofits both build profile pages, and there are some internal algorithms that help suggest potential matches. Other membership benefits include a board member training program so incoming associates know what to expect, and social mixers that allow both associates and nonprofit members to make even more connections.
CariClub is a for-profit company and projects annual revenues to reach $1 million this year. It’s also secured $2 million in outside investment, and recently joined Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Innovation Lab, which provides coaching for cross-sector tech startups run by women or minorities. That six-month program culminates in a demo day for potential investors later this year. In early August, though, Morgan Stanley also signed up as a client.
Monrose knows the importance of nonprofit work firsthand, because he started out as a beneficiary. At age 12, he moved from his grandmother’s home in Saint Lucia to join his single mother in Harlem, where she’d been saving up enough money to send for him and his sister. Afterward, he credits a minority-focused educational services group with helping him achieve the necessary test scores to gain admittance to the exclusive prep school. He later earned a scholarship for college, and found another aid program that provided the professional development and internship opportunities that led to Wall Street.
While Monrose doesn’t share exact numbers, he says the platform’s members have helped raise millions for the nonprofits they join–and that the work helps them in their own careers. “Many of our members are able to join these organizations, and they are disproportionately more likely to be in leadership positions [at their own companies] when we check in on them a year later,” he adds.