What Do Gift Cards Have to Do With Aristotle?


What Do Gift Cards Have to Do With Aristotle?

Cents and Change: Making an Impact with Unused Gift Cards

 “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.”

 Aristotle first made this observation in the 4th Century B.C. Some of the greatest minds in physics, psychology, medicine and countless other fields have taken it to heart and applied it to their work. Those words inspired some of the greatest advancements in the history of man.

The first successful human organ transplant was the product of the many minds of the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital team. Gestalt theory, a popular school of psychological thought that attempts to bring order to our chaotic world, uses the relationship of each item we perceive to add meaning to the whole picture.  Even flour, sugar and eggs can come together to make cookies – something we can all agree is greater than just its parts.

That phrase – “The whole is more than the sum of its parts” – is one of the founding ideas of Tinua. By taking the small, leftover amounts we have on our unused gift cards, we’re hoping to make a bigger impact on the whole world. The coming together of minds has been our greatest opportunity for advancement. And while many of us are lucky enough to benefit from those advancements every day, there are still so many people in the world that don’t have those same comforts.  

Tinua focuses on bringing together many for the pursuit of one common goal: to do good. That can mean something different to every individual depending on their own priorities. We are focusing that want and desire to do good in a way that will create impact today, and we’re using donated unused gift cards to accomplish this goal.

In order to create impact, we’ve narrowed our focus to fulfill basic human needs:

Clean Water
Basic Healthcare
Disaster Relief

There are countless organizations, non-profits and charities that could fall into those categories. Working towards the greater good of all mankind is by no means a new idea. But with so many options, it’s easy for individuals to feel overwhelmed or for donations to feel like just a small drop in the bucket.

Those drops do add up, though. And they will add up even faster if we focus their path. When you donate your unused gift cards through Tinua, we disperse the funds to carefully and thoughtfully chosen charities that we hand select for each basic human need category. This allows us to make the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time. Instead of spreading micro donations across thousands of charities, we funnel donations focused on one or two at any given time, thus giving more money, more quickly to make an impact sooner – helping us fund real, tangible change.

Just like the first organ transplant was the success of many minds coming together, creating a better world will be the success of many people coming together. We’re not just talking about the funding aspect either. We want to hear your ideas, what’s important to you, and what worthy organizations have made a positive impact in your life. It’s about becoming an everyday giver and making this world better for every single person, one unused gift card at a time.

Send us your everyday giver story here or here.


The Link Between Gift Cards And Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs


The Link Between Gift Cards And Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs

With a gift card clutched in her hands, she scans through the bookstore aisles. She selects her favorites from the shelves, excited to use the gift card she’s received to dive into her favorite past time – a great book.

She walks over to the counter, and the transaction begins. While her books are being bagged, the cashier says to her: “There’s $4.83 remaining on this card for the next time we see you again.”

There isn’t a book in the store sold for at that amount. But regardless, the card carries the amount, and she keeps the gift card buried in her pocket, and debates whether the card is disposable – or whether she’ll remember to use it again.

This single narrative represents millions just like it. According to research conducted by CEB Global, in 2015, unused gift cards in the United States accounted for $973 million. It has left us at Tinua wondering – “what great work could we accomplish by using these dormant gift cards, totaling nearly $1 billion, to fuel charitable organizations?”

Tinua’s mission is to reallocate these unused gift card amounts to fuel social change – to provide basic human needs and humanitarian relief to those around the world. An isolated, individual gift card cannot provide $973 million in relief, neither can a one gift card carrier. Tinua’s mission is sustained through community. Individually, the unused gift card in the narrative above couldn’t purchase anything, but in a community working toward a common mission, it could provide the gift of life. Humans are chemically compelled to interact and influence a community, as proven through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, according to Psychology Today, is a “five level pyramid, with higher needs coming into focus only once lower, more basic needs are met.” Five levels, from the base to the peak, are physiology, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Within the physiology level, food and water are necessities.

The Water Crisis

Maslow’s hierarchy is clear: one cannot operate without food or water. Human survival is dependent on the sufficient distribution of food and water, abundant enough to cease thirst and starving. According to a recent National Geographic article less than one percent of the planet’s water can “fuel and feed”, and 2.5% of all water in the world is safe for human consumption. Developing countries most impacted by water scarcity use available sources of water as universal pools to clean and drink from. The World Health Organization states “1 billion people per year draw their water from unsafe sources and fall victim to water-borne diseases.” While there are numerous charities specializing in innovative engineering technology to provide safe drinking water for those who don’t have access, funding is required to fuel this innovation. 

How could we use the estimated $975 million in unused gift cards to develop and deploy innovative engineering to purify drinking water? We believe it would result in the reduction of preventable water borne diseases and access to water for more and more people around the world.

The Food Crisis

Likewise, malnutrition is also a concern in areas suffering from water scarcity. The slim stream of available water to fuel and feed doesn’t run smoothly in areas where malnutrition is a threat. According to a 2016 World Bank article, “One-third of all child deaths globally are attributed to under-nutrition. Investment in agriculture and rural development to boost food production and nutrition is a priority.” In order to alleviate malnutrition, innovative techniques in food production and distribution need to be integrated throughout ravaged regions.

Thankfully, the nonprofit sector has stepped up. WorldHunger.org states there was a “42 percent reduction in the prevalence of undernourished people between 1990–1992 and 2012–2014.” Malnutrition has decreased while charities campaign against it, but the campaign isn’t over yet. World Hunger also states, “Despite this progress, about one in eight people, or 13.5 percent of the overall population, remain chronically undernourished in these regions.”

We believe by donating funds from unused gift cards, we can bring food to those in need, a symbol of food security. And when we use money from unused gift cards to support nonprofit organizations, the impact continues the campaign to provide people across the globe with food and water.

Working Together

There’s a popular short story where a man finds starfish on ashore and throws them one by one back into the sea. He’s questioned why he does this because he, being one person, cannot possibly throw them all back or solve the issue of why they’re drying and dying. He answers back with “it made a difference to that one.”

Not all of us are on the front lines working with these charities, as the man was on the beach, but through our gift card donations, we can provide crucial financial support, thus sustaining their missions of providing and spreading humanitarian relief.  What if, instead of one person placing starfish back into the sea, there was a mass crowd standing beside him, working toward the same mission?

In that bookstore, $4.83 wasn’t enough to purchase much, but whencollected with others that make up the$975 million in unused gift card funds, the impact potential is astonishing.


The Psychology and Habit of Giving Gift Cards


The Psychology and Habit of Giving Gift Cards

It’s becoming harder and harder to give gifts. It might be simple to click “order” on your Amazon cart, but as your siblings, parents and friends grow older, picking out the right gift for them becomes a maze. That’s why we turned to the easiest, most useful gift we know: gift cards.

How many times have you been brainstorming gift ideas with someone when you heard them say, “Just get them a gift card”? In 2016, 73% of consumers said they were planning on purchasing a gift card this holiday season. Understandable, as gift cards are available at every grocery store, drug store, restaurant, clothing store and nearly any other establishment you could imagine. It’s easier than ever to pick one up at the checkout, load it with spending money and walk away with another gift.

But how did a piece of plastic become a standard for every birthday, holiday and celebratory gift? What’s the psychology behind it?

Another study shows that 85 percent of consumers prefer to receive a $25 gift card over a $30 gift. Not only do purchasers feel at ease giving a gift that’s sure to excite, but consumers receiving gift cards prefer them to more expensive items that they may not have picked out themselves. That’s how we’ve made this piece of plastic the center of our giving: our mindset has shifted from giving gifts to giving control.

Consumers want to know their purchases are exactly what they were looking for, and likewise, gift givers want to make sure everyone’s satisfied. Gift cards can also give consumers a sense of luxury or excitement for a brand they may not let themselves normally make, like a massage, event voucher or nice clothing store. The gift card phenomenon is something that’s not forecasted to go away or die down with all the benefits consumers reap.  

Giving gift cards might be the most effective way to please everyone, but sometimes it can be too much. I’ve seen wallets overflowing with unused gift cards, with the owner candidly laughing, “I’ll never use all these” or “I’ll never make it there to redeem this.” The ideal gift can sometimes become wasteful when it’s forgotten or thrown out. As we showed you before, it’s estimated that more than $130 billion in gift cards were purchased last year, and nearly $1 billion of those gift cards will go unused.

Tinua looks at the multi-billion dollar gift card industry and wants to fill the gaps. While our psychology and gift giving habits have changed, our charitable mindset should stay the same: don’t let dollars go to waste when they can be put toward good causes and organizations in need.



We’re Building An App For You To Donate Unused Gift Cards – And Here’s How You Can Help Right Now

The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates that more than $130 billion in gift cards were purchased in 2016. But as much as we love giving and receiving gift cards, there’s something we haven’t been able to solve – the fact that $1 billion are estimated to go unredeemed each year.

Though that is less than 1% of total annual gift card purchases, it is a staggering amount, and one that we know could change the world if redirected to do so.

We lose them, we forget about them, we save them too long, or we spend them and they have $0.07 left on them. Soon, we will be able to donate our unused gift cards and watch them help those in need around the world.

Tinua is building a digital platform and mobile app that will allow you to donate your unused gift cards toward charity – to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, provide shelter to those in need and more. This is something we’ve shared before, but now, we’re getting closer and closer to that reality as 2017 approaches.

We’re getting ready to start testing and launching our earliest technology in January 2017 and we can’t wait to partner with our first users.

We’re starting a movement of doing good – with you and because of you.

While we approach our first round of testing in January and our subsequent planned launch in the summer, here are a few ways you can help right now:

1. Be mindful of your gift card spending.
$1 billion in gift card funds goes unspent every year. That’s a fact. Knowing that fact, how will you be more mindful about the gift cards you receive? Spend what you want to spend, but don’t waste. If you have a gift card you won’t use, exchange it, give it to someone, or donate to Tinua and watch it make an impact on the world.

2.  Understand the needs around you.
The most fundamental requirement of changing the world is understanding it needs to be changed. Right now, millions around the world are hungry, thirsty, without shelter, without basic healthcare and in need of compassion. These same needs are occurring right in your backyard, in your community. The first and best thing you can do right now is start to be more aware of the needs of humanity. What are the ways you can start to give and make an impact every day? Smile. Give what you can. Help those in need with you time, your compassion and your attention.

3. Send us your gift cards!
Although our technology is not ready for release just yet, you can still send us your gift cards. This will help us test our technology to get us launched to the world and ready for donations sooner, and as soon as our technology is up and running, the amount you donate will be donated toward charitable causes. You can enter in your gift card information here, you can send us pictures and information via email at info@tinua.co, or you can mail them to us at our office, located at 14 4th St SW, Suite 203, Rochester, MN 55904.

4. Sign up to be one of our first users!
Beyond giving your gift cards right now, we want you to be a part of our journey over the coming months and years. By signing up to be one of our first app users, you’ll be one of the insiders on how we plan on changing the world through unused gift cards, and you’ll be able to share your input to make sure we build the best, most engaging giving platform out there. We can’t wait to partner with you – sign up here!

We know 2017 is going to be big. We have giant dreams to make a measurable impact on the world and are ready to move as fast as we can to launch our technology and start making a difference. Your unused gift cards are not meaningless, so remember this holiday season and into the New Year, Tinua is here to take what you no longer need and start a movement of doing good. 


The Tinua Story: A Letter From Our Founder


The Tinua Story: A Letter From Our Founder

You’ve been there. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. The moment we realize we have a gift card that is of no use to us anymore. Whether you’ve bought as many lattes at Starbucks with your gift card as possible and now have $0.10 left, or whether you’ve been gifted a $25 gift card to a restaurant you hate. We’ve all found ourselves in this situation, and studies have shown that we generally make similar decisions: we forget about these gift cards, we lose them, or we throw them away.

We also know that these decisions have amounted to over $40 billion in the last 10 years, all comprised of funds that we’ve forgotten about or discarded.

The gift card industry exceeded $120 billion last year, and although the number of gift cards that go unspent has varied between $1 billion some years, up as high as $4 billion unspent in others, this is still an incredibly high amount – especially when it is our unused, our unspent, and our wasted funds.

I was in this situation when the idea came to me.

I had been given a $5 Starbucks gift card during the Holidays from a coworker. I waited in line, purchased a vanilla latte that was $4.83 with tax, leaving me $0.17 leftover. Just as I usually do in this situation, I walked out of the store and threw the $0.17 gift card in the trash.

I’m still not sure what it was about that day, but it hit me for the first time – “How many times have I done this? And I wonder how many times other people have done this?”

As someone who has worked extensively with and for the nonprofit sector, I began to think about the immense amount of need in the world…and how I had just thrown money away.

I knew it was more complicated than that, but it got me thinking. And that thinking led to research, the same research that led me to discovering that since 2006, as much as $40 billion has gone unspent – unused and unwanted gift cards forgotten about or thrown away.

I knew there had to be a better way, and from there, Tinua was born.

Today, after a year of strategizing, researching and brainstorming, our small (but amazing) team of 5 has turned into a technology startup company that is quickly moving towards the development of a solution – the answer to the problem of what to do with all of these wasted gift cards.

Our solution is simple: we’re developing a digital platform and mobile application that will allow users to give their unused gift card funds towards charitable causes that meet the needs of humanity. We’re rallying our efforts specifically around the concept of providing basic human necessities – food, water, safety and shelter, basic healthcare, disaster relief.  We believe that working together, as consumers, with the nonprofit and for profit sectors, we can truly make change happen.

We want to start a movement of doing good through the simple act of generosity.

Tinua’s solution allows you to use and spend your gift cards as you wish, but when you have an amount that is no longer of value to you, Tinua’s platform will allow you to give the rest away while being mindful of how seemingly insignificant funds become significant when we work together. You can take what you no longer need and give it to those in need – and from there, you’ll see the impact.

At the push of a button, you can be an #everydaygiver to mobilize waste towards bettering the world. It will be that simple.

We’ll also be delivering articles, news, videos and more so you’re always updated on what happens after you click the button and donate all or part of a gift card. As a company, one of our primary values is transparency. We want to keep you informed about the impact your generosity is having on the world. And that is a promise we’ll live up to.

On top of that, we’ll be partnering with some of the best nonprofits who have been recognized for their work. We’re looking for initiatives and nonprofits that are getting things done. The organizations that are living up to their mission and are making real change happen around the world. We want to partner with the best and want to push nonprofits to be better – to value impact over overhead, to pursue innovative efforts, and to truly pursue and accomplish the dream of making this world a better, safer, and healthier place for everyone.

Because of our partnership with the nonprofit sector, you’ll be able to receive tax receipts for your donations. Even better!

We’re hoping to launch our beta-version for testing in December 1, 2016. If you wish to be one of our first users, please sign up here.

Thank you for believing in our mission. We are truly honored to be doing this work and to finally share our vision with the world. We look forward for the weeks, months and years to come, and we believe that in working together, we can leverage technology and innovation to make a measurable impact on the world.

Tori Utley
Founder & CEO