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Benj and Jessica launched a nonprofit. Follow our journey as we built a 501(c)(3) and a web site, and now usher in an endless stream of worthy charity nominees and monthly grant winners!

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Trademarks registered, now hear the origin stories

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Charitocracy's registered trademarks

Our trademarks actually registered last summer. The days were warm, the sun was shining, and I had better things to do than write blog posts about... paperwork. Today, it's cold and the sun is shining on and off. Writing about Charitocracy's trademark registrations might turn out to be this winter day's highlight. 🎉

Check out the fancy new Circle Rs below!

Origins of the name


When coming up with the concept for this nonprofit in early 2011, I purchased a couple domain names just in case: azillion.org and onlyadollar.org. One of these would have worked fine, but I couldn't get super excited about them. They were missing that certain something. And my brainstorming wasn't coming up with anything better, at least not anything with an available domain name!

Over dinner with my friend and Apple coworker, Jeremy Sandmel, at some point between 2011 and 2015, I described the meta-charity I wanted to create some day. A mix of charity and democracy, where donors would mod charities up and down to decide which get crowdfunded.

"What's it called?"

"I don't have a name for it yet... Just a few lame possibilities."

"How about Charitocracy?"

In the moment I thanked him for the suggestion and laughed it off as a mouthful. But on the drive back from dinner, it clicked with me. Rhyming with meritocracy was almost certainly Jeremy's intention, but I was slow to get it. Better late than never! And most importantly, the .com and .org domains were available. ✅

Years later when reminding Jeremy of his important naming contribution to Charitocracy, he didn't even remember it came from him. Or perhaps he regretted sticking me with a five syllable name that's difficult to say and spell? Regardless, I'll never forget! It might take a while, but hopefully it grows on you... I think I'm finally getting used to it.

Origins of the logo

Charitocracy logo (R)

Unlike the name, I fell in love with our logo the moment I saw it.

I commissioned a logo on Crowdspring, asking for some sort of mix of charity, voting, and the power of the people. I also noted how I'm partial to bold lines a la Keith Haring. Over two dozen artists generated over one hundred entries, fine-tuned with my continual feedback. One of them by Connie Zegers of the Netherlands was clearly it. Thank you, Connie!! ❤️

It cost me less than $300. You can read some of the details of my Crowdspring journey if you're curious.

Registering the trademarks

I'm a DIY kind of guy, especially when it means saving Charitocracy from unnecessary expenses. So when I discovered the series of videos on the United States Patent and Trademark Office's website walking viewers through the process of registering trademarks, I binged them all. They are outrageously goofy, and it gave me some confidence that the bar might not be too high when it comes to completing this paperwork.

That's not to say that hiring an attorney is a bad idea for most people. If you want to be sure it's done right, and you have the budget for it, don't let me talk you out of it. But if you have a reasonably high attention to detail, no fear of handling digital art files, and the patience to hunt down all possible conflicting names and logos in the database of already registered trademarks, you could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars. The entire process took a couple days of learning and doing, and then over 6 months of waiting. Piece of cake!

You can see our trademark (service mark, actually, if you want to be a nerd about it) registration certificates, applications, etc. at these links for our word mark and design mark, respectively.

I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane and belated celebration of our successful registrations. My baby Charitocracy® is all growed up. 😍

not a baby

Spotlight on nominee Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation

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nominee Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation

Next in our series of posts about new Charitocracy OBX nominees, we have nominee Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation, nominated by donor John Towler. They are an all-volunteer 501c3 dedicated to the treatment and care of the island's ill and injured wildlife. You can find their web site here.

A few words on Charitocracy

Firstly, for newcomers: here's how it works. Donors pool their monthly contributions, as little as $1. The cause with the most votes each month wins the pot. No matter how much or how little you contribute, each donor at Charitocracy gets one vote. This is where charity meets democracy. So please share this post (see social sharing icons at top of post) and ask your friends to join us and vote! That's how we spread the word and, as a result, grow the monthly pot. The bigger the pot, the bigger our positive impact on the world!

About nominee Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation

Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation, Inc is a 501(c)(3) all-volunteer organization dedicated to the treatment and care of the island's ill and injured wildlife. Its goal is to restore animals to good health, then release them back into the wild.

We Need Your Help! Raptors need your help!

What do the birds in these photos have in common? A great many of their species will die in the next few days during the bad weather.

Nearly three quarters of all raptors die their first winter. They are inexperienced, out on their own and still building muscle. They need energy to hunt, make mistakes and hopefully learn. Now they need still more energy to stay warm.

The weather right now is unseasonably warm, monsoon rain with nearly storm force winds. That is a miserable combination for animals.

Owls need still nights with no rain to hunt. They can't fly when their feathers are soaking wet, and they can't hear well when the wind is howling. Hawks do a little better in the rain, but the wind plays havoc with their hunting. Many will parish between Christmas and New Years.

Bottom line: Please be on the lookout for any animals affected by the awful weather and in need of help. If you see a sad soaking wet owl or hawk, chances are good that they need help.

When you see them on the ground not flying away from you, they need help right away, not the day after....

If you leave them and think you will check on them the next day, many will crawl back into the bush and simply die.

Many caring wildlife lovers keep a collapsed cardboard box in the car along with gloves and a towel for those occasions.

If you see a raptor in need, please call your closest wildlife rehabilitator or the state wildlife resource commission.

So check out their many rehab and release videos on their Facebook page, then please visit the page of Hatteras Island Wildlife Rehabilitation to vote for, like, or discuss this cause!

December 2020 winner First Flight High School PTO

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Charitocracy OBX's 3rd check to December winner First Flight High School PTO for $500

We have good news about December winner First Flight High School PTO, right after this quick update...

Nominate Whenever You Want

For all of you who have ever wanted to nominate a cause at Charitocracy, but was struck with notion during some other than the first week of the month, I have some welcome news for you. For all of you who have contacted me with this feature request, I say to you years later: You were right and I've finally addressed it. For those of you who never noticed the strict first-week-of-the-month-only nomination timeframe: Nothing to see here, carry on!

It's still important to give donors an opportunity to familiarize themselves with new nominees. We want them to debut in a bright spotlight versus being buried in the noise by in-progress Top 10 or Top 3 votes. So nominations that come in after the 1st week of the month will be held in a queue until the 1st week of the next month. But you can get the nomination in as soon as you think of it. Meanwhile it gives me some extra flexibility as to when I go through the steps of "onboarding" it. Win/win!

December 2020 winner First Flight High School PTO

As the ball dropped on New Year's Eve we named Charitocracy OBX's 3rd monthly winner! Congratulations to First Flight High School PTO, nominated by donor John Towler. They empower all stakeholders to make FFHS a place where incredible educational opportunities happen on a daily basis. You can find their website here.

Now you have a few more days to sweeten the pot with a special one-time donation of any amount, which we'll add straight to the check we write to winner First Flight High School PTO.

Then take a moment to feel good about your part in our collective $500+ grant to help with FFHS PTO's ongoing work!

Have a great January (and 2021!), stay safe, and be sure to log into Charitocracy OBX to update your votes or nominate a new cause!