Online Charity Fundraising with Tom Maitland.
In this podcast, we had the opportunity to chat with the CEO and founder of Raisely - Tom Maitland.
- Tom Maitland
- May 13 2022
Tom Molyneux: Hello and welcome to Episode 19 of the Make Things Better podcast. Today, I'm joined by Tom Maitland, CEO and founder of Raisely. So welcome on the show, Tom. How are you doing today?
Tom Maitland: Thanks Tom. I'm good. I'm good. I'm doing well.
It's the end of my day here over in Melbourne. So yeah. Excited to be on.
Tom Molyneux: Yeah. Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on. I really appreciate you joining us. And we are really excited to be part of the Raisely Partner program.
So do you want to start off by telling us a little bit about your background and how you got into building Raisely?
Tom Maitland: Yeah. So, ever since school, I've been someone who's been drawn to the for good or for purpose space and was a big nerd in school.
And I was part of an organization here called UN Youth. It's essentially like a youth club dedicated to the UN. And I think that's probably peak nerd really, but I've always been interested in international development and ways that we can improve the world.
But, I did communications at uni and studied advertising, which essentially the path that you go into is to make TV ads at a big company like Leo Burnett or Saatchi and I got a job in uni as a digital marketer I was writing blog posts and placing ads and building basic web pages and those kinds of things.
And we had some really bad clients. We had folks like ambulance chasers and loan sharks and those kinds of things, and some which were just boring, like a garage doors company. And I lasted a year and I said, 'Look, this isn't the kind of thing that I want to spend my time doing.'
I was doing a bunch of volunteering at the time, and I found an agency that worked just with non-profits and charities. And I was self-taught with web development. I kind of learned on a very hot day when my sister was playing softball and it was like 40 degrees out.
And I was like, 'Nah I'm going to stay inside.' And so I pulled out my laptop and I opened up W3Schools and learnt HTML and I've been learning ever since. And so obviously I got myself to a point where I was able to get this job.
And so I started there and started building websites and learning WordPress, learning HTML, CSS, all of these programing languages that you need to build tech. And that was great. And quickly grew up into that and quickly felt at home.
We were working with amazing organizations. Organizations solving world poverty, organizations that just you'd never dream of working with, from Greenpeace through to the UN, through to Amnesty International, WWF we worked with, these incredible internationally known brands, and more and more we were kind of seeing that these charities that we were helping didn't have much digital capability.
And they're also struggling because their classic sources of revenue, which were letters, letters and face to face fundraisers, if you have ever been walking down a street and someone's come up to you and said, 'Hey, do you want to donate to this charity?' those were their main sources of revenue.
And of course, being a millennial and someone who lived online, it was like obviously the opportunities are online for charities to grow, but charities didn't know how to do it because it was hard. The tech was expensive.
You had to be an expert at it. And folks in charities are trying to wear ten hats already, like we've got marketers who are also fundraisers, who are also salespeople who are also like compliance. And we had a few charities paying us to build donation forms through to full peer-to-peer campaigns and paying good money that they could be spending on their campaign otherwise.
And so we said, look, we're building this too many times, and we decided to make it into a product. And originally we built it as an API and thought that all these other developers working for charities are going to be able to use that API and it's going to save everyone a lot of time, but then it turns out a whole bunch of charities can't afford developers, of course.
And, so then we started to build it as a product that you could use yourself, that you could create a fundraising campaign on, you could brand it, you'd own all of the data, and you could build a really beautiful digital experience, everything from donations and regular donations through to big peer-to-peer campaigns and challenges. And we did that. And that was kind of when it took off and it is the Raisely that it is today.
Of course there's been so much that's changed since that first version. But a self-service platform that's flexible, that helps charities bring their fundraising ideas to life so that they're able to grow online fundraising and improve the wellbeing of people and planet is the DNA of our company.
And that's kind of what it was when we founded it back in 2016 and is what it is today in 2022. It's a long, long time, but we've raised 250 million so far for charities globally, it's pretty cool.
I still remember when we raised ten.
Tom Molyneux: Yeah I think that's a really incredible achievement and it kind of seems like a natural progression for charities to start to sort of improve their fundraising options online in particular. Did you envisage it sort of growing so much when you started building it back in 2016?
Tom Maitland: We had a we had a big hairy goal of $1,000,000,000. We wanted to raise $1,000,000,000 by 2025. We've had that goal set since about 2017, and we're now over a quarter of the way there. So we thought it would be big.
We knew the opportunity was huge. And at the time, the companies and the products servicing the sector were really clunky and old and expensive and charging huge amounts of money. And so we thought it should be big.
I don't think we ever fully thought that it would grow like it grew. And it's just weird. Like as a founder, you see it at its smallest state. And so, like, I remember looking at a thing on our screen.
We had like a dashboard up on a big screen that showed us how much we raised because that's what we measure first, is how much we raise. And it was coming up to 10 million. And it was too slow, we're all sitting there.
We had a beer and we're waiting for it to cross over. It was too slow. And so I made the donation of like 50 bucks to on of our customers just to get it over the line. And now we've stopped celebrating the 10 million increments because they just happen too often.
So yeah, we thought it would be big, but it is kind of remarkable how your perception changes as you grow as well. But, we're very lucky that so many charities trust it today.
Tom Molyneux: Yeah, and it is a really great platform.
Obviously we've implemented a lot of it into sort of our recent projects and that's been really great so far. What do you think the next increment will be where you do consider whipping out a beer to sort of celebrate?
Tom Maitland@ So I mean it's kind of hundreds of millions now. We celebrate it at 250, quarter of a billion. But yeah, I mean, the next milestone is probably 300. But I think I think it's 100 million intervals, which is, I mean, lore of big numbers.
It's just huge. It's just an immense amount of money that charities are raising through the platform. And it shows a lot of maturity in the sector and a lot of change since we started. But yeah, I think that might be the next beer or maybe it'll be a bit of a big celebration when we get to half a billion.
Tom Molyneux: Yeah, yeah, that's great. And so who are some of the big charities that are using Raisely then?
Tom Maitland: Yeah, it's a bit of a range. So Concern Worldwide in the UK and Ireland use Raisely. Alzheimer Scotland are one of our big ones out there. And then we run a campaign with Concern called ration challenge that's done really well, fundraisers for Syrian refugees, but internationally we work with organizations like Greenpeace. The UN or UN Crisis Relief, which is run by UNHCR, has fundraised a whole lot of money for the war in Ukraine recently and plenty of disasters and emergencies before that.
We work with children's charities in Australia like Starlight Children's Foundation, a variety so like guide dogs in Ireland and in Australia. Save the Children and ActionAid are also charities that we work with in Australia and overseas.
And so yeah it's a real mix. We're kind of really proud that we can support progressive organizations, organizations fighting for equality, through to health organizations doing important research. Through to the environment, so it's a bit of a mix.
Tom Molyneux: Yeah. And how easy is it for a charity to get started using Raisely as their fundraising platform?
Tom Maitland: We used to say that it would take a charity 4 minutes to build your next campaign. And we got the four minutes because we timed it, in terms of signing up and getting the campaign up and adding your brand and being ready to go.
Obviously, that was a slick marketing line. It can take moments. I've seen charities launch campaigns in 30 minutes for an emergency appeal where they're just creating a page, they're uploading their photos and adding their text.
Of course, a more complex campaign takes more time, like a peer-to-peer campaign with lots of pages that you need to build out. It might take a few days, but it's a far cry from the three months, four months and the $100,000 that people had to pay beforehand.
So it really is quite quick. It's days, not weeks. If you're quick and and you've got all your content ready and your campaign content and all of that kind of good stuff too.
Tom Molyneux: Yeah. So it's quick and quite cost effective as well, of course.
Do you want to tell us a little bit about how it's available so like cheaply, is it free right?
Tom Maitland: Yeah, so it's free for charities. And so what we do is we often make the tech platform free to everyone.
And how we make our money is we ask donors to add a small, additional contribution on top of their donation. And if they add that contribution, that goes to us to fund the product, if they don't, then we don't charge anything.
So the charity only pays the stripe fee, so stripe's a payment processor, they charge credit cards and we use PayPal as well. So that varies per country, but it's really as cheap as you get in terms of those fees, which is great because it means that charities don't need to pay.
Like there are other platforms that might charge £3,000 or $5,000 to get a campaign set up and running. And that's just a set up charge before you start actually using the tools. And it's zero with us and that's worked out well.
We find that 60 to 70% of people tick the box to pay that additional contribution. And that means that it's a viable revenue stream for us to hire engineers, pay for hosting, pay for support, pay for all of the things that people love about Raisely and need in order to have a secure, performant, robust fundraising platform.
Tom Molyneux: Yeah, it's a brilliant concept and I think it really removes a lot of the barriers that charities could face in terms of getting started online. What other benefits and what we really like differentiates Raisely from other fundraising platforms.
Tom Maitland: Yeah, the big thing that stands out for Raisely when you compare it, is flexibility and that comes in a few forms and it really depends on what you're comparing it against. But when we say flexibility, we mean the ability for you as a charity to bring all of your fundraising to Raisely.
It's an all in one solution and also being able to customize that to suit your charity, your brand, your story and your campaign concepts. For me, one of the biggest things that the sector needs to grow online fundraising and to grow philanthropy as a whole and therefore improve the wellbeing of people and the planet is innovation.
And too long, technology has underserved charities in a way that stifles innovation. Too many bad ideas have been shut down by 'Oh the platform doesn't support it, or it's too hard, or it's going to cost too much money or its going to take too much time.'
And so flexibility is the ability for everyone, no matter your digital skills or your budget or the size of your charity, to try innovative, new, different campaigns. And that's not something you get with JustGiving or with other other fundraising platforms that you see either in the UK or internationally.
Tom Molyneux: Yeah. And I guess, your sort of experience in the past working with charities on this. Has that kind of contributed to your drive to innovate and improve even further because you've seen the other side of how it's been in the past?
Tom Maitland: Oh, for sure. I mean the fact that still today for a lot of charities letters in the postal service are still representing a large portion of revenue. And, of course, charities are going to do it because it's still continues to work.
But the rest of us who do use the Internet really need to step up. And how we do that, I think, is by making really great online experiences for charities. I mean, when we started it, like web was still maturing.
It certainly wasn't as sophisticated as it is today. I'm not going to say that the Web was new in the early 2010's, but I think that I think more and more charities are getting better. Obviously, through COVID, there was the most rapid digital transformation that we've seen in the sector, and that was in multiple sectors as well.
So things are getting better. But I certainly think like we need to up the game and we need to push that innovation and we want to do it. That's the focus for us, trying to push out new features and come up with new ideas.
But I don't want Raisely to be the only place that innovation can happen in the charity sector because we're a team of like 35. That's not scale. We really need innovation happening in every single charity and those ideas that are successful being shared with the whole sector.
I mean, we've seen some really cool campaigns built on the platform that have never been built before. I mean, virtual challenges were really a new thing only a few years ago where you connect your fitness tracker and you run a virtual marathon and you raise money for friends and family, and now they're really commonplace.
And that's the kind of innovation that we need to see in the future to keep the sector thriving. I think.
Tom Molyneux: Yeah, definitely. And I think those challenges are very, very popular, they are something that I see all the time.
And, you know, I've done some myself. Absolutely.
Tom Maitland: everyone does them now, it's great.
Tom Molyneux: Yeah, exactly. What other things can charities do to improve their fundraising online?
Tom Maitland: I mean, the best thing that any charity should do is get the fundamentals right.
And so that is really good data management and understanding who your donors are, so making sure you've got a great donation form. So you need an optimized donation form. It shouldn't look like you're filling out like a voter enrollment or census or anything like that.
Too many donation forms still look like. It needs to be inspiring and it needs to be quick and it needs to feel like you're purchasing something from your favorite online store.
You need to get a great regular giving program, and that means branding it, communicating with your regular givers, reporting back on your impact, thanking them, encouraging them to bring their community along.
And if you're not already, you need to be doing peer-to-peer fundraising or at least trying it.
And that is trying a signature events, so trying a peer-to-peer campaign that is relevant and tied to your cause. And so the classic example is if I'm a cancer charity, obviously if I get cancer, I probably go through chemotherapy and I lose my hair and so I shave my hair for cancer.
And that's something that others can do to show solidarity with the cause. I've seen great ideas like dog walks for pet charities or climb a virtual Everest because we're a charity that supports Sherpas in Nepal, that kind of connection is essential.
But under all of that, charities really need to know who their donors are and how to ask them and actually ask from time to time. So we know that your donors have given a bit in the past, so you know what they're interested in.
You've got a list somewhere that you're storing and you're organizing. It's just so essential that under all of that, that people are actually being talked to and communicated with in a way that is personal and understands their context and isn't just blasting stuff at them, which is kind of the easy way out, I think sometimes.
Tom Molyneux: So do you think it's quite important for a charity to create a bit of a relationship with their donors then?
Tom Maitland: Absolutely, in the same way that like you think of the best shops that you buy from and your have a relationship with them.
They might send you specials. Let's say you're you're interested in men's clothing. They're probably not going to send you a lot of emails about women's clothing and you start to see lots of different touchpoints and lots of different experiences of that brand, you start to maybe even align your identity a little bit with that brand over time and charities are brands.
Brands that promise impact and do have impact.
But yeah, absolutely. Like you can't just accept a donation and then not talk to that person and then ask them for another donation in a year, you need to build up your brand with that person so that when you ask they might be willing to give more, or they're more likely to at least give again.
Tom Molyneux: Yeah, definitely that makes a lot of sense. So what's your vision for Raisely at this point?
Tom Maitland: Yeah, I mean beyond trying to raise $1,000,000,000 by 2025, our vision is to make it easy for anyone to bring a fundraising idea to life. And that means looking forward and thinking about all of the ways that you can or you should be able to to do fundraising, like what are the parts of society or parts of the Internet that we can make more generous and add philanthropy to?
What are the kind of digital experiences that we can present in the future that are going to inspire and engage donors to give and so that's what we need to tackle next.
And we need to be able to offer that platform to millions of charities all over the world. There's something like, well, there's 50,000 charities in Australia, one and a half million in the US, 80,000 in Canada. I don't know the number for the UK off the top of my head, but it will be up around there as well.
The number of charities in the world is immense and all of those charities need tech like this in order to thrive online and in an online first world that we're very rapidly going into.
And so, yeah, our vision is to make it so that all of those charities can access these tools, bring their fundraising ideas to life. And we've got a platform that can service millions across the world.
Tom Molyneux: Yeah, absolutely. It's a great vision, it's a great goal. And I really hope you do achieve that and I'm sure you will.
Tom Maitland: Thanks.
Tom Molyneux: My final question is a little bit different really, but I think you're a great person to ask this because you are already making a big difference and it is what can people do to make things better? And you can interpret this however you like.
Tom Maitland: It's a broad question. I think the way I have to answer it is from this impact perspective that I live and breathe in essentially, which is that I think people need to put the world and the well-being of the world first.
And that should be in everything that we do. It should be in the companies that we build and the ethics that they hold. I think I firmly believe and this is demonstrated in Raisely is that business can be a force for good and of itself, but also individually, that all of our outputs need to be better.
And I think a lot of that can be done by challenging the structures that got us here in the first place. Economic growth at all costs is, of course, one of the biggest ones that is fueling the climate crisis.
And so I think to make things better, we can be a little less greedy, a little bit more considerate of the environment and the world that we live in, and try to design a society that lets us live with our planet and live with each other instead of this kind of hyper competitive capitalist world that we've inherited that's got us kind of here today.
But look, that's a hell of a lofty statement. So in terms of like how you actually do that day to day. I think it's a challenge. I mean, we're trying to do it at Raisely with being a B corp, and carbon neutral.
We're starting a four day workweek trial now, which is all about putting our our people first and designing a work structure that hopefully is for knowledge workers and for people who are really excited about bringing their brains and their skills to work.
And we're using our company to try to make it a force for good in the world and I think anyone can do that and any company, any individual can make it better.
Tom Molyneux: I think that's a great answer. Yeah, if everyone can just kind of take a step back and go, what's the point in any of this, where are we actually going with this?
I think that will definitely make the world a bit better. And I think what you are doing at Raisely is like super inspiring to me. So thanks again for coming on the podcast. Where can people find yourself on social media or online?
Tom Maitland: Yes, so you can find me on Twitter at @TomMaitland on Twitter, and you can find me at Tom Maitland on LinkedIn. If you search for Tom Maitland, you can catch me there. They're probably the main places.
Tom Molyneux: Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I really appreciate your time. And I hope anyone watching or listening has enjoyed the podcast and I hope you have a great rest of your day.
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