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socialvestMost entrepreneurs (and investors) like to talk about how their startups are a force for good. Mostly, that’s connected to some airy mission statement like “trying to make the world a more open place,” but once in a while, companies have more direct plans to benefit humankind.

The latest company in this vein SocialVest, a site whose users can shop and help charity organizations at the same time. The Atlanta startup, which is opening to the public today, stands out both because it’s easy to use and because it gives users a lot of control over the causes they support.

When users sign up with SocialVest, they register their credit cards on the site. Then, whenever they make a purchase at the website or physical store of a partner retailer (there are more than 500, including Target, Macy’s, and Best Buy), they’ll receive a rebate to their SocialVest account of between 0.5 and 10 percent. That money can be donated to any registered nonprofit — SocialVest distributes the money using the Network for Good service.

Even if users don’t want to register their card with SocialVest, they can earn money for charity by shopping on the SocialVest site, or using the SocialVest browser toolbar.

Founder and chief executive Adam Ross said SocialVest could be compared to online charity malls, where users can shop to support specific charities. But SocialVest sounds more ambitious, since it’s not limited to the online world, much less a specific website.

Why are big name retailers partnering with a relatively unknown startup? Ross said it’s a low-risk proposition for them, since they only pay SocialVest for purchases from the site’s users. SocialVest is also the registered credit card partner for Causes, the Facebook application that allows users to show support for and donate to do-good organizations.

The company has raised $500,000 in angel funding and is preparing to raise another round of about $1.5 million.

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