Summer Centered: Leo Gruenstein '25 Markets Philanthropy Using Technology
The economics major is working with Haverford alumni at the crossroads of philanthropy and economics, as he contributes to Causeway, which connects ordinary people with nonprofits.
Leo Gruenstein '25 is looking to make a difference this summer by combining his interests in philanthropy and economics. The prospective economics major and Russian minor from Tucson, AZ, is spending his summer working with Causeway, a startup for effective and personalized philanthropic giving. Gruenstein’s internship is sponsored by the Center for Career and Professional Advising’s Liberal Arts in the Workplace fund.
Causeway, based in Brooklyn, NY, is an app co-founded by Ben Horwitz ‘17 and Reed Rosenbluth. It functions as an automated service, designed to encourage philanthropy, particularly among young adults. There are currently five distinct funds which users are encouraged to donate to: global health, poverty alleviation, racial equity, climate change, and animal welfare. Each of these will have a fund advisor, who will recommend nonprofits to be featured in the fund.
Since Causeway is not yet publicly available, much of the work that Gruenstein is engaged in is preparing for the app’s launch. He has been reaching out to experts to serve as Causeway’s fund advisors.
“I am working with Ben to write and design our fund pages, seek collaboration with trusted nonprofits, and prepare for our post-MVP launch when we will begin pitching to investors,” Gruenstein said.
Additionally, he has been spending time working with Josh Moskovitz ‘19, a performance strategy analyst at Wunderkind, trying to learn how to market and promote Causeway.
“I’m trying to understand the answers to big questions so that Causeway can best understand who the app is best suited for and how we can market to them,” Gruenstein said. “I want to know what motivates people to give to charity, why people hesitate to give, and how Causeway can better personalize its services to its target audience.”
Gruenstein was drawn to Causeway due to his personal interests in philanthropy and behavioral economics. That interest was birthed when he read More Than Good Intentions: How a New Economics Is Helping to Solve Global Poverty, a book by Northwestern University professor and Innovations for Poverty Action founder Dean Karlan.
“After reading, I began to explore in greater depth the topics that he discussed in the book: philanthropic giving, research control trials, understanding incentives and what motivates humans to do tasks, and addressing public health issues in developing countries that kill lots of people but have simple, cost-effective solutions,” Gruenstein said. “I hadn’t had the opportunity to turn my interest in philanthropic giving and behavioral economics into tangible, meaningful work. This internship is the first opportunity I’ve been given to do that.”
Additionally, Gruenstein has found inspiration from his three mentors, Horwitz, Rosenbluth, and Moskovitz, and hopes to learn different skills—from communication to technical coding—from each of them. For example, from Moskovitz, he hopes to learn marketing strategies and survey methodology, the subject of his 2019 senior thesis.
“I’m excited about Causeway’s continued collaboration with Josh, because he can provide continuing insight into Causeway’s marketing strategy and survey methodology,” Gruenstein said.
Meanwhile, Horwitz expressed great excitement about working with Gruenstein on Causeway, describing him as an integral part of the team.
“[Gruenstein] and I first worked together during the 2020 presidential election, when he interned for the Arizona Democratic Party in Tucson,” Horwitz said. “Leo built a voter registration program from scratch, targeting first-time voters in high schools across Arizona. He set an ambitious goal of 1,500 new voter registrations, developed a strategy to engage students, and registered more than 100 new voters in one week. He also managed key parts of our volunteer hubs over Zoom, practically serving as a full-time employee.”
Gruenstein’s work also includes reaching out to Haverford alumni involved in philanthropy, such as David Sears ‘79 and Heidi McAnnally-Linz ‘06.
“Leo is working on everything from website copywriting to researching possible investors as we begin to grow our company,” Horwitz said. “There's no way we could do this without his help.”
Their work has already begun to pay off; Causeway was recently awarded a sizable grant from the Centre for Effective Altruism, affiliated with the Future of Humanity Institute and Global Priorities Project at the University of Oxford.
Gruenstein is hopeful that he will gain valuable experience in managing startups through this internship. In particular, he hopes to learn how to measure the efficacy of a nonprofit, create pitches that engage investors, learn about applied behavioral economics, and find if he has an interest in working in the nonprofit sector after his own graduation.
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ campus-supported summer work.