Posted: June 01, 2012
Tech startup: iGivefirst Inc.Eric Peterson
Company: iGivefirst Inc.
INITIAL LIGHT BULB Sharif Youssef spent 15 years in technology, consulting for firms like eBay, Amazon and Citigroup, before deciding to focus on philanthropy and start charity-centric iGivefirst.
“The very definition of philanthropy is the love of humanity,” Youssef says. “I realized there was a total disregard for humanity in corporate America.”
To this end, iGivefirst offers a means for nonprofits to raise money online. “We created a ‘give’ button,” Youssef says. “It sits right next to ‘share’ and ‘tweet.’”
Youssef is CEO of the seven-employee company. He envisioned iGivefirst as a nonprofit before settling on “a hybrid model” that includes both a 501(c)3 charitable fund and a for-profit company.
IN A NUTSHELL “There isn’t a trustworthy giving brand online, and that’s what we aspire to be,” Youssef says. “The goal of iGivefirst is to increase charity worldwide and give youth an easy way to donate online without fear of fraud.”
With the “give” button next to relevant stories, iGivefirst puts a fundraising vehicle in the best possible spot. “Emotion leads to action,” Youssef says. “We wanted to take searching out of the process.” Donors simply click and get a list of 10 relevant nonprofits; one more click and they are donating to a cause. iGivefirst’s technology searches the article text and matches it to relevant charities.
Donations go to the iGivefirst Charitable Fund (the aforementioned 501(c)3), which passes them on to the charity of the donor’s choice, minus 8.5 percent that goes to iGivefirst Inc. Noting that even the most efficient charities usually spend more than 10 percent of their budgets on administration and fundraising, Youssef says iGivefirst is “increasing the efficiency for the most efficient nonprofits by about 40 percent.”
“Making it as simple to give as possible, that’s the trend and where the opportunity lies,” says Connie Rule, president and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Outward Bound School in Denver, which signed with iGivefirst in April. “The notion of passive fundraising is very intriguing for us.”
Rule says iGivefirst’s ability to connect through a relevant news story makes it “more natural and organic” than traditional active fundraising. “It touches hearts when people are in the moment,” she says.
THE MARKET According to Giving USA, philanthropic donations totaled nearly $350 billion in the U.S. last year, three-quarters of it from individuals, but only about 8 percent was donated online. “Millennials and Generation X, we don’t have checks,” Youssef says. “To reach this audience, you have to go online.”
Youssef says iGivefirst would have helped boost the fundraising for the Haiti earthquake by several multiples; text donations are limited to $10, while online donations average $60.
FINANCING Youssef says iGivefirst’s launch was “completely bootstrapped” by him and the company’s employees, who have yet to collect a salary to date.
where Denver | FOUNDED 2010 | web www.igivefirst.com
“Starting the company, I realized fundraising was a pretty broken process. I realized charities were really good at raising awareness for their cause, but they weren’t businesspeople and they definitely weren’t technologists.” – iGivefirst CEO and founder Sharif Youssef
Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com