About three months ago I went to a charity event with one of my good friends. There were about 60 people in the audience and the speaker asked by a show of hands, how many people donated to charities. About seven people raised their hands. She then asked how many people would like to donate to charities, and every single person put their hand up.
This (in part) is the task that the founders of Funderdog are trying to tackle. In the words of Maxime (1/2 of the Funderdog team), the goal of Funderdog is to create a donation portal catering specifically to non-profits to up their fundraising efforts.
I met with the Funderdog boys, Max Malet-Dupont and Thomas Deatherage, on a cloudy Friday afternoon in the East Village. Disclaimer: I’ve known each of them for about two and a half years, so at first it was a little awkward to be in such a formal setting. But after getting over the weirdness of the phone recording them, we got underway.
20something: So start from the very beginning.
Thomas Deatherage: We meet in 2015 at our former company, and like all friendships, it started over some beers.
Max Malet-Dupont: Yea at first we had more just common interests and similar thoughts about what we wanted to do. We brainstormed a lot about different ideas and things we could do to contribute to good causes, especially because at my prior position I worked at a fundraising agency.
TD: Online funding seemed super outdated and we knew there was a better way to go about it.
MD: We wanted something appealing to millennial’s — initially we tested a lot of ideas and decided on how to make donation appealing to younger generations. There is a need for a technological shift in the nonprofit world. There’s lots of outdated tech that’s not secure, not working and not mobile responsive.
How did you finally do it?
TD: I spent three years saving a lot of money and then one year researching and brainstorming. Perhaps this was too slow but time will only tell. There was definitely a lot of stress leaving my former job, which was super cozy. I had a salary, great social circle.
MD: We had just quit and sat on the idea for a while, brainstormed and had a lot of outside of work quick chats and meet-ups about it before we left. We developed an idea, did lots of research and coded basic prototypes of what we thought we wanted, then we just did it.
TD: Yea it was super slow, then kind of all happened very quickly at once.
So why focus on nonprofits?
TD: The needs of nonprofits are super basic.
MD: A lot of nonprofits weren’t even live on the internet, and a lot of them don’t even have websites that are functioning or forms that work.
TD: We wanted to create a well-programed way to receive money and track it. A basic concept that existed in the for-profit world, but seemed non-existent to the nonprofit world except for the upper tier.
MD: It’s about bringing nonprofits up to speed with the current most used tech. These charities look up to charity water as the shining star because their forms are pretty, easy and simple to use. We wanted to bring this technology to nonprofits no matter where you are in the scale of fundraising.
TD: For example, if you need a quick website to collect donations, like if you’re a church and your roof caves in and you need to collect donations for a spur of the moment thing like that, you can have it up and running in minutes.
MD: Being able to create a fundraising page should be simple and not create any stress. We’re trying to help bring mid- and small nonprofits up to speed tech wise. That’s the way we do through our platform, even with our payment structure, we don’t do up front subscriptions.
TD: Yes, most existing solutions do this, they take money upfront and we’re sort of “we only make money if you make money”
What are some struggles you’ve faced in creating Funderdog?
MD: The biggest struggle is trying to define what are you, a fun tech company, or nonprofit, or social media? Knowing exactly who you are, especially when speaking to people that want to invest in you. I think our answer to that is a social financial technology provider. We’re sort of in the middle — that’s why we quit our jobs, because creating a working social business venture with an impact is not mutually exclusive with profiting from it. A company that makes a social impact and a great business can be the same.
So what are you hoping to accomplish, besides success, fame, fortune?
TD: I want it to become basically one stop shop for nonprofits online needs, website building, fundraising, peer-to-peer pages, and to do it in a way that’s not stress inducing. We don’t want to be clunky; we want to be something that anyone can use.
MD: And of course we’re developing a landing page builder. Before you get donors on your donation form, you need to create a favorable pre-donation experience. Oftentimes it comes with a branded, well conceived, conversion focused landing page or website. Once you get visitors or potential donors on your donation form, it needs to be frictionless and dead simple. Then, once a donor becomes a donor and contributes to your cause you need to create a great post-donation experience/relationship. We offer a simple DIY drag and drop builder for nonprofits in need for mobile responsive sites, landing pages, campaign pages that are Google preferred (pre-donation experience).
What’s your advice to other entrepreneurs?
MD: Just try, step out of your comfort zone you can’t listen too much to older people who have more experience than you. Filter your advice for sure because people project their own fears. A lot of people’s take is ‘I’ve never launched my own company so I’ll tell you my fears about it, you’re a young crazy ass dude, quitting a comfortable job while trying to make some idea happen starting from scratch.’ At some point you have to do it, try it, don’t be afraid to fail or succeed.
TD: Just try to create something that’s original, and provides value for someone else – textbook definition, it’s simple and understandable
MD: Being an entrepreneur, I think it’s a mindset, a state of mind. I mean, we’re not stupid. I know there’s going to be road bumps and challenges, but what’s the old saying? ‘You never know if you don’t try.’ You have you be optimistic enough to believe in yourself, your idea, and your partner to go out there and try.