Genna Brown and Brandon Black are nothing alike. In fact, one might call them total opposites. There’s the obvious dichotomy—she’s the instructor, and he’s the student. (Brown serves as a senior lecturer of finance at Georgia State University’s Robinson College of Business, where Black earned his B.B.A. and M.S. in Finance degrees in 2015 and 2017.)
“She’s white, and I’m black. She’s a woman, and I’m a man. She’s straight, and I’m gay,” Black laughs.
Black took Brown’s undergraduate Corporation Finance course and has kept in touch with her since becoming a finance manager at The Coca-Cola Company. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, they launched online auction site GIVIN, which allows sellers to route their proceeds to any 501(3)(c). Black thinks their differences make them ideal nonprofit partners.
“We are who we are, and that helps us find the good in each other and do what’s best for everyone,” he says. “That’s what charity is all about.”
Like on eBay, anything can sell on GIVIN during an auction cycle, which lasts two weeks. A seller’s chosen charity appears above each item description. The proceeds from a FitBit Alta HR will be routed to the Atlanta Botanical Garden; a necklace by Atlanta designer Mickey Lynn will benefit the Partnership for Domestic Violence; various antiques will support Operation Mobilization. In addition to merchandise, vendors can volunteer their services. The price of a residential pressure wash will aid Action Ministries; the cost of a one-night stay in an Atlanta-area home will bolster AID Atlanta; the value of a cut and color at Revive Hair Studio ultimately will help out Shriners Hospitals for Children.
“I just bought a beautiful piece of jewelry and made a charitable donation at the same time,” Brown says. “Every time I wear it, I think about all the good I did for somebody.”
Most people care about at least one cause but might not have the funds to make a monetary contribution. GIVIN offers them a chance to give back in some capacity.
“I can’t write big fancy checks to these organizations,” Black says. “By providing an extra room in my house to someone who will be in the area for Thanksgiving, I’m still supporting my community.”
Brown and Black serve as president and vice president, respectively. Other Robinson alumni perform website- and accounting-related duties. The most recent staff addition, an intern from Robinson’s Department of Marketing, hopefully will help the team overcome its biggest challenge to date—getting the word out. Through the Google Ad Grants program, GIVIN received $10,000 to play with on the Google AdWords platform. GIVIN also is running a contest on Instagram. In exchange for their name, email address and phone number, participants are entered into a drawing for a $100 Mastercard gift card.
Black says GIVIN is using a new tagline in addition to its original slogan, “Charity Simplified.”
“Feel-good shopping!” he grins.
Now that’s a valid reason to splurge.