WHEN IT COMES TO INSURANCE, there’s a gecko, a duck (who is most certainly Ben Affleck), and a wacky lady named Flo all vying for our business. These commercials may be kitschy and these companies may claim that they’ll change the game with their super-low rates, but Jennifer Rasiah is the one actually revolutionizing the insurance industry. Her company, Givesurance, is an insurance broker for the good of humanity. Instead of taking a big commission like other insurance companies, they donate part of the money to charity. The best part of signing up with Givesurance is you can keep your current policies and rates while still helping charitable organizations. Rasiah, the mastermind behind Givesurance, spoke with Lady Clever about hacking the insurance industry for philanthropy and how living through the Sri Lankan Civil War influenced her to give back to others.
What inspired you to start Givesurance?
My husband David joined 500 Startups in the summer of 2013 for his startup and was doing really well. I used to visit him at his Mountain View office and listen to fireside chat, and was incredibly inspired and moved by the startup culture of using innovation to help others. This was something that was lacking in the insurance industry.
I’ve always wanted to give back. I didn’t know quite how to, though, and never thought I could give back through insurance. My idea for starting Givesurance was to create an insurance brokerage that donates 30% of its commission to nonprofits. We kept innovating it to make it as simple as it is today, where it’s possible to make donations through the insurance payments we already make.
How is Givesurance able to donate money to charitable foundations without costing insurance customers extra money?
All you have to do is provide basic insurance info such as your carrier, state, policy number, and expiration date. After that, we take care of all the paperwork. Once we successfully transfer your policy to Givesurance, you will receive a notification and you will start seeing the donation credit going into your Givesurance Donation Wallet. You can donate to any charity by simply entering the amount and their website address. Your payment, your policy, coverage, and your insurance company will all stay the same. And in case you do not qualify because we do not work with your carrier yet, we will give you the option to switch to one of the carriers that offer a competing price and coverage.
How do you choose the charities that Givesurance works with?
Actually, any charity can sign up! We do our due diligence before we activate any campaign to go live.
Why did you choose to start a company in the insurance industry instead of another industry?
I have been in the insurance space for over 15 years and have served as a broker, agent, in claims and as an underwriter — this was my way to help people and give back through an industry I understood, and an expense most people already face.
How does Givesurance make a profit?
Insurance brokers are paid fees by insurance carriers to distribute and gain market share. Givesurance acts as a broker and is paid fees by the insurance carrier. Givesurance has set up the rewards program for donors to claim donation credits. Simple as that!
What are your current goals for Givesurance?
We are excited that we are launching Givesurance with wonderful nonprofit partners like International Medical Corps, Operation USA, and many other wonderful nonprofit partners! During our first year, we’re focusing on partnering with amazing charities to generate awareness.
Think about it: if all US households could get 5% of their insurance payment back as a donation credit, more than a $100 billion would go towards charities. It’s my duty to share this so that as many people benefit as possible!
How has being a Sri Lankan immigrant affected your experience as an entrepreneur?
I lived through the Sri Lankan war as a child, and my family had just 48 hours to leave our home not knowing if we would survive, having no idea where we would live. People helped us throughout that difficult time, so I always make it a point to pay it forward!
Being philanthropic seems to be a recurring theme in your life. Where does this philanthropic drive come from? What do you hope to achieve?
There are many reasons why I feel a sense of duty to help people. I have to say the main reason is because I was given a second chance at life: I survived a horrible war while many people did not. I made a promise to myself and my family that if I survived, I would help people any way possible. Givesurance is that way for me.
What’s the best piece of advice about business you’ve ever been given?
To be resilient, and to celebrate each milestone!
What specific challenges have you faced being a female entrepreneur?
There have been several challenges, especially being a female entrepreneur behind a “fintech” company. The secret to overcome challenges? Don’t pay attention to things that only serve to bring you down — focus on what moves you and your company forward.
If you could give women one piece of advice about starting their own business, what would it be?
That’s an easy one: to be resilient, and to celebrate each milestone!