Pear cofounder Amish Tolia (Courtesy of Pear)
Pear cofounder Amish Tolia (Courtesy of Pear)

Grassroots organizations (from local charities to youth soccer leagues) need sponsors to offset costs of events, uniforms, and travel. National brands are looking for ways to connect with local communities at a large scale.

These aren’t new concepts. But one thing has changed both these efforts dramatically in the last few years: the rise of social media.

(Courtesy of Pear)
(Courtesy of Pear)

That’s what Pear cofounders Amish Tolia and Jared Golden found. Previously they ran a custom t-shirt printing company called Campus Threadz. While working with local organizations, the company found customers had a hard time raising money for bigger projects and events, but were quick adopters of social media and digital tools to get the word out about their work. On the other side, they noticed that big brands wanted to work with these local organizations but didn’t know how to create authentic connections. “What if we could amass enough scale of these groups to turn it into high engagement marketing vehicle for brands?” said Tolia.

With that in mind, they launched Pear, a service that rewards local organizations for connecting with national brands. Organizations create a fundraising page that displays a goal, which can range from getting custom printed t-shirts to raising money for a cause, and a set time to reach that goal. Brands set a variety of engagement activities, from liking a brand’s Facebook page to watching a YouTube video, that correspond with points. Once a community hits those engagement metrics, the brand will cover the costs. They also recently launched Pear Gifts, which lets brands give digital gifts (such as coupons and gift cards) to organizations.

“Consumer behavior has shifted to be more open to engage digitally and socially,” said Tolia. “More and more brands are open to channels and mediums and tech that are nontraditional in nature…Timing has been nice on both sides.”

That timing has also led to significant growth for the company. Since launching in 2009, they’ve grown to working with over 75 million customers and four million local organizations annually. In 2014 the company grew 800 percent, its team has doubled, and they anticipate similar expansion this year.

Likely that is due to success brands and organizations have seen in the past. Ritz, for example, has sponsored over 11,000 kids, which has driven 100,000 digital brand engagements.

As Pear continues to grow they also see opportunity in expanding with local brands, who may not have resources to launch social media campaigns or proactively connect with area organizations. “The local to local transaction has been happening for as long as we have known,” said Tolia. “We’ve always thought there’s an opportunity to give local businesses a simple tool to more seamlessly manage their sponsorships.”

Next up, Pear is hoping to create more focused verticals, such as auto and insurance, and launch new products for grassroots organizations.

Note: Pear was founded in 2009, and Tolia and Golden previously ran Custom Threadz. The story has been updated to reflect this.