Zara Torre is Dell’s 2020 Change Maker of The Year and the CEO and founder of the start-up ‘The Difference’ - a registered not-for-profit, working to make it easier for people to donate to worthy charities and organisations, supporting those in need.
When a stranger once asked Zara for money and she had nothing on her, she knew there was something she had to do to make a difference. Fast forward to today, and Zara has successfully launched The Difference – the app that offers users the option to round up to the nearest dollar on any of their transactions, with all funds being distributed to a number of worldwide charities, aid organisations and social enterprises.
We spoke to Zara to find out more about how she started The Differences, the challenges and highlights, and how others can follow in her footsteps.
Source: The Difference Website
First of all, congratulations on winning the Dell 2020 Change Maker of the Year award! How does it feel, and how do you think this award will help shape your future with The Difference?
“This is such a wonderful platform to be involved with, and aligns so strongly with everything that we are trying to achieve at The Difference. It’s tech for good, so it’s such an honour for us to be recognised in this way.”
“It helps us prove that technology can innovate our desire for philanthropy, making it easier for people to give in a cashless society.”
“I’m so grateful to Dell for giving us this opportunity to highlight our app.”
“From here we hope it will lead to more downloads, more spare change for our charity partners, and ultimately for people to feel inspired that they are part of a global community of people who can be a force for good in the world.”
Can you tell us what inspired you to start The Difference? Additionally, how did it go from just an idea to becoming a reality?
“I’m motivated by the idea of changing the world in our everyday moments of life. But it started for me one week in particular where I was stopped and asked for spare change by a person on the street. I had a lightbulb moment of thinking, I never have any cash… now, why isn’t there an app out there that rounds-up our spare change in the background, so I could be giving my ‘digital spare change’ whenever I shopped?"
“We’re familiar with round ups to save, round ups to invest, but why not round up to give?
I fell in love with the idea and set about finding people - that are smarter than me - to surround myself with, and make it happen.”
“The biggest milestones we’ve had were going from idea to prototype, building out the team, vetting our charities to ensure there’s alignment, securing initial start-up funding, and launching version one of the app.”
“We were lucky to gain support from a number of key industry partners, from securing the use of a co-working space called Spacecubed, legal advice from K&L Gates and Squire Patton Boggs, as well as the support of the UWA 180 Degrees consulting Group who helped with the user testing of our app in the initial development phase.”
The Difference Logo
It sounds like a truly amazing idea. Can you walk us through the user journey with The Difference, is it really as simple as it sounds to actually make a difference?
“Round up your spare change through your linked bank card, and every time you shop you are giving that ‘loose change’ to a charity of choice on the app.”
“But there are a lot of steps to make that user flow and experience seamless. For us the user flow was incredibly important to the design, and we engaged in significant testing prior to building out our prototype with hundreds of young people.”
“Security and Privacy are also our most trusted parts of this process. Working with people’s banking information, could cause many people to feel unsure.”
“To overcome this, we underwrite that process by multimillion dollar companies such as our API partner and Braintree. This means we don’t hold or retain any user information or data, and that we can process these micro-donations for over 20 banks in Australia using banking grade encrypted security. It’s reassuring and it’s critical.”
What have been your biggest achievements or milestones to date with The Difference? And how is The Difference going now?
“The greatest achievement was definitely that sense of accomplishment with building a mobile app for Android and iOS. Seeing it in the app store, seeing the result of all years of hard work, and believing that it will scale and create great impact for our charity partners, that’s what drives me to keep going and keep innovating.”
“Any start-up founder will tell you about the struggle of managing the business side, the technical side and the management side, but when you’re building an app for charity, I would say that the difficulties can feel most intense especially on the funding side, and this is what we’re working on in the immediate horizon to help us expand our offering.”
Can you describe the very first moment that you realised your work with The Difference was making a real impact?
“For me The Difference is really about making our everyday moments have meaning and showing people that even small acts of generosity can have a ripple effect to create collective impact on the lives of those in need.”
“As we build the community it’s incredible to hear the feedback that this is a great idea, and a solution to the problem of living in a cashless society. There’s also a real sense of knowing that it’s starting to generate much needed dollars for really worthy organisations.”
“Many charities struggle to stay self-sufficient, this is a powerful but simple way to give a hand-up for these causes, and allow them to communicate to another demographic.”
“In Australia, Millennials and Gen Z are the most socially conscious group of consumers, and more than 76% donate to charity, but it needs to be innovative, and we are showing them transparently.”
With The Difference being such a success, we can’t help but wonder, what do you have planned next?
“We’ve got big plans for expanding the offering of our app and helping support the work of really worthy organisations addressing the UN’s sustainable development goals.”
“I’m committed to ensuring our platform keeps getting better and providing a solution to this issue that many charities face about getting their message across to a new audience of Digital Natives, as well using these micro-donations to generate impact at scale.”
“I won’t be satisfied until we can prove that we’ve built not just a successful app, but that we can show the lives that have been impacted, the total amount of fundraising dollars provided for these cause organisations and hearing back from the on-the-ground projects to track that impact.”
Source: Unsplash (@xps)
Before we leave you for today, we’d love to know, what advice do you have for other people wanting to be a changemaker?
“I would say, say “Yes!”. If you see a problem that has social impact, and you have the passion and skillset to drive it, you will always find others that are willing to help you on your journey, whether you’re innovating a social problem, or you’re just wanting to help out with an established organisation.”
“I’m interested in the Japanese concept of ‘ikigai’, where passion, purpose, mission and skill intersect. And for many years I felt good at certain things and was curious to learn more about areas of interest. I’m a dentist, a law graduate and I’ve spent years in the volunteer sector both locally and internationally, but for me The Difference is the first thing I’ve done that makes me ‘zing’ in every way!”
“So, if you have a heart for change, I think it’s important to find the area that gives you that ‘zing’ or ‘find your why’ as they say.”
“It could be by volunteering with an organisation you’re aligned with or finding out ways that you could help in your local community. Keep searching amongst those places until you find your tribe, and your zing, and I think success will follow. There are many great causes out there that are just searching for big-hearted, passionate people. You just need to say ‘Yes!’“
To learn more about The Difference, head over to their website at https://www.the-difference.org.
Dell and 10 play are bringing you inspiring stories of Change Makers at work across Australia, celebrating the people who are doing the little things to make a big impact. Because we know that every little thing is everything.