It was 1985, the peak of the Reagan era, and greed ran rampant on Wall Street. But a small band of idealists refused to buy in, or sell out. Instead, we pursued an American dream of our own—to build a business that works for progressive social change. We launched Working Assets with credit cards in the ’80s, added long-distance phone service in the ’90s and mobile phones in the new millennium.
With a clearer focus on mobile phones, we grew and matured, resulting not just in better service to our members, but in greater impact in our fight for social change. In 2007, we rebranded as CREDO Mobile, a subsidiary of Working Assets.
We’ve succeeded all along because we flipped the nonprofit model for social change on its head, setting up a for-profit company that doesn’t rely on fundraising and that isn’t driven by the whims of benefactors. This frees us to take courageous positions in our political advocacy. We’re also privately owned (our employees own most of our stock), not publicly traded, which liberates us from short-term financial considerations and hostile Wall Street takeovers. In other words, we’re independent to the core.
We’re delighted that our donations to nonprofit groups have now reached more than $78 million, and that our CREDO Action network of activists has grown to more than 3 million committed Americans. We look at our past with pride, and at our future with ambition.
As a company committed to progressive social change, we tend to measure our success—and our growth—with the yardsticks of our activism and our donations to nonprofit groups.
Working Assets Funding Service is established with the launch of the Working Assets Credit Card—a credit card that generates donations to progressive nonprofit groups every time the cardholder uses it.
In keeping with our commitment to inclusiveness and participation, we launch a donations ballot so our credit card members can vote on how to distribute the money raised for nonprofit groups. The ballot remains an integral part of the donations process to this day.
Donations to nonprofit groups since 1985 reach $1 million.
We launch long-distance telephone service with 1% of customer charges going to the progressive nonprofits we fund; members can also round up their bill, with the extra amount going into the donation pool. We also introduce a monthly bill like no other—a bill that’s also a vehicle for activism. It includes Citizen Actions that highlight timely political issues and urge members to make free calls to targeted decision-makers, or opt to send them a CitizenLetter®.
Although our bills are already printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper (a rarity in 1992), we decide to plant 100 trees for every ton of paper we use. Since then, this program has raised more than $700,000 for tree planting organizations here and abroad.
Our Citizen Actions focus for the first time on two issues: calling for a single-payer health care system, and urging an end to the ban on gays in the military. We begin our special bill round-up program so members can pitch in extra donations to meet urgent needs. We raise more than $50,000 for Bosnia relief efforts. A year later, we raise $50,000 for aid to survivors of the Rwandan genocide. Médecins du Monde, a recipient, says the donation was the first and most significant U.S. contribution.
We offer a free, prepaid calling card to the first 10,000 members who call Congress and protest then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s infamous Contract with America.
We launch the Flash Activist Network (FAN)—a unique rapid-response program that delivers faxes to key decision-makers on urgent political issues. The program continues today with 3,000 members. We also launch a Citizen Action against sweatshops, asking that they pay workers a living wage.
Donations to nonprofit groups since 1985 reach $10 million.
We start a Citizen Action urging the Senate to pass the CHILD Act, which increases the tobacco tax to generate $8 billion for health insurance for kids in low-income families. It’s the most far-reaching step Congress had ever taken to protect children’s health.
We launch mobile phone service. We also ramp up our activism with ActForChange.com (now CREDO Action), a website for members and activists to send emails to targeted leaders. In our first big action, more than 200,000 emails are sent to Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris urging them to count every vote in the Bush vs. Gore 2000 presidential election.
Our largest special round-up ever raises $195,000 for victims of the 9/11 tragedy. We also raise $110,000 in a special round-up for international family planning groups after President Bush reinstates the “gag rule,” prohibiting such groups from receiving federal funding if they even mention abortion.
As the Bush-Cheney saber-rattling continues with talk of going to war with Iraq, we raise $151,450 in a special round-up to oppose the looming war.
As the rush to the Iraq war intensifies, we team up with MoveOn.org and TrueMajority to run a full-page ad in the February 12 New York Times against the impending invasion of Iraq.
To push for better voter turnout in the 2004 elections—and to fight against voter suppression—we launch the Election Protection program and donate more than $1 million to groups working on voter registration.
Donations to nonprofit groups since 1985 reach $50 million. This includes more than $500,000 each for Rainforest Action Network, Oxfam America, Children’s Defense Fund, Doctors Without Borders and Global Fund for Women—and more than $1 million for Planned Parenthood.
We rebrand our phone services to CREDO Mobile and CREDO Long Distance, and our activism network to CREDO Action. We also become the first mobile company in the U.S. to offer a solar-powered phone charger.
Total donations to Planned Parenthood since 1985 reach $2 million. We’re proud to be the largest corporate donor to Planned Parenthood. Fast Company magazine also names us among the top five “bravest brands,” recognizing our effective activism on controversial issues, especially opposing the Iraq war before it began.
We continue our fight to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and push heavily for a “public option” in the health care reform bill advocated by the Obama administration. We take a giant step in our activism and launch a ground campaign to fight a slick effort by Texas oil companies—Proposition 23 on the California ballot—to effectively kill the nation’s strongest global warming law. We help defeat Prop 23 resoundingly.
CREDO Action grows to more than 2 million activists. We fight the dangerous Keystone XL pipeline on every front: phone calls, petitions, CitizenLetters, rallies, Congressional meetings and more. Six CREDO employees and dozens of members are arrested outside the White House, including CEO Michael Kieschnick and political director Becky Bond. The pipeline decision, which was considered a sure thing, is delayed.
In an unprecedented step, we launch the CREDO SuperPAC, raising $2.5 million from 70,000 donors, and we defeat five of the worst Tea Party Republicans in Congress. Our activist base grows to 3 million as we carry out more than 500 campaigns over the year. We also engage at the state level and fight for—and win—ballot propositions on marriage equality, Citizens United and other issues.
We launched the new CREDO Visa credit card in October 2013. Whenever you use it, we donate 10¢ to progressive nonprofit groups working hard for women’s rights, the environment, equality, peace and social justice. The CREDO credit card is issued in partnership with Comenity Bank, which has been in business for more than 25 years.
The world moves faster than ever these days. To make an impact, we have to move just as fast. To do that, we accelerated the pace of CREDO donations, starting in January 2014. Rather than wait till the end of the year to send much-needed funds to the progressive nonprofits we support, as we have in the past, we are distributing donations at the end of every month.