Leo Gruenstein smiles inside Causeway's bar/restaurant-turned office.

CCPA Summer Series 2022: Causeway – Philanthropic Startup

By Leo Gruenstein ’25

Funding Source: Liberal Arts in the Workplace Grant

This summer I interned for Ben Horwitz (HC ‘17) and Reed Rosenbluth (Penn ‘17) at Causeway, a philanthropic giving startup based in Brooklyn. Causeway is a robo-advisor for charitable giving. The goal of the app is to get young people—especially millennials and gen Z—to start thinking about their charitable gifts more strategically and effectively, with long-term goals in mind.

I joined Causeway when it was just five months old. There were no publicly-available products at the time. By the time I finished the internship, we had a functional website with an onboarding process and personalized portfolios, had five “funds” of highly effective nonprofits, received a grant from the University of Oxford’s Centre for Effective Altruism, created a pitch deck, and established a board of advisors with more than 50 years of combined philanthropy experience.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the internship at the beginning of the summer. I knew it wasn’t going to be a traditional summer internship, but I didn’t realize how nontraditional it was going to be until I actually started. On my first day, we picked up our keys to start working out of our new office space: a bar/movie theater/restaurant called Syndicated. From the start, Ben and Reed trusted me like they would a regular employee. A typical day at the “bar” included meeting with experts in the philanthropy field, bouncing ideas off of each other about web design or marketing strategy, writing content for the website, and a mandatory stop at the bodega for an eight-dollar burrito (with guac!).

Because Causeway is such a young company, I was lucky enough to work across a breadth of issues, including marketing strategy, seed fundraising efforts, philanthropy research, project management, and communications. We worked with several Haverford alumni who provided important insights into different aspects of the business. For example, Heidi McAnally-Linz (‘06) helped build our global health fund with the most effective nonprofits in the sector. Josh Moskovitz (‘19) mentored me throughout the summer. The subject for his senior thesis, which was about survey design, helped refine the Causeway onboarding process.

Importantly, the internship gave me the flexibility to tailor my work closer to my academic interests. Early on in the summer, I read The Paradox of Giving, which takes a behavioral economics approach to charitable giving: understanding who gives (and who doesn’t give) and why. This helped me during the internship as Causeway began to develop its marketing strategy. It also helped me get a jumpstart on brainstorming and finding out if this could be a potential senior thesis project.

It was a formative summer that taught me a lot, both academically and in the real world.  My day-to-day work improved my communication and writing skills. It also taught me to better use data to support a thesis. Ben and Reed taught me the ropes of the startup and philanthropy worlds. Running a startup is not stress-free!

To wrap up my internship, Ben and I traveled to San Francisco for the Effective Altruism Global conference. We talked to many important people in the nonprofit sector. I asked some for guidance about Causeway and talked about career advice with others. I’m looking forward to continued collaboration with Ben and Reed, launching a beta version of Causeway in the next month, and turning my work this summer into helping the Effective Altruism group at Haverford by bringing a speaker series to the club.

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