Ronny Sage

Ronny Sage is the founder and CEO of ShoppingGives, which arrived in the nonprofit sector in 2016 as a new way to donate, paralleling an increasing shift to online shopping. Ronny saw an opportunity to rethink donating in a more meaningful way, with customers picking a charity to support, and the brand they purchase from donating a percentage from the sale. It’s a streamlined method of giving, made even smoother by ShoppingGives’ unique shopping cart integration, Change Commerce. There are now over 750 retailers on the ShoppingGives Marketplace, with dozens using Change Commerce, including ZACHARY PRELL.

By personalizing the donation process and helping brands engage customers, ShoppingGives has caught the imagination of businesses, nonprofits, and consumers alike, and was recognized as a finalist in the Tech in Motion Timmy Awards in the Best Tech Startup category. It’s a true success story in giving, going from Ronny and four members of staff at the beginning to a current team of 14 people, and an extended family of 20 with consultants, advisors, and active investors.

We met up with Ronny in Dumbo, Brooklyn, to talk about what he’s most proud of in his organization, the future of giving, and how he dresses for work.

You were a digital strategist before founding ShoppingGives. What gave you the idea?

Working with various retailers and brands, the common goal always came back to, how do we connect with the right customers in a more meaningful way and within budget, and seeing that collectively the US market spends over $200bn in advertising ($25bn digital) per year to acquire customers. I thought there has to be a better way to use this money, and not only connect with customers and build authentic relationships, but to make a positive impact on the world through everyday purchases… enter ShoppingGives.

Following on from that, you’ve been quoted as saying you loved what you were doing at Rise. Did you break away completely to launch ShoppingGives or do it piecemeal?

I built ShoppingGives while at Rise on my salary (and with a few small checks from friends and family), and had four full-time employees before I left to give it my all. I was able to work with the best and brightest and apply so much of what I learned from marketing, sales, and general business. For example, creating a more relevant experience for customers was at the core of Rise, and we are able to do that at ShoppingGives by enabling customers to give back to whoever is relevant to them at any point in time.

Ronny is pictured wearing ZACHARY PRELL’s Baumann shirt, Montauk jacket, and Aster pants
Do you see yourself as a disruptor within your industry? Do you think that’s a useful mindset for entrepreneurs to have?

Cause marketing is not a new concept. But the idea of enabling frictionless giving for retailers, layering on marketing concepts like Return on Ad Spend to giving back, what we call Return on Donation to spend, is innovative. I think being a disruptor is a concept that is time-bound, as there is always someone or something new that will disrupt. What I focus on is becoming integral to their core business and being sticky—being something customers expect.

As someone who has helped change the way people give via technology, what do you think the future of giving will look like?

At ShoppingGives we believe in a concept of a giving economy. I believe that there is an opportunity for every transaction to have a moment of impact, whether that be paying for gas or your mortgage. We are in an era of choice as consumers and with every purchase, the consumer is essentially voting a brand into power. The brands and retailers who align with values their customers support are the brands who are not only going to change commerce as we know it, but will also prevail and create a loyal customer base.

How difficult has it been to change people’s giving habits?

We are not looking to change a habit, we are becoming a mechanism for all passive giving. The customer should not have to change what they are doing or disrupt their day to give back, it should be part of the transaction and part of their life. In our future, this moment of impact happens on every transaction, in our giving economy, once the customer sets a preference of who they support (and can always change) the customer does not need to take action—giving is native to the process.

Is there any one aspect of your organization or support of a specific non-profit that you are most proud of?

What we are proud of is in less than a year of our retailer technology being in the market, the amount of micro-transactions we have processed to over 3000 causes. And that every dollar we make, at least two dollars is being donated; it’s built into our model to feel good about making money, that is what I am most proud of.

What does a typical day look like for you, and how does that influence what you wear?

I wake up between 5:30am-6:30am, give my son Shia his bottle and breakfast. I review my schedule for the day, which is what sets my attire. If I am coming to the office, you might find me in sweats or jeans and a t-shirt. If I have client meetings, you’ll find me in a t-shirt/button-down and a blazer. After picking out my daily attire, I jump in the shower, clean up my beard (very proud of it), and head into my daily commute to the city (about an hour) where I do one of two things: 1. listen to audiobooks—love finding a good podcast, such as Stuff You Should Know, How I Built This (NPR), Reply All. 2. I make a round of phone calls to a list of best friends who are essentially my life advisors—shout out to Todd Caponi (sales strategy), Andrew Blickstien (business & life coach), Ryan Miller (business & analytics expert, also my cousin), Nick Miller (best friend, not related to Ryan Miller), or my business partners Phil Kaulfield (COO), Ryan Jonker (CFO).

Once in the office, my morning starts with writing out my daily intentions and tasks. From 10am-2pm I am essentially a BDR (Business Development Rep) doing outreach to prospects partners. After 2pm, I’m either in team meetings or on partner calls or working with the product team.

I leave the office around 6pm and either head to gym (honestly once a week), or head back in traffic, repeat morning (calls or book), eat dinner with wife, read a book to son, put him to bed, then decompress with wife, and go to bed around 9:30-10:30pm.

You’ve been wearing ZACHARY PRELL’s Baumann shirt, Montauk jacket, Oxford jacket, and Aster pants. What did you think and where would you wear them?

Love them, and have worn the Montauk jacket multiple times—it’s my weekend go-to with a black tee. The Oxford jacket is perfect for Chicago weather, you never know what the day is going to look like, and it’s super easy to layer or shed. I’m between sizes in the Aster pants, so I either need to lose a few or gain some to make them fit right, but they’re super soft. Once I drop a few, they will be a go-to.

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