Behind the scenes, however, it’s a little more complicated. It can be difficult for people to know exactly where the money is going.
Enter Kyle Robertson, a 2004 computer engineering graduate, who has created iCare, an app that streamlines the mobile donation process.
“Many people don’t realize that when they donate money via text message, those funds can be held for up to 90 days by their cell phone provider,” Robertson explains. “Additionally, a percentage of their donation may be used to pay a transaction fee.”
iCare allows users to donate money to a nonprofit instantly, with no processing fees, nor the costs and delays associated with other mobile options. As a result, non-profits get the most from the incoming donations.
Robertson began working on iCare in November and released the application on June 1, 2012. Robertson’s life has been hectic with the fast turn around, but that’s not unusual. He’s used to moving quickly from one thing to the next.
Robertson continually looked for new challenges during his time at Iowa State, which explains why he ended up with not only an engineering degree, but also an economics degree and a mathematics minor. His membership in Triangle Fraternity, an organization for engineering students, helped him to excel in his coursework, opening the door for opportunities that would come later.
After graduation in fall 2004, Robertson moved to Austin, Texas, where he worked for National Instruments during the day and as a video game editor at night. He was accepted to Boston College Law School in 2005 and earned a law degree in 2008.
Robertson then landed a position as an intellectual property attorney, working on high profile projects like the Facebook lawsuit. But while doing some fundraising around the office one day, he had a revelation.
“I felt like there had to be an easier way for people to donate money to charities that needed it,” he says. “That’s when I decided to leave the law firm, do something with the idea, and create iCare.”
Robertson soon found a business partner and later hired two others to help with the coding and business aspects of the operation. Now, with iCare up running, the public can begin to utilize the benefits the app offers.
One perk of using iCare is that it provides a direct connection with the user’s social media networks. When someone makes a donation to a charity using iCare, the app provide an option to update the donor’s Facebook status or tweet about the donation.
“A recent CNN report emphasizes the importance of communication with others when it comes to philanthropic efforts,” he explains. “Every donation people make through iCare will inspire those connected to them through social media to give as well.”
iCare also offers an option to create personal fundraising events. Users can setup teams to pool their efforts, or collaborate with larger charity drives to better promote a cause.
While Robertson and his team have been busy with the launch of iCare, they have also found themselves looking forward to new opportunities. “We’re currently improving the iCare technology to enable users to reach political campaigns at both the state and national levels,” he says. “It’s our hope to connect to political organizations as well.”
Now working from an office overlooking the city of Boston, Robertson admits that his view is much different than during his years at Iowa State. Yet he acknowledges that his achievements would not have been possible if it weren’t for the education he received in Ames.
“Iowa State gave me the tools to succeed with this work,” he says. “The proof of that is the fact that I was able to go to law school and work as a lawyer for years, never directly applying computer engineering concepts. When I went back to engineering, I was able to remember it and write the first code for iCare myself. I never would have been able to do that if I hadn’t been taught well.”