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Grinnellian Opens Up a Tab for a Cause

By Mariam Asaad

Grinnellians tend to complain about how much time they waste on the Internet, but now they have an excuse to spend time online. Kevin Jennison ’12 has come up with an idea that turns those guilty mouse clicks into money for charities around the world.

Keving Jennison. Photograph taken by Avery Rowlison

Jennison, along with his non-Grinnellian friends Alex Groth, Joel Deitweiler and Sam Ward-Packard, founded the organization Tab for a Cause, which allows people to donate to charity simply by surfing the web.

“The idea seemed really powerful, especially for college kids, because we don’t necessarily have a lot of money or time to give to charity. This way, we’d be creating revenue that doesn’t exist otherwise,” said Groth, who attends Pomona College, in an online interview.

Tab for a Cause, which launched a month ago, works as a browser add-on, which, once installed, pops up as the homepage when a new tab is opened. This homepage features an interesting picture, news related to a chosen cause and, most importantly, advertisements. These ads generate revenue, which is then donated to a charity of the user’s choice.

The site already attracts 300 to 400 users a day. Each time a new tab is opened, a little less than half a penny is donated. This seems like a small amount, but with a lot of traffic, this amount will not only add up, but the amount donated to charity per tab is also likely to increase.

“When it becomes a daily routine, it can amount to a lot and the more people that use this, the better the rates are for advertising, so the more each person will make,” Groth said.

The group works with ad servers that manage the advertisements and take a small portion of the advertising revenue. Jennison and Groth did most of the programming themselves and work as unpaid volunteers. Their eventual goal is to partner with advertisers directly, so that the amount given to charity is maximized.

“A hundred percent of the revenue goes to charity—we’re volunteers. … We have mostly supported the start-up costs and it’s been remarkably cheap. I’d say we haven’t spent more than $125,” Jennison said. “We’ve spent an absurd amount of time on this though, we’d never done programming or website design so we’ve just been teaching ourselves.”

Currently, users have an option of donating to any of the following charities:, Room to Read, Conservation International, Save the Children, International Peace Institute and Human Rights Watch. The causes were chosen on three bases—they were each a reputable charity, they use money efficiently and, as a group, they are diverse enough to cater to a range of preferences.

“We’ve had a lot of requests for adding different charities, we don’t want to add too many too soon because we’ll dilute the funds for each one,” Groth said. “But, if we get more people, we hope to expand and we’ll probably ask users to vote on which ones get added.”

In the future, the founders of Tab for a Cause hope to see thousands of members and plan on expanding to accommodate more browser types and to link to Facebook at some point. Their main advertising so far has come from social networking websites and through word of mouth.

“We’ve been advertising a lot through the Internet—we spammed all our Facebook friends.” Jennison said. “The most effective way that we’ve seen is when somebody tells their family or friends.”

One of the main innovations in Tab for a Cause is that it does not require users to do anything. Users can choose to either engage with their causes through the links and news on their homepage, or they can directly proceed to another website. Jennison hopes that by providing people with news related to their causes, Tab for a Cause will generate greater interest in these charities.

“I’m hoping that this doesn’t just stay Tab for a Cause, that this also becomes a venue for people to engage with their causes and find other ways to help out,” he said.

For now though, the founders just want to focus on the present.

“We want to make it more social, but right now our main goal is to get the word out,” Jennison said. “If I could tell the Grinnell community anything about Tab for a Cause, it would be that it literally takes 30 seconds so go ahead and do it, and after that you can choose how much to get involved.”

Check out to download the add-on.

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    Linda JennisonSep 28, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    Kevin’s mom and just getting to this: feeling? Grateful you grabbed something that has been started from their hearts. My feeling? ‘puff’.