The following is a conversation between Chris Himes, the Chief Executive Officer of Classy, and Denver Frederick, the Host of The Business of Giving.

Chris Himes, CEO of Classy

Denver: Classy is a social enterprise that helps nonprofits maximize their impact through a suite of world-class online fundraising tools. Nonprofits use their platform to raise money, engage their communities, and advance their missions. And since 2011, they have helped raise nearly $3 billion for social good. They recently issued their 2021 State of the Modern Philanthropy Report. 

And here to talk about it and other matters of interest, it’s a pleasure to have with us, Chris Himes, the CEO of Classy. 

Welcome to the Business of Giving, Chris!

Chris: Thanks, Denver. Great to be here. 

Denver: Share with listeners a little bit more about your mission and some of the history of Classy. 

Chris: Classy was born from the initial question, which is: Why does giving have to be so hard? And the founders are raising money for cancer research because they’ve all been impacted by the disease, and they were holding these events. They were really young at the time. So, they were doing pub crawls; they were doing music events, and they were trying to raise money for the American Cancer Society. And they found it actually quite difficult to get the money to ACS, to get ACS’ approval.  And of course, ACS is just a pinnacle and a leader in our sector.  But they weren’t really ready to have these kids doing unsanctioned side events and show up with some money. 

And so, the kids in question became the founders, and they created software to help them do what they were trying to do. And then they realized that a whole lot of other nonprofits and fundraisers and donors might need help coming together to take some of the friction out of giving and make it fun and make it scalable. And so that’s kind of how Classy was born, and we’re pretty true to a lot of those questions today.

Denver: I think most people realize, Chris, that there’s been a shift to online fundraising as a result of the events of this past year. But how significant a shift has that been, Chris? 

Chris: I think it was significant. I think giving had a little bit of a Zoom moment, a little bit of a Peloton moment. But I think one thing we know is that Americans are charitable through personal crises, recessions, booming economies, pandemics. This is one of the first crises that was sort of a human condition, not a hurricane in one part of the world, or an Arctic blast in another part. 

And the giving continued. And it continued online, partly because you had to shut down in-person events. There’s no white tablecloth events or galas in a pandemic. No runs and walks. So that stuff came online. But I think online giving is also more information-rich. It’s lower friction. The payment proliferation is great, and so everyone has more choice.

And so I think even now that everyone’s very eager to get back to their runs and walks and galas, we’ll see a hybrid component. Once the San Francisco Ballet raises money in Atlanta, it’s hard to go back. That’s an exciting phenomenon.

Denver: That’s a nice amplification. Well, let’s take a look at The State of Modern Philanthropy and the report you just issued.

Why don’t we start with website traffic. Where does most of website traffic to nonprofit organizations come from these days? 

Chris: Well, it comes from them soliciting their supporters directly, and then driving them through campaigns to pages. But it also comes from just good old search engine optimization. It comes from them deciding what they want to be good at. Sometimes they work with an agency, sometimes not. We’re actually starting to work much more closely with agencies just to get the right eyeballs to the right places. It’s something our customers need. 

And so, there is a matching exercise that happens. We don’t believe it’s fully optimized though. We’re very interested in the taxonomy, the searchable taxonomy of the social sector and in getting more donors, more casual supporters, more inquisitive minds to the right place with content that’s interesting to them, and then capturing their attention and keeping them there. Some of these goals are the jobs of folks who work inside our customer organizations, but we want to do everything we can to help accelerate that.

Denver: Is the majority of the traffic coming from mobile, or is it still desktop? 

Chris: Mobile is really dominant. And so one of the goals we have is to make giving conversion as strong on mobile as it is on desktop.  And so, a lot of our investments in digital wallets and in super-fast, scalable mobile-friendly forms has been in that direction. And so mobile giving is growing really, really rapidly. 

Everyone has idle time on their hands, and they’re usually spending that idle time with their phone. And so, that leads to a lot of tire kicking. And our goal is to help our customers take that tire kicking all the way through our recurring gift that lasts for years and years and a donor they can cultivate ideally for just as long and perhaps convert into a fundraiser and develop a lasting relationship with. And having a great mobile experience is a key part of that.

Sometimes donors do want to be guided toward what matters most to the organization. If you’re at a donation form, you’re there because you want to help the organization. So for that organization to tell you how best to help, to tell you they actually prefer a recurring gift of a certain amount, I think is incredibly helpful. 

Denver: I bet it is. I get asked a lot about donation sizes and suggested gift amounts on a website. What’s your take on that?

Chris: Every organization has to do what they feel comfortable with. Some don’t want to make suggested gift sizes. We’ve found that doing so increases conversion and increases gift size. And so we’ll usually make that recommendation. But we exist to serve fundraising strategists who work for our customers and donors, of course, and that just needs to be right at every organization. 

But sometimes donors do want to be guided toward what matters most to the organization. If you’re at a donation form, you’re there because you want to help the organization. So for that organization to tell you how best to help, to tell you they actually prefer a recurring gift of a certain amount, I think is incredibly helpful. The donor can choose to do that or not. But I think more of that would be better for giving as a whole.

And I think what we’ve seen is that peer-to-peer is also a wonderful donor acquisition tool, just as registration with fundraising for an event is a fantastic donor acquisition tool. What we see is that organizations who employ those strategies acquire new donors and see much higher fundraising totals than if they didn’t use those tactics in their events. 

Denver: You’re absolutely right. You have people coming to your site who are favorably disposed, so they’re going to take direction or counsel or at least consider it. You’re not trying to convince anybody of anything. 

Tell us a little bit about peer-to-peer fundraising. That has become increasingly important to nonprofits. Any sense on the median amount that fundraisers or the average amount fundraisers will raise when they’re doing something for a particular organization? 

Chris: Peer-to-peer for us, it’s sort of where we got our start. It’s sort of like the creation story for Classy. And I think what we’ve seen is that peer-to-peer is also a wonderful donor acquisition tool, just as registration with fundraising for an event is a fantastic donor acquisition tool. 

What we see is that organizations who employ those strategies acquire new donors and see much higher fundraising totals than if they didn’t use those tactics in their events. 

Denver: I saw, I think, that four out of five donors who give peer-to-peer are first-time donors. So I guess my question would be: Do those donors renew at the same level or the same rate as other donors that you get by other acquisition means?

Chris: I think they’re just as good, but donor retention is a really big issue. And so, we’ve thought a lot about how to communicate impact information and stories to donors. We’ve thought a lot about what just the basic data capture can be for campaign managers, directors of development, heads of marketing, to go back in the right form at the right time with the right information and really retain that donor. So, if giving is hard locked–and I don’t believe it should be, I’d love to talk about this–at 2.1% of our economy, there is a lot of shuffling org to org because donor retention is a huge issue. 

The best way to counter that, though, is really to have a maturation path that leads to recurring commitments – like recurring donations. At the end of this year, just inside our customer base, the recurring donor value will be worth more than all money raised on Classy two years ago. And so, it’s the fastest-growing part of our work. And I think – sure, we’re investing in the software. We’re doing everything we can there. But it’s a reflection of a strategic shift in the nonprofit sector to drive more and more one-time donors to an ultimate recurring path. 

I think one of the things that broke through to that or with that, Denver, is the realization that it’s not mutually exclusive with a major gift solicitation. So, it’s not just that you play like the small potatoes game of recurring, or you play major gifts. In almost every case where I’ve become a major donor, I was a small recurring online donor first. That’s the way to get to know them and to get constant information streams and to really try it out. And we’re seeing a lot of success with that maturation path, too.

Denver: I think Jim Collins calls that the Genius of the AND. And so often, it’s the ‘either-or,’ and it really isn’t; it is an ‘and.’ And that’s what you’re talking about there. And also from what I heard you were saying there, Chris, it seems to be switching from a transactional relationship to a relationship, not just a transaction. 

So you talked about retention. How many people who make a first gift to an organization will not make a second gift?

Chris: The industry turnover is as high as 60% from one year to the next. That is in decline because of the expansion of recurring and just through better engagement. I think all kinds of organizations are doing well at this. You see like Charity: Water is really exceptional at communicating impact. 

So we do see more retention because the tools for achieving it are more robust, and I think everyone’s kind of hip to this problem. If you ran a donut shop, and 60% of your donut buyers didn’t come back, it’d be kind of hard to pay your rent after a few months. And so, you’d have a bunch of donuts on your hands. And so like, that is helping organizations solve those problems through better tools and better engagement, and ultimately, through the best performing recurring software is very much on our minds.  

And I think it begins with the conversion, the first visit. How easy is it? How fast does that page load? How much stuff do they need to enter in? Or does it all auto-populate because they have Google Pay or Microsoft Pay or Apple Pay or Venmo, PayPal, whatever? Those things that… it’s basically like all roads lead to a recurring donor. And then from there, you can go in any direction you want. 

That I think is the best way to tackle donor retention issues.  But ultimately, you have a long-term relationship because you earn it. Whether you’re a software company like Classy or a nonprofit organization earning it through impact – we have a phrase called verifiable value. You have to verify that there’s value there worth returning for.

Denver: Scott Harrison of Charity: Water has been on the show a couple of times. And I think he said that any time that somebody visits their website, they begin to think about a 20-year relationship. So it’s also a mindset that you begin from the very outset to say, “Hey, they’re going to be with us, and we’re going to work with them” as opposed to “How much did we bring in this week or this month?” 

How long does it recur? Is there an average in terms of somebody who makes a recurring gift as to how long they’ll stay with it?

Chris: It depends on the payment type. What you see is ACH will last longer than a credit card. 

It comes back to donor experience. The more you empower the donor, the happier they are. The happier they are, the longer they stay. 

Denver: What is ACH? Just tell us: what about ACH? 

Chris: Sure. ACH is directly connecting your bank account and it’s just withdrawn rather than using a card. ACH is really powerful for nonprofits because it’s higher margin. You don’t pay the credit card fees. The card doesn’t expire, it doesn’t get stolen – all those things. So, it lasts longer. But ACH donors actually give a higher dollar amount on average, but they also stick around longer. The average recurring donor on a credit card is about 13 months, and then you go about 20% to 25% higher than that for ACH. 

But we’re also seeing that increase through technology. So, we work with Stripe on payments infrastructure. They’ve seen every credit card in the United States. So like their ability to find pathways to payment, even if the card is expired and hasn’t been updated in the nonprofit token holder, it can still find a pathway to the payment to the current card because the donor hasn’t actually changed their preference to support your organization. 

The final point to this, and a bigger investment for us, is in tools for a recurring donor to manage the donation themselves: start-stop; changing frequencies; changing amounts; changing payment types. The more you empower the donors– it comes back to donor experience. The more you empower the donor, the happier they are. The happier they are, the longer they stay. 

Denver: There you go. That’s a great formula. How effective are matching gift programs? And does an organization need to have a major funder or a corporate partner to launch a matching gift effort?

Chris: Great question. This comes back to your quote of Jim Collins’ “The beauty of AND.” It’s powerful, Denver, and I come back to that here. I think you would never say no to it. Of course, it’s helpful.

We do some things around corporate matching, and we’ve seen that to be interesting. I think more corporations are doing that as an employee benefit to match donations. And then I think you get your typical major donor sort of benefactor saying, “I’ll give $100,000 as a match, as a challenge.”

And I think that can do really well especially with… you see this very popular in public radio, a sector we’re working much more closely with. They have reach, where they’re quite literally transmitting live content into the cars and ears of their potential donors. And so when there’s a challenge, it’s so real-time and immediate that you do feel a compunction to act and to take advantage of that for the org you care about. 

So I think it is powerful,l and I don’t think it needs to be a tool for the wealthy, but I don’t think that this is just about symphonies where you get a half-a-million dollar challenge grant. I think it can be used for anything. And we’re a big believer in the roll-up of the small ends up being something very, very large. 

Denver: I like that.

Chris: More people donate than vote, and they’re not all rich, and they need to have an amazing experience and play with all the tools that major donors get to play with.

Denver: What I love about the matching gifts on public radio is the short timeframe. Very often, in traditional campaigns, it’s a million dollars, and we have a match and so on. This hour, we’ve got 12 minutes left, we need eight more donors or whatever, and then we start up again an hour or two later with another one. And that really, really works. 

Chris: Isn’t that cool? I think it’s great. I think public radio has actually done a lot of really innovative things, and it’s a big part of my life. That’s a great example. And so what then would a non-radio, someone in a totally different cause category, what could they learn from that? To have sort of an exploding match in a compelling event like that. I think it’s pretty exciting. 

Denver: I think short timeframes work for everything. A lot of people who are doing planning these days don’t do three- to five-year planning because it changes. So you find that you’re running sprints of two weeks at a time. You have to do it in much shorter cycles. And I think that just applies to everything pretty much in terms of doing something, being focused, and getting feedback, and then iterating and moving on to the next thing.

Chris: A hundred percent.

Denver: You mentioned not too many in-person galas. I have observed that myself. I haven’t been to any. Tell us a little bit about some of the best practices that have emerged from virtual events and maybe what elements of those that you’ve been impressed with that you think might stick around, even when we’re all going to the chicken dinner again?

Chris: I think the use of video is a big deal. One of the things that we’ve seen with our own virtual event is we saw registrants continue to climb in number after the event occurred in real life because folks wanted to access the content, like a rerun of Family Ties. They just wanted to go back and watch it again. I’m probably too old. So maybe we call it Friends. Maybe we call… nobody does reruns, they watch YouTube. But they wanted to access the content. 

And I think the untold wealth of content that expired in an undocumented fashion at all the great events with all the great speeches, the tributes, and you capture it, and you can share it with people who care about your organization. You can also use it to help people who care about the cause that your organization supports to find you. Because, again, you come back to that taxonomy of giving. How do they find you? They find you through rich content that’s searchable on the internet, and there’s no expiration date for that. 

And so, I think the best orgs will split that up and use it for donor acquisition and for cultivation over time. And it’s not just like an event that happens and shall exist in our decaying memories only. It is in perpetuity and can serve that organization like an annuity for as long as they’re able to keep it relevant.

Denver: And as you mentioned before, that donor in Atlanta to the San Francisco Symphony is something which would have never happened before a virtual event. One observation that I’ll share from the ones that I’ve been working with or talking to, is that they’re far more focused. And I just wonder if in coming back to that chicken dinner again, as to whether it’s going to drag on for four hours, or whether they’re going to realize that you really need to put some great content throughout the program and make it tight as opposed to not so tight, and that may be one of the great byproducts of all this. 

Chris: The other thing… I completely agree with you on that – shorter and more powerful. To the more powerful, you can get superstars to show up for 15 minutes, do a recording, and go. 

And so one organization I was on the board of, she was a famous movie producer, the woman who started it. So when everything went virtual. It was kind of a gift to her because she just went through her LA Rolodex. We’ve got a cavalcade of stars to show up to her event online. And you saw this again and, again, like the telethon is back! 

Denver: Reruns aren’t back, but the telethon is. 

Chris: We had  Tina Fey hosting telethons for Robin Hood on our platform. And like that is a pretty cool thing. And again, it’s so much easier for a busy person to attend an event virtually for 15 minutes and have a massive impact on the fundraising effort there because we all just changed how we think about it a little bit.  

Denver: That’s really so interesting. Talk a little bit about/ having attendees at an event register as fundraisers at the time when they’re registering for that event and the impact that that has for the fundraising around that event.

Chris: That is a cool phenomenon. And so, we’re big fans of registration with fundraising. When an organization makes that part of their process, it almost quintuples the amount of revenue they raise. 

Denver: Quintuples. Wow!

Chris: At least about a 4.5x increase in revenue versus just doing ticketing to the event. And so, just that simple change, again, coming to people with a request at the point when they’re most susceptible and willing to receive that request… right down the middle, you get broad acceptance and a really big spike in both fundraising and new donor acquisition.

Denver: When people talk about innovation, sometimes they think of really big transformational things. But you’ve brought this up a couple of times, these are small little tweaks with big impact. They don’t have to be turning the world upside down. You do this, you do that. And the return on that can be phenomenal.

You mentioned virtual events, your own virtual event that’s called the Collaborative, and it’s held in June every year. Tell us – what were some of the noteworthy takeaways for you, Chris, from the one you just held a month or two ago? 

Chris: One of the customers I spoke with and orgs that aren’t customers who attended – the thirst for knowledge is still there. That was number one. Just thousands of registrants, lots of engagement with each other, which was great. 

We also saw interest in broad topics, and we saw some powerful panels. So we had leaders from the Anti-Defamation League, Love146, and the NAACP hold a panel on powerful changes in the use of language and how that affects discrimination. We had sort of a large nonprofit leadership group come together and talk about how they’re working to manage stressed-out employees in far-flung places. They’re working to keep donors connected because the donors are very distracted with their own family crises, their own struggling businesses. And I found that really powerful. 

And we had some really knockout keynotes. Reshma Saujani, who is a best-selling author and founder of Girls Who Code, gave a dynamite speech, as did Ben Crump, civil rights attorney and powerful advocacy leader. And so it was like a great convening. And I think the spirit of the Collaborative is still alive and well. It’s not something that a traditional software company does. 

I think it’s imperative to do because of the space we’re in, because this is not the typical software vertical. Our customers are not random organizations. I think we serve the most important market in the world, and we need to serve it differently by doing things like this, which are kind of like gifts to the sector.

Denver: And I applaud you for that, too. And I also think that there is this trend that people do not want to get as deep anymore on a vertical, but they want to get across on a horizontal. Because to do your job better, there’s a real law of diminishing returns and getting more expertise, but there is a tremendous return on investment of having that peripheral vision and seeing how things connect. And it looks as if this collaborative served that purpose exceedingly well. 

Chris: It did. And we’re grateful to everyone who came and spoke, and it’s something we’re committed to doing every year. 

I think we’re working on kind of splitting up the content and making sure that we use it, and that it can continue to serve people. And at the Collaborative, we announced it’s almost like the Collaborative version, but every day for our customers, although non-customers are welcome to use it as well. We launched something called Classy Academy. 

Denver: I was going to ask you about that next.

Chris: Oh, good. I’m sorry to take your part. I’ll be quick and give it back to you. 

The goal there was to say on the 300 and whatever 62 days when we don’t have a Collaborative every year, nonprofit professionals need help learning. They need a learning sort of platform or forum where they can learn how to raise money online effectively. 

They can get into like: OK. Well, what does registration with fundraising look like? We don’t do that today. What would it look like? And we don’t do peer-to-peer. We missed the boat on that, but we’d like to. We think our supporters would really enjoy that and identify new supporters in their networks. How do we get off the ground? 

Nonprofit professionals are some of the busiest people that I’ve ever met. And I think they tend to be in organizations that the ambitions are always very large because… the needs in our society are large, and the budgets never quite match the ambition, which leads to kind of overworked folks who need to prioritize, but it’s also like the perfect place for software to give a little bit of lift. Software is about automation and efficiency, and these folks need it more than any I’ve ever met. 

And so, helping them to use software more effectively… sure, there’s a little bit of investment in time and money, but then the return should free up a lot, both in terms of revenue and time. And Classy Academy helps everyone to kind of get off the starting line with that problem.

Denver: I was speaking to the CEO of Against Malaria Foundation the other day. And he said his mindset is that “We try to automate everything. Everything we do right now, we’re thinking about how we can automate it.” 

And I think to your point, nonprofits have to test a couple of things. They don’t have to commit to these things because they may not work, but they need to test because there could be a real pot of gold waiting for them. And if it doesn’t work, they iterate, and they do something else. 

Well, I’ll jump in here and take my part again and ask you about the Classy Awards because I hear that’s coming back after four years. Tell us about it.

Chris: It’s coming back. We’re super excited about it. It’s a celebration of leaders and organizations in our space who are having the most impact. And we struggled to do it every year. We have a lot going on. Classy isn’t a massive company. It’s pretty big. We’re at about 275 people now. But it’s something that we’re really eager to bring back.

It’s a period of reflection. It’s a period of celebration, not of Classy, but of the good work organizations, customers and non are doing out there. And it’s a wonderful networking event. And so, we’re excited to highlight some of this great work, some of the impact, and just to celebrate the space in general. 

It’s not quite as narcissistic or vain as the Academy Awards, but I think there is something important to say. This work is hard. Sometimes it’s thankless. Let’s appreciate it. 

Denver: I would agree. If there’s anything that we fail to do in this sector, it’s celebrate. We’re too concerned about the work that has been left undone, and that isn’t always the right formula. You have to give yourself a pat on the back… or somebody does because that’s the thing that fuels you to keep on going.

I have spoken to so many CEOs who have said that they’ve had to make more decisions and more difficult decisions in the last year than they had in the previous 15 years combined. So let me ask you, Chris, what would be the most difficult decision that you’ve had to make during this crisis, and how did you go about making that decision?

Chris: It’s a great question. I think some decisions were made easier. I go to remote work. Classy is based in San Diego as a software company. It’s a wonderful place for some talent, but it’s not like there’s a lot of non-consumer software companies out there from whom we can recruit. 

And so, I actually think going remote was wonderful– or going hybrid really because we’ve kept our office. I’m in it right now. Going hybrid was something that was made so much easier. You have this illusion of control until a pandemic is on top of you, and then you really realize like there’s some things that you just need to let go of.

And so, yesterday, we hired someone who’s about as far away from San Diego as you can get, and he’s going to be amazing. We’ve had people leave to go because they want to buy houses or take care of elderly relatives. And I welcome it, and I celebrate it, and we’ll find a way to keep the community and the vibrant culture. But that was a decision that was made easier. Investing more in employees and welfare, more time off – those things were made easier by the pandemic. 

So in some ways, I actually found it to be a helpful constraint. Sometimes constraints can help you make better decisions–

Denver: No doubt about it.

Chris: –and this was an example of that.

I think the final thing was like we raised a bunch of money to invest in the product. By the end of next year, we’ll have by far the largest engineering force in fundraising software to make great products that change the way nonprofits work.

Investing heavily in software-driven impact was also made easier by the pandemic. We saw trends that were never going to be reversed that were really powerful. And we saw a space that despite our best efforts, continued to be starved for modern technology, and we wanted to take the lead and deliver it. So, that was actually made easier by the pandemic as well. Lean in even more to the tech side of this work.

Denver: I saw you raised  $118 million in Series D funding. So that’s where it’s going to go. It’s all going to be in terms of engineering and technology and things of that nature. Anything else? 

Chris: That’s where it’s going. But the important thing is that customers have to actually see the value because they don’t care what our org chart looks like. So, we will always come back to the donor experience, the fundraiser experience, and then the org experience — the admin, the head of fundraising, the executive director.

And so, what do they care about? Security has been a big issue in our space. And so we’re investing heavily in security. The donor information is sacred. Ubiquity, whether that is being found, or the ubiquity of the payment types, just removing that friction and making it easy. Making it a beautiful experience that’s engaging. That user experience, regardless of who the user is, is critical. 

And then finally, it has to live in and among your other systems. So the interoperability — the integrations, how you can move data, where you can analyze it, what it can tell you. Can it predict for you? Can we run a thousand optimizations and show you just the right thing for you? That’s where the money is going because it’s not a vanity metric of any kind. It has to really sing for our customers. And so, it’s all addressed towards their greatest needs.

But I think it made everyone kind of come back to their core, whether that’s their family, or their core supporters at their non-profit, or their employees. You come back to what makes you special and you reinvest there. And so, in my mind, you always come back to your donors. 

The organizations we saw thrive through the pandemic had the greatest– they were probably the most technologically advanced, yes, but they had the greatest sense of what they were about and why the people who cared about them cared so much.

Denver: A little bit of artificial intelligence for giving. Get those things working for you, and you’ll have a better outcome.

Finally, Chris, how would your advice to a nonprofit organization differ today than how it would have been pre-pandemic? Or would it?

Chris: I don’t know that it would. I would absolutely invest in technology more heavily.  I can say that not as a self-interested technology vendor leader, but as someone who’s driving investment in technology as well. So I would say that.

But I think it made everyone kind of come back to their core, whether that’s their family, or their core supporters at their non-profit, or their employees. You come back to what makes you special, and you reinvest there. And so, in my mind, you always come back to your donors. 

Do you understand why they give? If you do, you can understand why they’ll give again. Do you understand why they give what they do, and what it would take them to become a more committed supporter? That depth of understanding, which can also be aided by technology, is absolutely critical. If you get that at its very core, you can handle anything, including the next pandemic. 

The organizations we saw thrive through the pandemic had the greatest– they were probably the most technologically advanced, yes, but they had the greatest sense of what they were about and why the people who cared about them cared so much. Everyone missed a beat, make no mistake, but they didn’t miss two beats. They were on it, and they were able to help society immediately after figuring out what to do next. 

And that’s what was so interesting to me. We work with a lot of food banks, and I was talking with one of the largest in the country, and the leader of that organization said that four out of five people they were serving–this was six months ago–had never needed food assistance before. 

That should inspire us, just as Equal Justice Initiative inspired us during the Black Lives Matter movement that continues to this day, but it was really quite intense a year ago… that good work actually changes society and makes it better, but they’re only able to do that because they have a really strong idea of who they are, what they’re about, and how to engage with the people who care about them. 

What should come through is that we have always been purpose-built for this space. We have always been about the donor experience and about making giving easy, making it eventually so easy and compelling that it can punch through the cap it’s had for generations…

Denver: Good points. A little bit more of the power of constraints there, too. Because I did find a lot of organizations who were doing a handful of things really get focused on the one or two things that made them different and unique, and that would not have otherwise happened as much, but this really got people to focus like that.

Tell us about the Classy website and some of the information visitors will find if they come visit. 

Chris: We’re actually about to revamp it. But don’t wait, go now. It explains what Classy is about, the solutions that we offer, some of the organizations we work with, how we try to define success, and there’s stuff about us as an entity. 

I don’t talk a lot about this, but we’re a public benefit corporation. We’re B- certified. We really want to walk the walk and be different. That was very important to us in everything, from who works here, who we work with as a vendor, who we took money from as an investor. So you’ll find out information about that. 

What should come through is that we have always been purpose-built for this space. We have always been about the donor experience and about making giving easy, making it eventually so easy and compelling that it can punch through the cap it’s had for generations, at 2% of the economy. We think it should be 3% or 4%. And that if it’s an amazing enough experience, we can make that happen.

Denver: Do you think we will?  

Chris: I do. I think we have to. There’s no point in getting political, but we can look at the social safety net as it might compare to other places in the world, or even as it might compare to our own country 50 years ago. Whether you’re looking at education, food, security, it kind of doesn’t matter. 

The structure of our economy and society has kind of tacitly decided that a vibrant social sector is completely essential for us to hold together, stay peaceful, and stay somewhat productive and happy. And we’re proud at Classy to work in sort of the front end of that social sector, helping organizations to raise money that fuels all of their program work. 

So, I think we have to find ways to go past 2% of GDP because I think our problems in society and the opportunities to fix them are worth far more than that. It’s one of the best places to invest in the economy, if you care about broader returns and not just financial. 

Denver: And just to add onto that, I really do think that participatory grantmaking and letting the people who are living with the problem have more say in how that money is directed to frontline organizations is going to be probably one of the biggest changes that’s going to move it from 2% to 3%, instead of the top-down, the way we’ve always done it. And that may be just one of the three or four avenues that we can take to get to the aspiration that you just described. 

Chris: I think that’s a wonderful point, and I agree. 

Denver: I want to thank you so much for being here today, Chris. It was a real pleasure to have you on the program.  

Chris: Well, I loved it. And I look forward to following you and seeing who else you have on. Keep up the good work. It’s a great show. 

Denver: Thank you very much.

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