whatCharity.com is a charity-tech start-up with a big mission: to create a platform to match companies, individual donors and volunteers effectively with charities. We wish to level the playing field and put each charity on a map so that the public is able to find and locate the right charity to support.
There are several reasons for us to be a for-profit company (although we are not projecting profit for some time). The main reason for this is that we are working hard on behalf of all charities and we also host grant opportunities with a simple, digital process for applications – saving charities time and money. For us it is all about user experience and we are very results driven – everything you would expect from a partner platform!
Having worked in the charity sector for many years, I knew that I had the right understanding of what charities most need and the gaps in the market to help charities achieve their goals and improve society. That is how whatcharity.com came to life.
Passion and money do not go hand in hand
As the founder of this start-up, I have now committed myself full time to the venture. Although the company was only funded two years ago, it has been a four year journey.
I truly believe in my vision to create a one-stop-shop for all charitable activities. The impact of a centralised, automated matchmaking service could have a tremendous effect on the efficiency of the sector. This vision underpins everything we do at whatCharity. I don’t think i’m alone either. I know that many charity founders have worked for their causes for years before being actively funded. Our passion to make a difference and believe in our own theory of change is what keeps us going. So, I have enormous respect for all of you for all your efforts!
We need investment, just as you need grants
Even when you get your first lot of funding, seeking further investment is a constant task. Not many start-ups can charge their customers right from the beginning and become profitable overnight – it takes time, effort and innovation.
Our social impact platform relies on investments from individual and corporate investors who share our passion to deliver a digital solution to matching the public with charities. The idea that investors only look to make money is a misconception. Social impact investors are seeking to support sustainably viable projects as much as they are looking to get their money back.
Please see below for a short clip of our lead investor Anna Kotsalo-Mustonen, on why she has invested in whatCharity.com:
All investors want evidence that a product will work for all its users. It needs to serve a purpose and be provable with traction indicators.
Traction is essential for impact
Traction is what start-ups need to demonstrate their impact to investors, just as charities have to show the impact that fundraising makes to donors. whatCharity has done lots of work to try to build an attractive charity community, so that companies offering grants and volunteers wanting to help charities can find our site easily in search.
However, a challenge for us to overcome is that charities want to see immediate results to showcase why our site is beneficial for them. Early adopters on the other hand understand that for the site to reach its full potential we need the charities to come on board. It’s a true ‘chicken and an egg’ situation. We can’t show our impact to investors if we don’t have the charities engaged in the first instance. In the same way, charities cannot demonstrate the impact of their work to grant makers and donors before being fully funded.
Test and learn
Charities are constantly innovating new ways to tackle world-class and local problems. As you know, no project was born perfect. Start-ups can only survive and find ways to attract their users in the long run by innovating, testing, taking feedback and tweaking the service. This requires more than just the tech, but also showing interest in what our customers have to say. Charities too need to constantly work with their beneficiaries and learn from the feedback and outcomes. Through our whatCharity workshops, training events, surveys and active customer service, we remain alert to what we can do better and what is actually needed.
If you would like to read more about my experience of testing and learning, check out my blog on how I got my job.
One of my biggest learnings is that whatCharity does not work in silo. It is a joint-venture. Charities and companies all work together, all are interconnected. In order to make things happen, I invite all charities to join our community. The more our charities engage and are active, the more donors and volunteers are attracted. This is the law of platform attraction. Please join us on this exciting journey.
For more on how a whatCharity profile could benefit your charity, please see our informative page here. For any questions at all, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Tiia Sammallahti, CEO of whatCharity.com