Kathy Terry is one half of the couple behind P. Terry’s Burger Stands. Kathy and Patrick Terry founded the business 13 years ago and have recently launched a new concept, Taco Ranch. But the project Kathy led on her own, and the one that best demonstrates her heart and determination for giving, is inLieu, a mobile app that lets people donate to nonprofits in a streamlined way.
The app launched in March, after about a year of prototyping, market research and app development. Bringing the idea to fruition took vision and grit, which Terry acknowledges but is quick to set aside. “I had a goal in mind, and I was very determined. But I’m just the vessel.” Charging a flat administrative fee of $1 per donation to cover costs, inLieu’s prime purpose is to make charitable giving as easy as any other everyday activity in the internet age. Terry recently sat down with us to talk about her path to revolutionizing the way we show appreciation.
AFM: What prompted you to develop inLieu?
Terry: My original frustration started with feeling guilt over obligatory gifting. You’re not going to show up to somebody’s house empty-handed. But I know my friends don’t need another bottle of wine — and they don’t want me picking out their wine, because I’m not any good at it. I’m grateful, but why do I have to show it in a material thing?
I know my friend supports this cause, so wouldn’t it be much better for me to give $25 to cancer research? And I was doing that. If it was a friend’s birthday, I would go to the website of the charity I knew she supported. I’d fill out the profile. But then I never knew how would they let my friend know I just sent this gift. Are they going to email her? Send her a letter that she’s going to think is junk mail? And what if she never gets a note? Do I ask her if she got one? I kept thinking, there’s got to be a way that I can make a donation and send a message to a friend instantly. I kept looking and looking, and nothing existed.
AFM: Did you have any experience with software development before this?
Terry: Zero. Well, I shouldn’t say zero. With our restaurants, I helped create our POS [point of sale] system and work on the back end. But database and buttons, that’s about all I had. I think it was a blessing that I didn’t have experience, because I didn’t know what it took to build a mobile app and get it to market. There’s thousands of mobile apps to choose from. Surely, if all those people can do it, I can do it.
It was just a matter of asking for help, calling friends and saying, “Do you know anybody?” or “Do you know how to do this?” It was literally one phone call led to another phone call, one meeting led to another. I felt like people were just dropping out of the sky – for the right reasons, you know? I was really fortunate. People just kind of showed up. And I never took “no” for an answer.
AFM: Were there any big surprises?
Terry: The first one out of the gate, my very first meeting, was with one of the developers of Ride Austin. They’re a nonprofit as well, so I thought I could get feedback on the nonprofit side, collecting and distributing funds to nonprofits. And he said, “Don’t do it.” It’s difficult because of the developing guidelines around mobile apps collecting donations. Especially with Apple. They’re really, really specific on what you can do and can’t do.
My whole idea was, I wanted people to be able to donate to any nonprofit in the US they wanted to. I didn’t want any friction. For me to do that, I had to create my own nonprofit, because if I didn’t, I would have to have a user agreement with every single one of these other nonprofits. I don’t want to put more work on the nonprofits. I want the nonprofit to get a check, and that’s it. They don’t have to send a receipt or anything. It’s just money they normally aren’t going to be capturing. Then for the donor, I wanted them to be able to give to whoever they want, in the moment. It was having to think all those little things through and finding the right people that believe in what you’re going to do.
AFM: What’s been the response from the community since you launched?
Terry: It’s been great, especially here in Austin. We’ve raised over $80,000 in six months for over 400 nonprofits. What’s been so great about the app is, it has a lot of features. You can donate directly. You can ask people to donate to your cause. But the biggest feature, and the one that is what it’s mostly about, is making a donation on behalf of somebody else.
These donations are replacing the bottles of wine, replacing the candles, replacing the flowers. Eighty percent of our donations are somebody giving a gift for someone else. I think people feel better that the money they’re spending is going to make an impact. It’s money they would have already spent. It’s just being redirected to a better cause.
AFM: Any last thoughts?
Terry: Being a mom, I think it’s really important to model giving back and being kind. I tell people, my kids are always watching me. So, I feel like this app is a good learning tool. This is the way we show our appreciation, show our love, gratitude to others, and a way for them to see we can have an impact on the world. It doesn’t take big, huge donations. If we all participate, we all can make a difference.
That’s always been the mission. I knew we had to change the way we think about giving. It’s a behavioral thing. I had already made that mind shift, I just needed the tool. So now it’s about making people stop and rethink. How do you want to send a meaningful gift? How do you want to show your appreciation, your gratitude and maybe do it in a different way? Hopefully, more people are ready.
Sherida Mock, Editor of Austin Family Magazine and mother of two girls.