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5C Startup Turns Web Browsing into Charity

Tab for a Cause is a new Internet start-up which turns surfing the Internet into a charitable act. Alex Groth PO '12, the vice-president of this recently launched organization, along with co-creators Kevin Jennison and Sam Ward-Packard, has had about 500 downloads of the Tab for a Cause browser extension since its launch six weeks ago.

The way it works is simple: download a browser add-on, then pick your charity.

"You see a tab for a cause donation page [when you open a new tab], and on that page we have some advertisements," said Jennison, the organization's president and a senior at Grinnell College. "We get money from those advertisements, and we give them to your charity."

The idea for Tab for a Cause stemmed from conversations about advertising on the Internet.

"It turns an everyday activity into giving to charity," Jennison said.

"The real advantage of Tab for a Cause is that you just forget about it," he added. "You set it up once and you go about your day, and simply raise money for something that you love."

Users can choose which charity to support, as well as how often the donation page appears in a new tab.

All three students met in high school but said none of them expected to pursue business ventures.

"I think [Kevin and I] can both agree that we didn't expect to be here at any point in our college careers," said Groth, a neuroscience major. "Business was the last thing on our minds."

However, despite the wide difference in the areas of expertise, Groth said that even his science studies at Pomona helped him work on Tab for a Cause.

"This degree here [at Pomona] is mostly about learning how to solve general problems and how to function in that situation where someone else isn't telling you what to do," Groth said of his liberal arts education.

"At both of our colleges there is a large focus on interdisciplinarity, and fostering that kind of thinking and being able to try new things," Jennison added.

The founders researched various charities online with the help of Charity Navigator, an independent charity evaluator. They said they looked for "diversity of charity, efficiency of charities, and charities that were reputable," Jennison said. "We made sure they [were charities] that had a long history of doing good things."

"We wanted to pick charities that were really broad in category so that a lot of people could be involved," Groth added. "In the future we want to get feedback from the people that are using it to see what charities they want to add."

Tab for a Cause currently supports donations to six charities: Water.org, Room to Read, Human Rights Watch, Conservation International, International Peace Institute, and Save the Children. All six of these charities received four out of four stars on Charity Navigator, according to the Tab for a Cause website.

The team is looking to expand to other browsers—Firefox and Chrome are the only browsers currently supported—and maybe to mobile phones.

"There aren't really limitations with how big it could get, if people use it and people like it," Groth said. "There's basically no cost in [running the website]." According to Groth, the server that hosts the site costs eight dollars a month.

"We're also looking into expanding on Facebook maybe, where you can see what your friends are doing on Tab for a Cause," he added.

Groth said the website is not making a profit.

"We want to get 501(c)(3) status as a non-profit [organization]," Groth said. Each of the team members donated about $100 of his own money toward creating the website.

The trio had to teach themselves how to write the code to implement their idea, having had no experience with building websites. They brought on Joel Detweiler PO '12, a computer science major, to check their work.

"He's helped us a lot, cleaned things up, making sure everything works smoothly," Groth said.

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