Martyn Ryan spent 11 years travelling the world on his beloved classic motorcycle. More than just a tourist, he volunteered with NGOs and charities, helping people overcome hardship, disease, war and famine.
“It was an eye opener,” he says, “but it was also wonderful. My heart opened. I felt connected.”
Back in Australia, the business graduate started a management consultancy, teaching leadership to CEOs and executives. “I discovered they too wanted to give. They just didn’t know how or were simply too busy,” he says.
In 2012, Ryan decided to create the “Facebook” of philanthropy – an online platform connecting corporates with charities, making it easy to give. He rang his mum in England and told her. “She said ‘I support you 100 per cent, on one condition: you give it everything you’ve got. Don’t have a Plan B’.”
Ryan sold his Sydney apartment, car, boat, furniture – everything he owned. He pitched his idea to investors, but says “they thought I was crazy. They literally escorted me out of their office, saying ‘You’re wasting my time’.”
His savings ran out. Homeless and broke, he slept on the floor of his friend’s gym. There were days he couldn’t afford a cup of coffee.
Offered $3000-a-day consulting work, he turned it down. “I knew if I started consulting again the dream would vanish,” he says. “Mum’s words were ringing in my ear. I knew it could work. I just had to hang on, keep going.”
In 2014, the corporate penny started to drop. A Macquarie executive invested $200,000 and followed up with another $200,000. Benojo was born. “Ben is Latin for ‘good’ and ojo is Mexican Spanish for ‘spring’ or ‘well’ – a wellspring of good,” Ryan explains.
Today more than 100 corporates are on board, including Fuji Xerox, Australian Unity and GroupM, the global giant media investment company. They’ve funnelled $6 million into 300 charities and causes around Australia and the world, with 25,000 Australian employees involved in the giving.
Every corporate dollar goes to the charity. Companies pay Benojo an annual licence fee of between $6 and $18 an employee, depending on the size of the organisation. Benojo matches businesses and employees with the charities and causes of their choice. It organises, tracks, manages and measures the giving and relationship. Benojo is free for charities.
The platform can arrange pre payroll tax giving, volunteering, ticketed and team fundraising and online donations, and provides detailed impact reports and portable employee engagement profiles. Companies save on costs, and the giving and impact can be celebrated.
“It makes it easy to give,” says Ryan.