Take the first step. Just take it! Now! You may not know exactly where you are going, and probably don’t know the route you will take to get there, but take the first step or somebody else will.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Shugart, founder B Charitable.
Jonathan is a recovering tax attorney who spent 5 years in private practice helping higher net worth people with their estate planning and business planning needs. In that time, he spent most of his rewarding work helping these individuals navigate charitable giving on their journey to leave behind a charitable legacy. In 2021, he launched B Charitable to provide a better way to have both a crowdfunding platform and make IRS-backed charitable contributions in one platform.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Some of my most rewarding experiences as a tax attorney were sitting down with successful individuals and discussing what intentional charitable giving meant to them and the tools that are available to make it easier.
There is a look in someone’s eye when considering what it means for them to use their talents, resources, and influence to help others.
I remember leaving those meetings thinking that the conversations shouldn’t be reserved to individuals who can afford an accountant or tax attorney. Our society will be better if these tools are built with the most modern technology, available to everybody, leading to conversations at every kitchen table about what it means to be charitable.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
The most interesting story isn’t just one story — and that means people are using the platform the way we intended — to do what matters to them. And because of that, each story has its own origin…and I love that.
This has looked like a group of neighbors coming together to fight global adoption issues while teaching children what a life of intentional charitable giving looks like.
It has looked like a grieving mom raising money to help organizations that served her family well so that these organizations can serve other families like hers.
It has looked like alumni raising money for a new field surface for their college sports team.
It has looked like a family quietly making regular contributions to a donor advised fund, and then requesting anonymous grants to charities that mean the most to them.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The whole idea behind B Charitable is creating a simple, secure, and social fintech tool based on a complex portion of the tax code, and then making it accessible to everybody. Some of our biggest early mistakes were based on over/under simplifying the verbiage, which resulted in us speaking a language that nobody understood.
The funny/embarrassing part was watching the confusion on peoples’ faces. We have learned that it is ok for this concept to be complex.
Our challenge is to simplify it as much as possible and educate well on the issues that can, admittedly, be a little confusing.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
Most people easily see how charitable giving impacts the charities that are supported by the giving. What most fail to see is how giving affects the donor.
When someone acknowledges that they have resources or talents that they can use to help others, and then chooses to do so, that person is changed as much as, if not more than, the charities they are donating to.
And I believe this “pay it forward” effect can have a massive social impact.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
The first thing that comes to mind isn’t necessarily about an individual person, but rather an individual that’s inspiring others and helping so many more than that.
One of our users, Andrei Jikh, recently started a Campaign on our Platform in order to support the 1000s of people affected by the War going on in Ukraine.
And right now, I am proud to say that he recently surpassed his very charitable Campaign goal. Seeing B Charitable used like this is exactly why we started it — enabling one person’s charitable giving spirit to inspire so many others to do the same is.
Of course, there are so many other stories that I could have mentioned, but this one is top of mind these days and certainly a worthy cause. And I can’t wait to see what person, or people will be impacted next.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- Be intentional with your charitable giving. Set your charitable giving goals for a year then make regular contributions to a donor advised fund over the course of the year to reach those goals.
- Give to the causes you care the most about. You might have specific charities you love, or might just have charitable causes that tug at your heart. A few minutes of research on the front end can build the foundation you need to follow through with your charitable giving goals.
- Educate your social network about the causes you care the most about. Create charitable crowdfunding campaigns to distribute to your network via email, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or even a custom QR code for in-person events, and invite others to give alongside you.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is casting a vision that others want to be a part of, and then setting an example that others are willing to follow. My family has a lot of sayings that have been passed down from generation to generation.
One of these is that if you are leading and nobody is following, you are only taking a hike. Without proper vision, communication of that vision, and taking the first step, it is pretty difficult to lead anybody anywhere and it isn’t much fun walking alone.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Entrepreneurship can be isolating, much like being on an island. While no two islands are exactly the same, a lot have very similar qualities, and generally speaking, entrepreneurs love to share knowledge of their journey if you just ask. I have asked a lot of entrepreneur’s questions about issues that I am facing that I have seen them overcome. I have yet to be told “no” when asking for their time, and I don’t think it has anything to do with the coffee I offer as compensation.
- There is a better than even chance that everything, including whatever you are working on, will take twice the time and twice the budget you expect. Plan for it.
- Celebrate the small victories. It is easy to overlook the small victories when you are focused on the end goal. Overlooking small victories not only affects you, but it affects everybody on your team. Set incremental goals, measure success, and celebrate along the way. I let the chase of 20,000 users prevent me from celebrating 1,000. I regret not expressing my gratitude to our team and donors for reaching that milestone and celebrating it with them.
- Along that same line, I would say to enjoy the journey. Building something from scratch is scary and exhausting, but the journey is rewarding and a lot of fun. Surround yourself with people who you trust and enjoy, and buckle up! Every startup success story I have heard includes great relationships from the journey.
- Take the first step. Just take it! Now! You may not know exactly where you are going, and probably don’t know the route you will take to get there, but take the first step or somebody else will.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Intentional charitable giving is for everybody, regardless of age and financial situation. As I have stated I truly believe that we can change our culture through charitable giving.
We look at ourselves and others differently when we are considering what talents and resources we have that we can give to benefit others.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite quotes comes from Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech:
“It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
This quote challenges me to be more than the critic; to not just recognize a need, but to take the difficult first step of trying to work toward a solution.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Ashton Kutcher. Ashton is great at his craft, captivates audiences with his storytelling, has a great eye for tech, and consistently uses his influence to help others.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow B Charitable on IG/FB at 🡪 @letsbcharitable
You can also follow Jonathan Shugart on LinkedIn.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Jonathan Shugart of B Charitable Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.