San Francisco-based Working Assets celebrates its 15-year anniversary this year and intends to generate $20 million for progressive nonprofits working toward social change.
In those 15 years, the long distance, credit card, Internet services and broadcasting company, which is based on a unique business model that donates a portion of its revenues to progressive nonprofit groups, has seen growth and success and has supported hundreds of causes around the world.
Working Assets will further diversify in 2000 as it increases Internet involvement and introduces new telecommunications products. The company aims to raise $5 million for nonprofits in 2000. Working Assets grew revenue to more than $140 million in 1999 and launched four new products — ShopForChange.com, GiveForChange.com, VolunteerForChange.com and Working Assets Broadcasting (KWAB, its flagship radio station, is in Boulder, Colo.).
Working Assets is also one of the most powerful progressive citizen-action groups in the nation. In 1999 alone, customers generated nearly 1 million calls and letters to Congress, the White House and business leaders on issues of critical public concern. These customer actions resulted in victories in the company’s five focal areas: Civil Rights, Education & Freedom of Expression, Economic & Social Justice, the Environment and Peace and International Development.
Pressing issues that Working Assets will take a public stand on in early 2000 include endorsing stricter federal handgun control measures and supporting efforts to defeat the “Knight Initiative’s” attempt to ban same-sex marriage in California.
“When we created Working Assets 15 years ago, critics told us that a company had to be dedicated to making money above everything else. Otherwise, it wouldn’t last,” said Laura Scher, CEO. “We proved those critics wrong. Working Assets is a successful company that is not afraid to take a stand on controversial issues such as protecting a woman’s right to choose, supporting gay and lesbian rights, and protecting the environment. We challenge other like-minded companies to copy our business model in the new millennium and become advocates for progressive social change.”
Today, Working Assets announced that 60 groups will receive donations for the year 2000, up from 30 in 1985. 2000 recipients will include Amnesty International, Sweatshop Watch, ACLU, Greenpeace, Global Fund for Women and East Timor Action Network, to name a few (a complete list is available at [www.workingassets.com]). In democratic fashion, customers nominate groups to receive funding and vote on how the donations will be distributed among the selected groups at the end of each year.
“Working Assets’ contributions have made a profound difference over the years to Amnesty International and to those whose rights we strive to protect,” said Curt Goering, senior deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA. “Not only do we receive critically needed financial help to continue our work but we are exposed to an increasing audience whose grassroots support is essential. It’s deeply gratifying to be included on the donations list for 2000.”
Citizen Action Victories
Since 1991, Working Assets’ Citizen Action program has provided an easy way for customers to speak out by highlighting two crucial political issues each month, explaining what’s at stake and whom to contact. Long distance customers can call the targeted decision-makers free of charge and ShopForChange customers can send a free e-mail to corporate leaders. In 1999, Working Assets launched its New York Citizen Action program. It joins the two-year-old California Citizen Action program in giving customers information on state issues and access to state-specific decision-makers.
Working Assets had several important Citizen Action victories in 1999 including: convincing President Clinton to assist in the prosecution of Chilean human rights violator Augusto Pinochet by declassifying thousands of intelligence documents; saving thousands of independent bookstores from being crushed by the anti-competitive merger of Barnes & Noble and Ingram; and changing Home Depot’s policy of selling old-growth wood products.
Working Assets’ New Products and Services
In 1999, Working Assets launched a trio of Web sites that promote social change — ShopForChange.com, GiveForChange.com and VolunteerForChange.com. On ShopForChange.com, an online shopping village featuring more than 75 merchants, Working Assets donates 5% of every purchase to nonprofit groups. At GiveForChange.com, individuals select from hundreds of progressive nonprofit organizations to which they can make an online donation.
VolunteerForChange.com provides extensive listings of volunteer opportunities, making it simple for a user to locate groups that need a helping hand. To celebrate the launch of these new sites, Working Assets will match every donation of up to $50 made through GiveForChange through January 15.
In October of 1999, Working Assets took its progressive voice to the airwaves, launching Working Assets Broadcasting in Boulder, Colo., with KWAB-AM 1490, a progressive talk radio station available worldwide via a real time Internet simulcast at [www.workingassetsradio.com]. To support the nonprofit community in Boulder, KWAB runs at least one public service announcement per broadcast hour.
Working Assets’ donations-linked products and services also include Working Assets Long Distance, which gives 1% of revenue to nonprofits; Working Assets Credit Card, which gives 10 cents to nonprofits every time a customer makes a credit card purchase; and Working Assets Internet Access, which donates 1% of monthly service charges to nonprofits.