By Bethany Ao
Getting involved in philanthropy can seem like a daunting task to many. With so many nonprofits and causes out there, picking one to invest in can be nearly impossible. That’s why Jacques Achille founded Norm Inc., a company that helps people track and sustain their positive impacts on their communities.
Achille was working as an engineer when he visited Haiti to help build houses in 2012. While volunteering there, he witnessed an entire community come together to help one family complete a concrete pour for the foundation of their house, even though it took hours. After he returned home, Achille began thinking about starting a company to connect people with volunteering opportunities like the one he had experienced. Over time, his vision for Norm expanded as he realized that everyone engages with philanthropy differently.
“I like to volunteer because I like to travel, but someone else might like going to a food kitchen. Someone else might rather donate. Someone else might like to make socially conscious purchases,” he said. “At first, I centered Norm around how I thought how things should be, but as I got older and more mature, I realized that everyone should get to define their own way.”
Achille taught himself how to code after he left his engineering job in 2014. In 2015, he joined forces with his best friend, Kevin Francis, and created NormConnect, an app that uses the United Nations Global Goals for 2030 to measure positive impacts on communities. The app allows users to set up monthly donations to philanthropic organizations that are aligned with their interests. Companies can use the app to match their employees’ donations. Users can also track their socially conscious purchases over time, and see which causes their communities are donating to.
Achille and Francis realigned and retooled the app in 2016, adding integrations with Slack and Instagram. They tested the app at Groupon and plan to partner with Startups Give Back this summer to help Chicago’s startup community become more involved with volunteering.
“We’re focused on returning philanthropy to the social norm right now. That’s why we’re pushing for Norm to be personal; we don’t want people to think about how they’re perceived by others based on what causes and organizations they’re supporting,” Achille said. “We want the app to be a safe space for people to have a positive impact in the way that they so choose to.”
— norm (@thenormapp) October 9, 2015
One of Norm’s main goals is to help nonprofits receive more exposure, according to Achille. He recognized that many nonprofits weren’t using the best technology to better community engagement, so he wanted to create something free that would help them out. This is especially important now, as more people are recognizing the importance of donating to philanthropic organizations after the last election.
“It’s refreshing to see the amount of activism and organization that people have put together, so we can see what people are passionate about,” Achille said. “With Norm, we want them to channel that a little bit. Before this election, things were nice but the issues weren’t really being talked about.”
The rest of this year is shaping up to be a busy one for Norm. Achille is planning to generate more philanthropic engagement between companies and their communities, while tweaking NormConnect to become a friendlier product for everyday users.
“We want the entire planet to feel like one community,” Achille said. “I want everyone to feel what I felt in Haiti, when that community came together to help one family.”