Much ado is made about the vast differences between nonprofit and for profit business models, but in some ways, they are more similar than you might think. Nonprofits may not typically sell products or services, but they do “sell” visions—visions of how the world could be a better place.
And cultivating a donor comes with many of the same imperatives and challenges as cultivating a customer. How will potential donors discover you? How will they be convinced to part with their hard-earned cash? How will they be convinced to return?
Without many tangibles to offer (tote bags aside), nonprofits have to make a tough sell, and often with very limited resources. ImpactFlow is here to help. CEO Tyler Foreman tells us more:
The spark that inspired the birth of ImpactFlow: We have always been inspired by the amazing work done by nonprofits in our community. We noticed that there were many inefficiencies in the philanthropic process that keeps these great organizations funded and results in a significant amount of unnecessary overhead. We made it our mission to fix that.
The problem that ImpactFlow solves: It is currently very resource-intensive for nonprofits to recruit and retain new donors and likewise very cumbersome for new donors to discover causes to support that are meaningful to them. Our platform plays matchmaker to bring these two sides together more efficiently and keep them connected in an ongoing relationship.
How you came up with the name: We wanted to use the word ‘Impact’ because at the end of the day, we measure our success by the amount of positive impact we can help create. ‘Flow’ is a play off the investment term, ‘deal flow,’ which speaks to our goal of enabling donors and nonprofits alike to discover new opportunities to create impact.
How you are better/different than your competition: Most of our competitors focus on just the fundraising side – enabling nonprofits to set up fundraising campaign pages and accept donations. We’re different because we also provide the donors with tools to manage a social investment program similar to how they would manage their stock portfolio. By having both sides of the giving equation on the same platform, we can then match them to one another, which is a great benefit to everyone. We also offer businesses creative ways to give back, such as hosting benefit events, matching donation programs or percent of sales over a given time period.
There is nothing more fun than doing good business, so find or build a business you love and do it really well.” (Tweet this.)
How you make money: We offer business subscriptions that provide targeted promotion and cause marketing opportunities. We also take a small handling fee on transactions made on our platform.
The best thing about being an entrepreneur: As an entrepreneur, you are free to shape how you will make the world a better place, and you have the potential to do so on a large scale.
Your biggest surprise in your entrepreneurial experience to date: I have been really pleasantly surprised at how supportive our community has been to us as we have taken our platform from prototype to production. Many patient people and organizations have taken time out of their days to really help make our product better and more usable. This has been invaluable to us, and we are so grateful. I think it’s a real testament to the collaborative culture in Portland.
Biggest failure and biggest success: The greatest success to date is the amazing team we have been able to build at ImpactFlow. I couldn’t imagine a better group of people to be working side by side with through this journey.
As for my biggest failure, a few years ago, I got together with some friends to build a startup that was a social media play. It was exciting at first – and we put a lot of time and resources into it – but we had to shut it down before we even got the platform to market. Looking back, I realized that the root cause of this failure was due to the fact that none of us was really passionate about what we were building. We just wanted to be founders in a startup that seemed to have some ‘cool’ factor to it. Without the passion there, we weren’t able to overcome the inevitable obstacles that arose.
What keeps you up at night: As a young company, it is always a struggle to decide where to focus your limited resources to keep the business moving forward and growing. Thinking and re-thinking through these scenarios definitely keeps me up some nights!
The best entrepreneurial advice you have received: There is nothing more fun than doing good business, so find or build a business you love and do it really well. This came from one of my trusted advisers and is so true.
Your #1 piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur: If you are looking to start a business, take a step back and ask yourself if this is something you would want to do for the rest of your career. It may not turn out to last that long, but in my opinion, you have to have that level of commitment and passion to be successful. I could easily work on ImpactFlow for the rest of my career.
#1 book you would recommend for a budding entrepreneur: The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki was really helpful to me when I was getting started.
The song that best describes your entrepreneurial journey: Most people may not of heard of it, but “Living the Dream” by Sturgill Simpson has been very inspirational lately.
What wild success looks like: If we can get communities more involved in supporting great nonprofits, we know that will enable more great initiatives to launch and be successful. This will create more positive change in the world. Success to us is making this happen on a massive scale.
Your favorite local business: It’s totally unrelated to what we do, but I have been a big fan of the Southeast Wine Collective ever since we discovered them. They have created something really innovative, and you can tell that everyone there loves what they are doing, has fun doing it and puts a lot of passion into creating a great experience for their customers. I hope we can create a similar feeling with our business.
What you wanted to be when you grew up: An Oceanographer. I was fascinated with whales when I was a kid. I hope that ImpactFlow can help save more of them!
The benefits and challenges of starting a business in Oregon: Oregon has been a great place for us to get started. In fact, we actually relocated up here from California. The ecosystem is really strong and supportive for companies like ours and everyone has been very willing to help out any way they can. The only challenge I have seen so far is that there is still somewhat limited access to capital.
What’s on the horizon: We have some really fun programs ramping up for the holidays. We are trying to get a large number of local businesses involved in GivingTuesday, which is on December 2. We are making it a week-long event, and our goal is to get the community more engaged in supporting the nonprofits all around us and raising awareness for the great work they do. We have many ways for businesses to get involved and we hope we can really move the needle in raising some funds for these great organizations.