P. Terry’s founder starts inLieu app to make it easy to gift donations

March 11, 2018
Kathy Terry started the app inLieu, which allows people to make a donation to a recipient’s favorite charity instead of giving a hostess gift or birthday gift. Contributed by inLieu

One day, Kathy Terry had a vision. She had been running around like many a mom before going to a dinner party and realized she had not thought about picking up a hostess gift. “This is ridiculous,” she thought. “I don’t have time to get a bottle of wine or a scented candle.”

She also knew that the hostess couldn’t have cared less about the scented candle.

Plus, wouldn’t it be better to turn the $10 to $20 hostess gift into something the hostess really cared about, such as a donation to her favorite charity?

“The obligation of a gift drives me crazy,” Terry says. “In our realm of friends, we have way more than we ever need. We live in a material world. I’m trying to raise grounded children.”

She didn’t want her daughters to be like, “Oh, Mom, don’t forget the bottle of wine” for that party.

But to turn that bottle of wine into a donation instead, she would have to figure out what the hostess’ favorite charity was, go online, fill out the donation, fill in her friend’s contact information and her own credit card, then hope that the charity sent her friend a note a few weeks later acknowledging the gift. Terry would be showing up to the party empty-handed with the promise of having made a donation.

Terry, who started P. Terry’s Burger Stand and Taco Ranch restaurants with husband Patrick Terry, wasn’t looking to start an app, but that’s what she ended up doing. InLieu, which celebrates its launch Tuesday, is available at the App Store and Google Play.

Terry originally thought that surely someone else had created this app, but she couldn’t find it. She tried to give the idea away to groups that focus on computer programming for girls, but the logistics of creating this app proved to be more complicated than she first thought.

She sat on the idea for about a year, then started connecting with people in technology fields who connected her with more people until she ended up with a small app development company in California. She even drew the pictures herself of what each screen should look like as people would move through the app, just to show the developers what she wanted.

Terry’s background as a paralegal came in handy when she realized that she had to start a nonprofit organization and become a 501(c)(3). The inLieu Foundation distributes the donor’s money to nonprofit organizations as they requested. She also had to work within Apple’s strict guidelines, which has some restrictions about nonprofit organizations raising donations within an app.

The hurdles, though, have been overcome, and now if you’re heading to a party, you can call up the inLieu app and make a donation from the parking lot or driveway.

The app uses your contacts in Facebook or Google to make giving social. Once you select one of your contacts, you can find their favorite charity if you know the name, or you can search for a charity in their town in a category that you know they are interested in, such as animals. The app uses GuideStar, which gathers information for every IRS registered nonprofit organization. Once you click on the charity of choice, you set the amount you want to donate. The app then sends your friend a text message that you’ve made a donation. The friend doesn’t know how small or large the donation is, but there is a minimum of $10.

The app charges the user $1 per donation plus credit card fees and then routes the money from the inLieu Foundation to the selected nonprofit organization.

InLieu also has a social aspect because you can see who is making donations and what they are in honor of. “It not only makes you feel good, it gives you permission to do that back to me,” Terry says.

You also can set up a donation event to collect money for your own event or celebration in lieu of gifts, and nonprofits can set up their own giving campaigns in the app.

“We tried to make it easy for people to give,” Terry says. “We want to change the way people think of giving. It’s a whole mindset shift.”