The Power of the Charitable Crowd


A real yearbook? A so 20th century idea?

When looking for innovation, teenagers can teach us a thing or two. Take the example of Catherine Cook. Have you ever challenged the idea of the ubiquitous yearbook? With her brother Dave, she did. When she was a sophomore at Montgomery High School in New Jersey, Catherine thought she could save some trees and revolutionize the concept of the yearbook to make it timeless, online.

In 2005, she launched with older brother Geoff as first investor and CEO. Fast forward 4 years later and the social network has become one of the most visited place online. But what makes myYearbook stand out against giants like Facebook or Myspace is its uses of virtual money to fund charitable causes.

The virtual currency called “Lunch Money” is earned by completing activities on the social network or by purchasing it with real money. Then the “Lunch money” can be donated to one’s favorite charity. Six months after being launched, the results are already staggering. Members have saved 3 million square feet of rainforest, sent 22,000 books to Africa, and bought 40,000 pounds of rice for the hungry.

A 20-million members group can be very powerful and Catherine has found a wonderful way to harness that power. At the same time “Lunch Money” provides a great lesson. It shows teens that very small donations can add up to have a significant impact on the planet.

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