After wrapping the chaos that is the holiday shopping season, Matt Zients, Connect & Care co-founder and SESP junior, was focused on giving, not getting.Connect & Care started as an idea in an after-school program for high schoolers. Now, it is a registered nonprofit in D.C. and has partners all around the globe.Want to donate but don’t know where to start? The Garage sat down with Zients to learn how Connect & Care helps users improve the world at the tap of a button.This interview has been condensed and edited.
Matt Zients: The current app [for Connect & Care] allows users to browse, learn about and donate to nonprofits around the world. There’s a map. You see different pins on the map, and you can click on one of the pins, and that would be one of our partners. You can see their mission, their team, their vision [and] history. There’s a donate button that allows you to [donate] through Apple Pay and Stripe.We have 25 partners. We split them into nine categories: community building, conflict relief, education, environmental issues, healthcare, human rights, indigenous rights, veterans and women’s advancement. They’re all pretty grassroots.
MZ: We’re really excited by the idea of a Buzzfeed quiz medium. We built out a Google form where you answer a couple fun questions. You pick your favorite meme out of a group of four memes. You tell us which Disney character you’re most excited about. But then you also tell us which areas of interest you have. Is it education? Is it healthcare? Is it conflict relief? We then send you your top three matches amongst our partners.This winter, we’re going to be focusing on how we can do a local version of what we’re doing. Right now, it probably looks like a quiz. Instead of “What nonprofit are you?” this would be like, “What Chicago nonprofit are you?” It wouldn’t be all about the donating. It would be about how you get involved and help out.
MZ: We’re excited by the idea of, how do you prove to a young person that it’s cool to be connected to a nonprofit, and can technology play a role in that? We’re convinced that we can make it cool, but now we’re testing out different hooks.It really drives me to figure out how Connect & Care [can] be relevant in this field and push the conversation. I also was inspired by a specific moment on campus. I was at a protest against the travel ban. At the protest someone was holding a sign that said, “Venmo [his name], and the money will go to the ACLU.” And I was thinking, there’s got to be a more direct way for this to happen.
MZ: I love raving about The Garage. The team here is super strong and super thoughtful. I’ve loved the family dinners. That’s been a great experience in terms of meeting new people. This cohort of residents is awesome. I really think this space is special and has been a huge part of my Northwestern experience so far.
MZ: It doesn’t always have to be about the money. It can be about giving your attention, giving your advocacy or giving your volunteering time. The holiday season is a great time to support and love those around you, but [you] also have to think beyond that a little bit. It doesn’t have to be financial or monetary. [Think] about how you can give to people you don’t know. That’s something we’re thinking about: How can we be relevant beyond monetary donations?For more information, and to download Connect & Care, click here. Megan Lebowitz is a freshman majoring in journalism. She is a reporter for Northwestern News Network and loves storytelling in all forms. She is from Cleveland, Ohio.