PHOTO: This travel website donates half its commissions to charity. (photo courtesy of Thinkstock)
At only 19 years old, Megan Maloney founded Charity Pro Travel, an international travel site that donates 50 percent of the commission to charities and organizations around the globe.
The idea began as an “aha moment” at age 11 when, after losing family members to cancer, Megan went to her father with the thought of raising money for cancer research through travel. At the time, a simple proof of concept showed that it wasn’t going to work, so they put the idea on the shelf until recently when she partnered with now-CEO Keith Hudson, a family friend and father of pop star Katy Perry.
TravelPulse had a chance to ask Megan about Charity Pro Travel:
You’re 19 years old. It’s awesome that you started a site where you can help raise money for charities and organizations, but have you met with some obstacles getting this started? What were they?
Absolutely the first was finding a travel partner/booking engine.
We originally tested the concept in 2008 with a small independent travel partner that developed our site. However, when we went to re-launch this past year, we realized that all those little guys were gone. The big four travel giants pretty much control the entire industry, so after a month of research, we decided to play with the big dogs.
On a Saturday afternoon, we submitted a proposal to a generic email at Priceline and within the hour, we got a phone call from the VP of the Priceline Partner Network. Priceline loved the concept; we had a conference call on Monday and a contract on Friday. It doesn’t get any better than to be powered by Priceline.
The biggest obstacle was putting all of our ideas together and then establishing the right team to execute. My passion is all about making a difference, but our vision was to take it even further. We really wanted to develop something that sets us apart from everyone else. We have developed a Charity Partner Fundraising Program that is second to none.
There has never been an easier way for a charity or organization to raise funds all year long, it is simply one of a kind. We also feature a revolutionary Loyalty Rewards Program for our members, there is nothing like it. It has taken a year since we signed the deal with Priceline to bring it all to fruition, but the wait has been well worth it.
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What charities are benefiting from this? Do you turn any charities down?
We are open to all charities and organizations around the globe that have a just cause. We really are a perfect fit for all, from major charities to schools, churches, animal shelters, boys & girls clubs or youth programs. Our Charity Partner Fundraiser Program works for any organization and it’s no cost to them. Of course, we do our due diligence on our charity partners, they have to be a legit organization.
Charity is very important to millennials like me. Millennials believe that by using brands that support a social or environmental cause, they too are making a difference. It’s much more than just price or quality, most millennials are likely to switch from one brand to another when the price and quality are equal if the latter supports a cause.
It is said that travel commission is based upon type of booking, what does that mean?
We donate up to 50 percent of the commission to the charity of your choice. Commissions vary based on the type of travel and the agreement with the vendor. Hotel commissions are pretty much fixed, if you are a member, your charity would receive 5 percent of the retail cost of a hotel room, which is 50 percent of our commission. Rental car commission, cruises & international airfare often vary by vendor. Sadly, domestic airlines quit paying commissions years ago, but we still donate up to $2 for every booking.
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Why not just raise money where all of it goes to charity?
Basically, we are. We have started this company on a dime. After operating costs, marketing, advertising, loyalty program funding and a limited staff there’s not much left. Most companies that have a social cause as part of their brand donate 1-10 percent of their revenue. I’m not aware of any company that donates 50 percent. It's really unheard of.
You first partnered with Keith Hudson, a family friend and father of pop star Katy Perry, as the CEO. Can you please tell me about your connection and what your customers should know about your team?
Keith is amazing, he shares the same passion that I do and really wants to make a difference, everything comes from his heart. My dad met Keith several years ago in a hotel lobby in Indianapolis and they have become close friends ever since. When we shared the concept and vision with Keith, he was “all in.” As the founder and CEO of Hudson Ministries, Keith and his wife Mary, have traveled the globe ministering and supporting various causes.
We have really put a great team together. Priceline is clearly a name you can trust, and to be a powered by the Priceline Partner Network is as good as it gets. They handle all aspects of your bookings, reservations and guarantee. That allows Charity Pro to concentrate on our member user experience with our loyalty rewards program and fundraising opportunities for our charity partners.
Jai Bowie, our Chief Marketing Officer, has brought on his team to focus on strategic growth of the company, brand development and social/digital marketing. Our CTO, Steve Hollaway, has done amazing work bringing all the technical aspects together. Then there is my dad, Brad Maloney. Without his love, drive, passion and commitment, this little “aha” moment of mine could never have become this dream come true.
Are you in college?
Yes, in addition to Charity Pro, I have been working two jobs and going to school as a full-time student at Illinois Central College.
I will graduate in the fall with a degree in Marketing and plan to move to Florida (where my dad lives) to continue my education and work full time with Charity Pro.
What travel agency background or travel background do you have?
I actually do not have any background in travel, but to see the world is on my bucket list! My passion is charity work. Success to me is not about being rich or famous, success to me is simply just helping people and making a difference. You only get one life, and I want to do the most I can with it.
For more information, visit charityprotravel.com/.