Spotlight on Expensify
Walking through San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood every day back in 2008, David Barrett couldn’t help notice the legions of homeless camped out in the street. He wondered if there was a cashless way to help them and came up with the idea of handing out specialized debit cards linked to his personal account, enabling people to buy food.
But when Barrett applied for a bank loan, he was flatly turned down—his idea was too complicated, too dicey, too weird. So he took a different tack and conjured up an expense report program that the banks found more to their liking. That got him the funding he needed.
Only he had no plans to actually build the system; his head was still wrapped around developing his debit card idea. But to Barrett’s surprise, the idea, which he framed as “the corporate card for the masses,” caught on and became a cutting-edge—and highly profitable—expense-management system. Today the company has multiple offices in the US as well as in Australia and the UK. Its eight million users range from individual freelancers and small businesses to multinational enterprises with thousands of employees.
But Barrett’s couldn’t shake his initial motivation to help feed the homeless. Early this year—before COVID-19 had struck—Expensify introduced Karma Points, billed as the first card reward that helps create a more generous world. For every purchase made on the Expensify Card, the company committed to donating 10% of the amount to Expensify.org, its charitable arm.
The program initially focused on homelessness, child hunger, climate change, post-incarceration services and support for children who age out of the foster care system. But as COVID gained traction, Expensify redirected its philanthropic funds to match grocery store purchases for families in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), reimbursing costs of up to $50 per family. “Right now, 22.4% of shoppers in the United States are struggling to afford groceries due to the pandemic,” notes Expensify’s website.
“We’re a team that likes to solve real problems,” Barrett says. “And though expense reports are problematic for some, there are more pressing problems facing our world that we want to help solve.”
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About Brand Acts of Kindness®
Brand Acts of Kindness® is a series from Carpenter Group that spotlights companies across industries that are living their brand values in addressing the unprecedented challenges facing the world today.
The series initially headlined companies assisting healthcare workers and first responders, as well as communities, businesses and families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We also highlight brands taking the lead in supporting social and racial justice, LGBTQ rights, sustainability and the environment. Their stories show how innovation, resolve and action, built on a solid value proposition, can both strengthen a brand and help create a better world.
About Carpenter Group
Carpenter Group is an independent, woman-owned strategic branding, messaging and marketing communications firm that has delivered results-driven solutions to financial, professional services and technology firms for 30+ years.
Our broad cross-discipline experience enables us to craft brand messaging and carry it through to the channels that most effectively connect with our clients’ target audience, from editorial content to advertising to event marketing and more.