A Slice on Stephen Kump, Co-Founder and CEO of Charityvest
Charityvest, the brainchild of Founder Stephen Kump, is for those of us who want to experience the warmth and joy of giving, but are not sure which cause to contribute to. The thought process and chain of events that led to the birth of this successful startup make for an interesting tale.
The Charityvest story began a long time before its formal launch in 2019. Kump was in grad school when he had the idea of setting something up that helped people, help other people. At that time, both Kump and his partner had other, more pressing, priorities in life. They made a joint decision to put this thought on the back burner until they were both in a space where they could dedicate the time and resources the project would need. This was in 2016, and Kump ended up taking a management job at the time. Fast forward to 2019, and the stars perfectly aligned for both the would-be partners to rekindle the idea, and Charityvest took shape. From this experience, Kump learned that being in the right stage of life, when one can jump up and take on multiple roles, is an essential ingredient for becoming a first-time entrepreneur.
The empathy and sensitivity of the founders shine through, as evidenced by the level of planning and the sheer number of built-in advantages. A modern, donor-advised fund and tax-deductible giving account make the joy of giving simple and easy for everyone across America, by giving donors the freedom to donate to any of the 1.4 million US charities that the IRS recognizes. While donors take time to decide what they want to support in the future, the tax benefits apply to the present equaling a win-win for all concerned. Kump’s team has designed a delight-filled, novel and immersive experience around the idea of donor-advised funds by democratizing them and lowering the minimum amount (as well as the fee), making them more accessible to everybody. With so much business in the virtual and digital space, a key lesson for all enterprising entrepreneurs is to learn how to make the whole customer experience as immersive and exciting as possible, via empathy and sensitivity.
Charityvest is not Kump’s first brush with the world of philanthropy. At one point in his early career, he was a Philanthropic Advisor who wanted to create a greater, more positive impact on the world. He explains, “I found philanthropic advising a way to leverage my management consulting skillset for impact. I worked with major donors to figure out hard questions around their giving decisions. I noticed that some of my clients were more generous than others. It didn’t have anything to do with the dollar amounts that they were giving or even the percentage of their wealth that they were giving. It really was the delight with which they gave, how they kept coming back to give and cared about what happened with their giving.” His interactions with these specific clients showed him the thought processes that these clients had while deciding to donate. They asked themselves: “I have this money… Where should I give it? What’s the best way to give it away?” This helped his clients unlock the attitude of joy and a sense of adventure.
To ensure he had understood the intriguing process of giving correctly, Kump and his wife ran an experiment. They opened a separate checking account and started to put money aside into this account and found the whole experience fun. The success of his experiment gave him the extra impetus to go all-in with Charityvest. His first goal for this business was to ensure that his startup was an inclusive one, not just for a particular stratum of people. Since managing the tech aspect is quite expensive, there were very few takers to make this easily available. With Charityvest Kump has created the technology to make the idea of a giving account available for everybody. Their other aim, an equally important one, was to create an easy, user-friendly space where people could log in, type in an amount and send the money for no fee. Started in late 2019, they have already crossed about 25 million dollars in giving so far. So yes, this well-thought-out startup has been successful in leveraging the charitable instincts of people.
Leadership and the ability to make hard decisions, both important aspects for any entrepreneur to be strong in, come naturally to Kump due to his army background and his stint in management and consultancy. These qualities and skills, however, are not enough. For Kump, in the early stages of the startup, the key challenge was getting people to believe in the product. Kump feels that as long as your company is able to deliver the product as committed, you have a winner on hand. Phase two onwards, it became more about building a great organization that delivers. However, Charityvest faced yet another challenge, one from a well-established, deep-pocketed, serial-entrepreneur-led competitor. Being pioneers, Charityvest is ahead in the race, but as with most other startups, facing competition is an inherent part of life.
When it comes to partnering with someone, his advice for those just starting out is very simple. He feels that trust and sharing the same core values form a firm foundation that keeps any team going strong. Kump, before partnering with his co-founder, pondered over aspects like: Is this person going to do right by me, and by the business? Do they have the right intent? Would I be willing to step out in trust on that? Do they have the right orientation about the venture? And, do we share the same values? “That is the bedrock of everything,” he says. Fortunately for Kump, he and his co-founder share the same set of values when it comes to Charityvest, something that has gotten them through times of uncertainty and challenges. He also wants a first-time founder to check the level of passion they bring to the table. Since this is not an easy journey, without passion, the energy and determination required may fall short. Plus, passion helps bring meaning and excitement to everything one does.
Kump wants Charityvest to be a billion-dollar company someday. As he poignantly says, “I didn’t get into this space to become a billionaire. There are probably other startups that would have been better if my goal was to make a ton of money. I really want to feel like we’re having an impact on the world, that the world is different because we exist. You have to have a kind of a mission metric and know whether or not you’re providing value. Regardless of how we create revenue, if I’m not creating value for folks, it’s not success.”
Stephen Kump received his B.S. in both Management and Economics from Georgia Institute of Technology and his MBA from Yale. Previously, he has worked at Booz Allen Hamilton, Calvin Edwards & Company, Bain & Company and was a Cavalry Officer with the U.S. Army. He is currently the Co-Founder and CEO of Charityvest. Connect with Kump on LinkedIn.