Case Study: Karma Currency
20 September 2011 By Stefan Grun
Karma Currency Foundation CEO Ash Rosshandler cannot speak highly enough of Leadership Victoria Alumni Denis O’Hara (EBLP ’08). Without Denis, the newly minted not-for-profit would probably not be around today.
“I don’t think we would have survived, to be honest,” he says.
To date over $1,000,000 has been donated to not-for-profit groups through Karma Currency, but like most new organisations it began with minimal staff and resources.
Back in 2008 – a year after Ash founded Karma Currency – he was invited to speak at one of LV’s ExperienceBank Leadership Program (EBLP) functions, with Denis in attendance. In hindsight, it was a fortuitous meeting.
Denis had been enjoying the breadth of the EBLP, and the exposure it gave him to not-for-profit organisations. He was looking for way to contribute his skills in the community sector, and he was impressed by Karma Currency, and by Ash’s vision. Denis got in contact with Ash a few weeks later and offered to help.
“I liked the fact that it was basically an IT business, it fitted my background, and I liked that it was trying to substitute charity gifts for normal gifts,” Denis says.
With his considerable IT skills, and an impressive history in management and contract negotiation, Denis was able to help streamline the operations of Karma Currency. This gave Ash the space he needed to steer the organisation in its formative years.
“I think often people talk about being able to work on the business, rather than in the business. He enabled me to do that,” Ash says.
Ash says Denis brought a sense of clarity and professionalism to the Karma Currency. He says Denis has been incredibly generous with his time, which has been vital to the ongoing success of Karma Currency, and describes him as a mentor.
Denis now serves on the board of Karma Currency, along with working in his consultancy business Fey. He talks with great fondness of his experiences in the EBLP program.
“It turned out to be a great introduction to the variety and needs of the not-for-profit sector,” he says.
The Karma Currency Foundation is a fundraising charity. The story goes that Ash and his wife were going to a wedding, and were considering giving the couple a charity gift. However their choices were limited – to a goat, for example. Nothing wrong with that, but their friends may prefer to support breast cancer research, or to give to an environmental cause.
Thus the Karma Currency Foundation was born. It’s a charitable gift registry, enabling people to give money, with the recipient choosing the cause they want to support. Ash calls it “the democratisation of giving.”
Today, the Karma Currency Foundation is the largest Charitable Gift Registry in the Southern Hemisphere and supports over 200 of Australia’s most respected charities through Workplace Giving Programs, Fundraising pages, Charity Gift registries, Charity Gift Vouchers, Loyalty programs and Memorial platforms.
“We could always do with another Denis!” Ash says.