Why do humans give? Meet: ELM GIVES

Introduction: With an impressive start in 2016, Danny and Brice partnered with many known nonprofits like Amazon Watch and Meals on Wheels. Their bold mission was solving the problem of donation based transactions. It’s 2017 and the two are now readying for a big follow up. I had the great pleasure of speaking with the two founders on their big plans in the bay area.


We first met at Impact Hub in Oakland and took a stroll to Tertulia Coffee, a cozy coffee place, a few blocks away. We had our chat over some good art and brew. Daniel and Brice share their take on the question of why humans give, about Elm’s impact in the bay, and their journey so far in solving today’s barriers of funding meaningful things. | Elmgives.com

Q: What does ELM do?

A: Elm is an app that makes it easy and effortless for you to start donating to a cause you care about. Elm automatically rounds-up your purchases and donates the spare change to your favorite cause. We vet and curate the most effective and trustworthy nonprofits for donors to discover and support with peace of mind. When you make a donation on Elm, you can now measure the impact of your giving through short, honest content personalized for each donor, directly from the nonprofit you support.

Q: Describe the pain in giving today…

The ones that jumped out at us were the extensive time and effort that nonprofits divert away from the mission to raise funds and the barriers to entry that young millennials face when becoming philanthropically active. It made sense to start designing a platform that would serve both nonprofits and young donors alike — and more importantly make giving integrated into our everyday lives.


Q: Share us Elm’s founding story

Danny: We were two college roommates who had an inside look into how nonprofits operate. I worked extensively for a nonprofit for 2 years, while Brice had been a technology consultant at a large nonprofit. Net net, we both had an inside glimpse into how these types of organizations operate, and were able to identify the pain points on both sides of the equation.

Brice: After graduating, we packed up our bags and headed up to the Bay Area to build the platform we had envisioned. While developing the Elm app, we put a strong emphasis on curating what we believed to be some of the best nonprofits in the Bay Area. After our vetting process, which has taken a year, we are confident we are partnered with the right nonprofits who are doing great things.

Danny: We launched a few weeks ago here locally in the Bay Area, and are excited about the early feedback we have received.

Danny: We believe that making a donation is not simply a handout, but an impact investment. The goal behind giving is to generate tangible impact with every donation made. With so many nonprofits in the world, it can be difficult for donors to discover the most effective nonprofits to pledge their hard earned money to. We place an emphasis on vetting and curating the most effective nonprofits across a whole host of causes.

We also believe that a stronger, more personal connection between donor and nonprofit needs to be cultivated. Donors want to see and measure the impact of their donation. They want to know that their money is being used effectively and producing tangible results. Monthly newsletters and email updates are outdated and are no longer effective means of measuring impact and engaging donors, yet are still the most common method used by small and large nonprofit alike.

When you make a donation using Elm, you get access to personalized content from your nonprofit. Think candid, snapchat-like videos and pictures that provide glimpses into the day-to-day good that your nonprofit cultivates. If you are rounding up for Lava Mae on Elm, you can access short videos and pictures that paint a picture of exactly what a shower means to a person experiencing homelessness in San Francisco. Or if you are giving back to Amazon Watch, you can see first hand the indigenous people Amazon Watch partner with to preserve the Amazon and keep it healthy.

Donors should be able to immerse themselves in the work of a nonprofit digitally, and experience first-hand the success stories that they facilitated through their giving.

Q: Brice, What ideas or people have had the biggest influences on you two and Elm Gives?

Brice: The notion that every purchase you make is important is something that really resonates with us. When you buy something, you are not just buying the end product, but are supporting the entire process that lead up to that final product. In that sense, every purchase you make is a vote that impacts not just what goods and services are available in the market, but the entire supply chain leading up to them. When you think of it in this way, you start to realize that seemingly small, everyday decisions can have a big effect on the world around you.

We think this idea is extremely powerful, and with Elm, we further empower every purchase so that every time you shop you are supporting the nonprofit championing the change you believe in.

We’ve been really fortunate to have an amazing group of people supporting us. Hunter Hastings, has been a brilliant voice in helping us define our service, and has helped create something that offers real value to both our users and partner nonprofits. Our nonprofit partners have proved constant sources of inspiration with their tremendous work. People like Doniece Sandoval at Lava Mae and Rand Montoya at the SFSPCA have always kept us motivated to build something that moves the needle for NPOs, and frees them up to to keep focused on achieving their missions.

Q: Why do humans give?

Danny: Humans are hardwired to give and I think it’s a testament to our empathy. We don’t just give money — we give our time, our skills, and our ideas to those around us because there is an innate understanding that we all flourish collectively when we participate in giving. When we give, we receive and extend a piece of ourselves to the world around us, and express our own unique beliefs and desires.

Brice: I think why humans give can be explained with very simple logic; everyone has things they care about, and it feels good to support those things. For example, when you see a person in the street experiencing homelessness, and give them something to eat, you feel a sense of satisfaction because you believe homelessness is a problem, and you just played a part in solving that problem in your own small way. You’ve turned from a passive observer, to an active participant. You’ve been empowered to facilitate the change you believe in. If we can make it easy for people to support the things they care about each and everyday, I am willing to bet the innate giving in everyone would bubble to the top and people would have a big impact on the world around them.

What’s next in 2017 and Beyond?

Danny: We are focused on bringing more great causes and nonprofits to the app and serving a wider audience. We care deeply about discovering the best nonprofits, but we can’t do it alone. If there’s an organization you’d like to see on our platform, let us know on our website (here).

Brice: We will also be expanding to select cities, and continuously adding features that evolve giving and make it easier and more engaging than ever before. Stay tuned!


Get to know Daniel De La Torre and Brice Sturms. 
Tell us a little about yourselves.

Brice, what do you care about personally? What makes you happy.

B: I’ve always had a strong connection with the outdoors, and take every opportunity I can to get outside and explore. The wild places our world has to offer are boundless, and have proven a constant source of inspiration and joy for me. It’s easy to take the gift of nature for granted, so I always try to be appreciative of its fragility. Give me a tent, a group of friends and a wild place and I’m a happy man!

Danny, what do you care about personally? What makes you happy.

D: Climate change and human rights are two causes that I care deeply about. I’m happiest when I’m surrounded by loved ones, peers, and mentors. Team collaboration also affords me opportunities for continued learning from others- methods, ideas, and solutions, to both big and little problems. It’s gratifying when you come together with others to achieve a collective goal, and share experiences.


Thank you for sharing us your dreams. Do you have any closing remarks?

Brice: I encourage everyone to be proactive with the things they care about. Get involved, give back, volunteer. These may seem like small things, but never underestimate the power of many small parts making a big difference.


Thank you! And that concludes our interview.