During the holidays, it is important for people to be with their families and not have to worry about where they will live, senior Greg Lauritano said.
Lauritano hopes inLieu Giving will help make that a reality for victims of Hurricane Sandy, he said.
inLieu is a crowd-funding site where people ask for donations, rather than gifts, for their birthdays, weddings, graduations or holidays. Geoff Weathersby and Kailey Raymond, who both graduated from the University of Richmond in 2012, created the website as a business-pitch project for an entrepreneurship class.
They decided on crowd funding because Weathersby had successfully raised more than $20,000 that year for a scholarship in his father's name after his father, a professor, died from throat cancer, they said.
inLieu was chosen in June as the winner of the *i.e. Richmond Startup Competition, and Weathersby and Raymond were awarded $10,000 and office space for six months in Richmond.
Lauritano heard about inLieu through a friend at Richmond, he said, and it seemed to be an easy way to raise money for the victims. He was excited to use a site that Richmond alumni had created, he said.
Lauritano's house on Long Island suffered minimal water damage, but his grandmother lost the first floor of her house and has moved into Lauritano's home for two months, he said. His friend's backyard also flooded, he said, and that family has relocated. Many cars have been destroyed, the New York Stock Exchange was closed, and public transit shut down, Lauritano said, and many people are unaware. "As a country, we need to help out fellow Americans," he said. "Every dollar counts."
Lauritano's goal is to raise $15,000. His father raised that amount in two weeks through donations from co-workers, Lauritano said. "Asking college kids is different than asking adults," he said. "I had to keep it realistic."
The Internet makes it easier for Lauritano to reach people he does not know, he said, and makes it easier for donors to contribute. So far, Lauritano's event has raised $423 from 10 donations.
"I don't know Greg, but I greatly admire what he's doing," Weathersby said. "inLieu is all about selflessness. When someone cares enough about something to put it before themselves, we think that person is just the coolest. ... To want to forgo his holiday gifts to give back to his ravaged community in just an incredible thing. The world needs more Gregs."
inLieu has been active for three months, he said, and Raymond will begin marketing campaigns in 2013. The site currently gets about 300 visitors a week, Weathersby said.
"In five years I want inLieu to have revolutionized gift-giving," Weathersby said. "At inLieu, we feel that gift-giving occasions are great, not because of the gifts we receive, but because it's through these occasions that people show us how much we mean to them."
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Crowd funding keeps people accountable for giving and motivates them to donate more to help reach the goal, Raymond said.
The disadvantage to online giving is the feeling of distance from the organization you donate to, she said. "Remember when it felt weird to buy a pair of shoes online," Raymond said, "because you hadn't tried them on yet? inLieu is facing the same challenge in a different market -- people want to feel connected to their cause."
Contributions to Lauritano's event can be made by credit card or as a bank account withdrawal through WePay, the site's payment provider. Ten percent of donations go to inLieu and WePay. The remainder is donated to the American Red Cross.
Contact staff writer Rachel Bevels at email@example.com
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