In October of 2017, Kirk Allaire had a crazy-big idea.
The roots of this idea: As the successful owner of a company called Gratis Payment Processing, he wanted to give back to a non-profit that held great meaning to him personally. In the early days of his company, he contacted this specific charity to try to initiate the process. But he found the simple idea of trying to donate to a national organization to be overwhelming for the company’s bandwidth at the time.
“All of a sudden I was just inundated with financial requirements and forms and documentation,” he said. “The minutiae of trying to team up and give them my money was surprisingly challenging. Plus, I realized I couldn’t move the needle with a giant national non-profit as much as I could if I were giving to something local.”
Enter the big idea.
“I just started thinking, what if I could help local businesses donate a constant stream of money to local non-profits?” he remembered. “And better yet, what if I could do it so that the businesses could save money and didn’t even have to write a check?”
Less than a year later, the big idea became a reality: Gratis Payment Processing — his company that performed credit card transaction services for local companies, big and small — was about to evolve.
The premise: Allaire and his Gratis team were already masters at auditing credit card processing fees that businesses were already paying, identifying unnecessary credit card fees, and then offering their services at a reduced cost. But here’s the unique twist: He would enable the business to then donate a small portion of that savings to local non-profits, gradually and consistently, without the business having to write a single check.
“We’ve created a sustainable, automatic, easier way to give back,” Allaire said of the donation part of the company, which is called GratisGives. “These businesses already have credit card processing fees — everyone pays for processing. So we just help them reduce those fees and turn some of the savings into vital funding for local nonprofits. It’s pennies at a time, but it adds up to big amounts.”
How It Works
In order to help others wrap their heads around the process, Allaire provides the following hypothetical example: Take a local business that happens to be paying $100 in credit card fees. The team at Gratis audits those fees, then determines that they can do the same processing for, let’s say, $80. They would then ask the business to reallocate a portion, let’s say $5, of the $20 saved back into the community via a list of non-profits, allowing the business to choose which non-profit to benefit.
“It’s a win-win, as the business saves money, and the non-profit organization benefits,” he said. “People think it’s too good to be true, but we’ve identified a no-brainer way for local businesses and charities to both thrive simultaneously.”
GratisGives is currently set up to benefit 10 local non-profits: Nevada Diabetes Association, Care Chest of Sierra Nevada, Safe Embrace, Safe Talk for Teens, For Kids Foundation, Achievement Beyond Obstacles, The Children’s Cabinet, Women & Children’s Center of the Sierra, STEP2 and JUSTin Hope Foundation.
“The charities we choose have to be local safety-net organizations — meaning they help folks in the local community who may be more vulnerable or in difficult life situations,” he said. “There are other qualifications, but this safety-net mission is the most important.”
The Benefits of Building Bridges
Allaire says he feels like he was born to run a company that involves benefiting both businesses and non-profits, as he describes himself as a “professional bridge builder.”
“I’m so excited when I get to help someone give back,” he said. “There’s nothing better than helping a business give to a non-profit like Safe Talk for Teens, for example, when prior to our program, they had never even heard about the non-profit, its mission or how it impacts kids’ lives.”
Just this month, GratisGives held its first annual celebration check-presentation ceremony at the Whitney Peak Hotel. In front of a packed audience of GratisGives merchants, participating non-profits and their boards of directors, checks totaling over $20,000 in donations were presented to the various charities. All non-profits receive their donations every year during this ceremony.
“GratisGives is all about changing lives and moving needles locally through the important work of these nonprofits,” Allaire said. “This event is testament to that.”
Allaire and his team work in Nevada, while his partner, Andy Lafreniere, heads up GratisGives in New Hampshire. The pair met in 2000, when both were working for a national log home company – Lafreniere was the national marketing manager, and Allaire was the corporate sales trainer.
“We worked so well together, that even though we both left the company, we knew we wanted to continue to stay connected in business,” Allaire said.
How You Can Help:
If you own or work for a merchant that uses a credit card payment processing service, consider having GratisGives audit your account to see if you can save money, and to see how easy it is to simultaneously have a meaningful impact through this program in yourcommunity. Contact them through their website or by email.