Impact Engine’s Inaugural Class: Raise5

by: Shayan Nahrvar

Online fundraising has been popular for years, but we felt that there was a lot of untapped creative potential that traditional platforms were missing. Most online fundraising platforms are a digital adaptation of the traditional methods, where charities and individuals create fundraising events and enlist others to donate. While this is a tried-and-true model, we wanted to build a company that added more flexibility to the model by providing people with a way to do the work or hobbies they love while supporting the causes they care about, on their own terms. After all, philanthropy isn’t just for billionaires.

So, what do we do?

So, we created Raise5 – an online fundraising and micro-volunteering platform that creates opportunities for regular people to be philanthropists and support the causes they care about in ways that suit their lifestyles, budgets, and interests. Raise5 enables a community of service donors, buyers, and non-profit groups to connect in mutually beneficial ways. Anyone can  join the Raise5 marketplace and post a service in order to raise money for the charity of his or her choice. For instance, a designer can choose to fundraise for Doctors Without Borders by offering to design logos. Other community members and visitors can pay for this service, which will go directly to Doctors Without Borders.

This platform provides value for service providers who want to practice their trade, support their causes, or find potential customers. It also provides value for buyers who want to purchase a great service at a great price, as well as for charities who receive additional funds while growing their base of supporters to include talented and skilled people from the Raise5 community. In short, Raise5 empowers people to make a difference by using their own talents, passions, and hobbies.

Why Raise5 Matters

We wanted to start a business with a core focus on giving back, and not just as a side initiative or PR campaign – a business that generated value for both our clients and the broader community.  We were originally inspired by the success of small online service marketplaces. We wanted to prove that business and philanthropy can completely merge to successfully create positive social change. We were also inspired by the crowdfunding sector, which showed how the world’s newfound connectedness could be used to allow people to contribute small amounts individually, ultimately working to kickstart something big together.

We wanted to leverage this potential because, while at an individual level small amounts may not seem substantial, collectively they can go a long way to determining how we reshape our world. Raise5 has been community-oriented from the very beginning. Our community members decide what issues and causes are important to them and are able to pursue meaningful change in ways suited to their own unique set of skills, passions, and needs. This is very important to us because we believe that people realize their greatest potential when driven by their passions. And we need the freedom to pursue what excites us most in order to nurture and grow our passions and positively impact the world around us.

The Challenges

One of the biggest challenges we have faced so far has been getting the word out about Raise5 and shifting people’s thinking to see the potential for this kind of fundraising model. Being innovative is great because you’re the only one out there doing what you do, but it’s also difficult because people aren’t used to what you’re doing. Luckily, we have a strong community of users who jumped right on board from from the beginning and who participate on the Raise5 marketplace regularly. As an online platform, we have really been able to take advantage of how easy social media makes word-of-mouth networking, and so our community is growing every day. We are always impressed with the talents and skills of the members and some of the amazing fundraising campaigns they’re able to run just by doing what they love.

One of the other big challenges we face in this digital age is helping people connect their actions on Raise5 with real-world results. In the for-profit sector, money is exchanged for goods and services, and in the non-profit sector, money is exchanged for an opportunity to create positive social change and alleviate suffering. And so in an age where we are no longer directly connected to those we are helping, maintaining the engagement of our donors and supporters will require us to make sure that they know what kind of impact their actions have on the world. On the Raise5 platform, we are continuously working on ways to help our community realize the impact they are having. But, this will inevitably remain an ongoing challenge given the structure of our online platform.

Joining Impact Engine

We are super excited about being involved in the Impact Engine throughout the fall. We’re looking to discover new ways to grow the Raise5 community, establish new partnerships, expand our knowledge of legal and accounting issues that could impact our growth potential, and enhance our in-house web development and project management capacities. We’re so inspired by Impact Engine’s talented staff and mentors, along with the opportunity to engage and collaborate with an amazing group of entrepreneurs in the program. And, we’re excited to craft the future of Raise5 as we move through the accelerator program.

* This article is the fourth profile within an eight-part series, featuring the eight startup companies from Impact Engine’s inaugural cohort. Impact Engine is a 12-week accelerator program that supports for-profit businesses making the world a better place. *

About the author Shayan Nahrvar @Technori
Shayan is a Co-founder of Raise5. He believes that social responsibility must be weaved into the fabric of every business. Having worked in a corporate environment where the integrity of people are marginalized and profit is hailed king, Shayan knows first hand the effect that this culture has on the employees as well as the general public. This experience, in addition to his passion for computer programming, taking risks, and innovating is what keeps Shayan passionate about Raise5.

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