Large companies donating money to charitable causes is nothing new, nor are charitable organizations operated or at least started by the wealthy. Groups like the Rockefeller Foundation do a great deal of good, but other companies, from Coca-Cola to Walmart, all donate money as well. A new company, Swell Investing, has decided to take that idea and help people “do well while doing good.”
The idea is this: you invest money through Swell, a minimum investment costs $250, and when you do so, you pick one of four charity “motifs” to help. These include upholding civil rights, improving education, fighting cancer, and ending poverty. Swell then finds companies that share your charitable interests and invests money in those companies. You get returns on your investment, they get a flat fee of $9.95, and the companies you invest in donate money, which they were going to do anyway. You can even customize your portfolio so if there is a particular company you don’t want to invest in, or a particular company you do, your portfolio can reflect that.
The idea seems pretty sound, and it’s certainly a rather generous model for getting people to invest. At the core, people investing are still making money through investing, which can be problematic from a class analysis, but the barrier to entry is lower than most investment firms, which does make it available to a wider range of people.
The idea is especially appealing to younger investors, millennials and such, who are more likely to be concerned about the social side effects of their investments. They want to make money, but they aren’t sure if pushing sugary colas on children is the way to do so. By using Swell, they get the opportunity to invest, make money, and feel good about themselves.
The jury is still out on how effective this all is, and the irony of investing in Walmart while fighting to end poverty should be lost on no one. There are always direct donations to charities for a more efficient way to give.