CauseVox offers a unique combination of online tools to nonprofits. It acts as a website building Content-Management System (CMS), a social-media platform with built in connections to a nonprofit’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube… accounts, and a system to track donors’s contact information and their relations with your organization (for example, how much they have given over time). Though other developers have built each of these modules, CauseVox is the first to bring them together precisely to give smaller and mid-sized organizations the opportunity to reach online audiences with the same robust tools usually available only to their larger brethren.
What makes CauseVox unique in the online outreach candy store already available to nonprofits is that its founders, Rob Wu and Jefferson Chang, sought integration of tools that were also easy for those without dedicated tech departments. Rob sat down with us to discuss how CauseVox has helped nonprofits utilize online tools that usually come in many complicated packages and too-numerous-to-comprehend flavors.
“We’re filling the niche of helping nonprofits develop usable, customizable, and beautiful campaigns. Nonprofits want something that can take care of specific needs over a long time. We started off by running peer-to-peer campaigns, then we expanded that idea and platform to build more comprehensive fundraising sites, then better tracking and add-ins for social media.”
Theto keep track of donors and their contributions and software to reach out to those donors – and potential new ones – did not exist before CauseVox. Rob and Jefferson, saw the opportunity by not just working with nonprofits but by working in nonprofits and listening to them while they developed their ingredients.
“I always wanted to make a social impact, and I wanted my education to include a part of that. After I graduated from UT Austin (BA in Business Administration, MA in Public Accounting) I worked in consulting for a while in corporate service. Which I didn’t really enjoy because I wanted to serve in the public sector.
“I volunteered on for a project in Uganda, in August 2008, where I learned a lot about funding a social good project. I was lucky to be there with Jeff Chang, who helped co-found CauseVox. We wanted to link the two (fundraising and technology).”
The opportunity to bring together two great needs for nonprofits did not mean they were ready to offer a cookie-cutter solution and expect their clients simply to buy it. “For a lot of this stuff, we did not get some of the feedback we were expecting over the first year, but we then received better feedback after developing a trusted relationship with them.”
How was such an enterprise funded? Rob and Jeff were confident enough in the long-term plan that they started saving while working in the private sector to support the first few years of work.
“A lot of tech companies try build a prototype, get some support for that and start to charge for the product, then try to get funding to scale the prototype or model up. But for us, what we tried to do more of a long-term approach. We had corporate jobs, and saw that what we needed to make it work was a ‘runway,’ so we saved up for four years to finance this venture. We just used our own money to finance the venture.”
Which is not to say CauseVox is an online solution simply ready to be unwrapped by any nonprofit. Rob and Jeff already were well aware that consultation and education would need to be part of the package. “Our first name was “Help-Support”, which we went with for a few years. But many people thought we were just a help desk or phone support. When we were ready to launch ourselves, we said, “What is something that we really stand for now? What is the statement of what we stand for?
“What we stand for is that we want to give nonprofits a voice. Small and medium-sized nonprofits, and small businesses too, they don’t have many technology tools to give them a voice online. They might have social media, they might have a website. Nevertheless, they’d have to spend lots of money to get all that integrated.”
CauseVox, though, builds in the tools that nonprofits need to launch successful online presences, and the staff help those nonprofits tailor the platform to their needs.
“We have two main components to work with nonprofits and their social media outreach. The first is that we build social media right into the platform. We do that so that the nonprofit doesn’t have to do any kind of coding, yet its staff can get right to Facebook and comments as well Twitter to share content. Because we can make it so easy for them, the nonprofits can easily use it because they don’t have to set anything up. They can just run with it.
“The second thing we do is – that we encourage – is to teach them what the best practices are for nonprofit and their outreach. We share our experience and what we see other nonprofits doing. Social media is such a great way to get the word out about your nonprofit and what you’re doing and your fundraising efforts, so we encourage nonprofits not only to connect through their blogs, but building social media right into the platform.”
Please join us next week as we return to our interview with Rob to discuss some of the challenges faced to get CauseVox up-and-running, and where he sees the use of social media by nonprofits going over the next few years.