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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Take things only accessible to rich people and make them available to everyone else. That was the startup advice given by serial entrepreneur and investor Joe Marchese to Jake Wood.

The result is Groundswell, a new corporate philanthropy platform that turns donor-advised funds (DAFs) into an employee benefit. The platform announced Wednesday $5 million in seed funding (via a SAFE), and is said to be speaking with VCs about a Series A round that could total between $15 million and $20 million.

How it works: Employees receive a certain amount of money each year in their Groundswell DAF, all earmarked for donation to nonprofits as chosen by each employee.

  • The model is partially based on what Goldman Sachs does with its GS Gives program, although that's only available to partners and managing directors.
  • Employers get the charitable donation tax benefits. But it still works out for employees who don't file itemized tax returns (i.e., most employees), arguably better than matching plans for charitable giving.

What they're saying: "This fits nicely with the new corporate focus on DEI," explains Wood, a former U.S. Marine who co-founded and spent more than a decade leading Team Rubicon, a nonprofit that mobilizes other vets to respond to natural disasters.

  • "Gone should be the days when corporate philanthropy is decided by a few execs or boards of directors," he added.
  • "Let's treat corporate philanthropy as a component of compensation to acknowledge the diverse perspectives of our employees, letting them identify the problems they believe are the most pressing. Basically giving each employee their own personal foundation."

DAFs themselves aren't the exclusive province of the wealthy — Fidelity, for example, offers them without a minimum while Vanguard's is just $500 — but the idea here is to better democratize corporate giving, where decisions are usually made by a select few.

The bottom line: Don't bet against Jake Wood, who traveled independently to Port-au-Prince just days after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, providing emergency medical services alongside people who'd become his fellow co-founders of Team Rubicon.

Go deeper

Inside Democrats' tax-hike menu

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

House Democrats will consider as much as $2.9 trillion in tax hikes for the next 10 years — mostly on the extremely wealthy and corporate America — as they scramble for ways to pay for President Biden's $3.5 trillion infrastructure and social spending plan.

Why it matters: A draft proposal from the Ways and Means Committee, which ricocheted across Washington on Sunday night, previews epic fall fights between Democrats and some of the best-armed lobbies in America.

Sep 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

First look: Harris veterans launch firm to protect CEOs from being canceled

Jon Henes, CEO of C Street Advisory Group. Photo: Matthew Starr, via C Street

A group of Vice President Kamala Harris' campaign veterans is launching a strategy firm to help CEOs avoid getting “canceled” and to advise companies how to respond to changing cultural norms before they're faced with a crisis.

Driving the news: C Street Advisory Group, led by CEO Jon Henes, a former national campaign finance chair for Harris’ presidential campaign, will draw on the group's broad political network to help corporate America diversify its workforce.

Rahm Emanuel questioned on murder of Laquan McDonald in confirmation hearing

Rahm Emanuel during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on Oct. 20. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke about the murder of Laquan McDonald during his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday to become the U.S. ambassador to Japan, saying that "there's not a day or a week that has gone by in the last seven years I haven't thought about this."

Catch up quick: McDonald was a Black teenager who was fatally shot 16 times by Chicago police during Emanuel's tenure as the city's mayor. The 2014 shooting triggered massive protests, both because of its nature and the fact that the officers' body-cam footage was concealed for years.