The following is a conversation between Soraya Alexander, President of Classy & COO of GoFundMe, and Denver Frederick, the Host of The Business of Giving.
Denver: Classy is a social enterprise that helps nonprofits maximize their impact through a suite of world-class, online fundraising tools. GoFundMe is a crowdfunding platform that allows people to raise money for events such as celebrations and graduations, as well as for challenging circumstances like accidents and illnesses.
Welcome back to The Business of Giving, Soraya.
Soraya: Oh, it’s so good to be back with you. Thanks for having me again.
Denver: You know, it’s coming up on a year since these two came together, in union as one. Tell us what was the thinking behind that, and how has year number one gone?
Soraya: It’s funny because the story will sound maybe more Pollyanna than people will believe, but it’s true. We started meeting with the partners on the GoFundMe side because I’ve been with Classy for four and a half years.
I was with Classy as chief operating officer when we started talking to the GoFundMe leadership team, and we said we think there is more power in giving than either of our respective platforms can offer to the sector and to the world. And it really came about from this idea. It had nothing to do with money. It had nothing to do with efficiency.
All of these, like the reasons that don’t inspire a whole lot of excitement or fire in the belly. It actually came about because we said GoFundMe is this place where over a hundred million donors come to find, to support individuals in these moments of opportunity or crisis.
But then they kind of go away. They’re often friends or family or within these associations or networks of people who are fundraising, but they’re not actually communities associated with a particular cause or identity. And if we can introduce these individuals to the causes and the nonprofits operating at scale, there’s real power there.
And so, an example that we were really excited about– and now we’ve been actually working with some of these organizations– you’ve got somebody who has just been diagnosed with leukemia, and they need help on their medical bills, and they need help with just day-to-day life because they’ve got to take time off work, and their community rallies around them and supports them through a GoFundMe campaign.
After this person recovers, they don’t need that community as a community. However, all these people have now been touched by this disease, and they’re suddenly aware of how it can impact lives. And if you could introduce them to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and say, “Would you like to consider donating or learning more because this organization helps fund research that can eradicate it and, in the meantime, help all of these people who are suffering?”
It’s just such a natural link, and there’s no real mechanism to do it right now. And we said, we think we can do a lot more for giving in this way. And so that’s what we came together to try to build.
Denver: Yeah. Well, that’s a brilliant synergy. I’ve always wondered about that sometimes. Is somebody giving to the person, and the cause is incidental, and they’re not going to support the cause, they’re really supporting the person? You know, I started that back in the New York City Marathon in the 1980s. It was the first peer-to-peer solicitation.
When their race director got brain cancer, I was the CEO of a cancer organization, and we started it, but we never really did that well when people would sponsor somebody’s run for cancer, and then we would try to follow up with them. I’d always been curious about that question as to the retention of people really getting touched by that cause and staying on and supporting it beyond the person they look to help.
Soraya: Well, there’s so many elements to that question. There’s the kinds of causes, the relationship to the person, the level of impact. And when we look at the Classy platform across thousands of nonprofits, people are turned on to new causes, often by something happening either in their personal lives or the news.
Like that sounds like such a self-evident statement, but you see it so acutely. Suddenly people are turned on to cure organizations or humanitarian relief or social justice based on these big events happening. And so, how do you do that in a micro way, constantly, every day? You’re turned on to these causes, and then you understand, “Oh my gosh, there are these incredible organizations who are working very effectively at scale, and I help in that regard.”
And so do I expect this to be every donor will be this perfect match? Of course not. But when you think about how difficult marketing is getting for nonprofits, how difficult it is to find donors who would be good fits for your cause and your mission, especially with how search engine marketing is going and where cookies are going in terms of digital marketing… it’s getting really difficult.
And so that kind of high-quality match– person to cause– is becoming more and more rare and important for the future of philanthropy and for the sector. So, I don’t know that we’ll get it. We definitely won’t get it perfectly right at first, but we’re really committed to figuring it out over time with the sector.
“…what we are really aligned on is actually this sense of: Why are we in it? And we have to be absolutely excellent in our work because of what we’re facilitating for the sector, or for individuals, or for philanthropy as a whole. And so that kind of ruthless ambition to be great at product, at support, at kind of customer engagement has been really aligned.
And that’s been a neat fit to see, like, ‘Oh, I recognize you. You are in this for the same reason. You believe in the power of technology for unlocking generosity.’”
Denver: Incredibly interesting. You are, as I mentioned, the president of Classy and the COO of GoFundMe, so you sound pretty much like the linchpin between trying to bring these two cultures together. And I’ve done a lot of work on cultures coming together. You have pretty comparable-sized organizations, 300 or 400 people at each one at the time of the merger. Tell us a little bit about that.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in terms of trying to bring them together? And what are maybe some of the things you’ve done that you say, “Wow, that actually worked!”
Soraya: Oh, it’s such a fun question because so much of what we’re doing is actually staying very separate. The needs of an individual, let’s say a casual fundraiser on the GoFundMe platform with one easy-to-understand campaign type. Often they’re a first-time fundraiser. Their need is very… almost utilitarian.
And so that product team, engineering team, marketing team are all really focused on that problem. And on the Classy side, we have an entirely different tech platform, an entirely different roadmap, an entirely different customer success model. You’re dealing with professionals who really understand this, who have lofty ambitions, who are very sophisticated.
And so the orientations are very different, and I think in honoring that and in servicing both clients, we’re trying to keep those things as separate as you can for the sake of velocity, speed, and kind of excellence in respect to each kind of customer base.
But what we are really aligned on is actually this sense of: Why are we in it? And we have to be absolutely excellent in our work because of what we’re facilitating for the sector, or for individuals, or for philanthropy as a whole. And so that kind of ruthless ambition to be great at product, at support, at kind of customer engagement has been really aligned.
And that’s been a neat fit to see like, “Oh, I recognize you. You are in this for the same reason. You believe in the power of technology for unlocking generosity.” Like that is very consistent, so we’re trying to honor the differences, bring together the kind of unifying factors. And then the thing that’s been amazing is… let’s say, GoFundMe has just massive scale, and given their business model, they are really excellent at trust and safety, and risk and compliance.
And they’re actually helping some of our Classy clients be really excellent at that as well. And so, our fraud protections and our payments protections now have become… we were really proud of it. And it’s become second to none because of all of that expertise. So we’re also trying to say like where are the comparative benefits, so we can kind of help each other on.
Denver: Yeah. Very cool. And then it gets back to what you said at the very beginning, this merger came together with the mission at the top, not the efficiency, not the monetization. And it sounds like: Wow, coming from these two worlds, we can sort of transcend and create a new world for this sector that is better than anybody has ever done before.
And if that is at the heart of what you’re doing, that really can help, I think, bring two organizations together because you have that North Star.
Soraya: Yes, we are trying to keep our sights on the North Star and yes, it’s been a wonderful journey so far.
Denver: You recently came out with Why America Gives 2022 – Finding Resilience Through Donor Loyalty, and in that report, Soraya, you make a distinction between loyal and passive donors. What’s the difference?
Soraya: We define passive donors as those who are not consistently engaging with nonprofits. And so if you’ve given, let’s say three or more times in the last few years, you’re an active donor; you think about philanthropy front and center. But we find giving exists across the board with very different giving profiles. And it was interesting to us as we, again, think about the GoFundMe side of the business and what it means for philanthropy, and the Classy side of the business and what it means vis-a-vis our nonprofit customers.
And you see that a lot of the time, the passive givers are committed, but they’re giving in different ways. And we’ve started talking about this a lot. I know Woodrow Rosenbaum from Giving Tuesday talks about it a lot, which is that we need to think about charity and philanthropy in more expansive ways than maybe serves the nonprofit sector specifically, because people will give to each other.
They’ll give to individuals, they’ll give their time, and they think about all of these things in the category of giving, even if we don’t count it when we’ve got our annual fundraising goals, as part of a nonprofit. And we see a lot of passive givers engaging in that way, versus the really active and committed givers who are more oriented towards kind of formal 501(c)(3) organizations.
Denver: Yeah. That is an incredible shift when you stop and think about it. I don’t know if non-pro… because we take a look and we see fewer and fewer people, families giving to charity, right? I mean, I think it’s 49% or something like that, whereas at the turn of the century in 2000, it was like 66%. And you say, “Oh, charity must be going down.” But what you’re saying there, that’s not necessarily the case.
Soraya: It’s definition of charity that helps us fund our programs as part of this formal sector. Yes, that is absolutely a challenge that nonprofits are facing, but it’s because the definition of charity, I think, is really changing for individuals… exactly to that point.
And so, back to the thesis of why we came together, it’s like what if you could introduce: why is that giving shift happening? Is it because people feel more immediately connected? Is it because they actually believe that the impact can go further when they can only give a $50 donation, and they feel that it would have more impact for an individual, versus somebody like the Red Cross? What are those dynamics? What can we understand that helps people see themselves in wherever they’re giving? It’s something we’re spending a lot of time trying to unpack.
“It’s not that they feel like they can’t give, it’s not that their economic conditions are such that they’re pulling back; it’s that they’re not finding causes that they resonate with or that they see their ability to impact. When you see wealth distribution in the country and you have less and less disposable income to give, you feel like, ‘Well, maybe my contribution really won’t matter for some of these huge organizations.’ And yet, exactly to your point, you can see that coming to life with individuals. So I think the challenge to nonprofits is: How do you make it clear that every dollar matters and is actually having impact?”
Denver: Well, spend some more. I don’t think there’s a more interesting question out there in some ways. But a lot of this gets back to the tax law. If 90% of the people can’t write off their contribution– only 10% of people itemize– it really doesn’t make any difference whether you’re giving through Classy to a nonprofit, or GoFundMe.
And if you can get a little bit more of an emotional experience by giving to an individual, why wouldn’t you do it? So how do nonprofits… what would you say to a nonprofit leader? Say, Hey, you know, people are still giving, they’re just giving in informal ways? They’re like mutual aid societies almost in some respects.
Soraya: Yeah. Well, I’ll tell you, maybe I’ll start the answer with something that I find encouraging. And it’s going to be actually about like the moment in time where we are with our economy right now. One of the other stats that our Why America Gives survey found is that we do see nearly half of donors declaring they’ve got a very pessimistic view of the economy right now.
Two-thirds are making changes to their lifestyle in light of it. I actually think it’s three-fourths. I think about 75% are making changes to their lifestyle. And yet, 90% of people say they still plan to donate the same or more. The conviction and adherence to giving in their lives is staying high, and so it’s not… this affectation with giving overall.
It’s not that they feel like they can’t give, it’s not that their economic conditions are such that they’re pulling back; it’s that they’re not finding causes that they resonate with or that they see their ability to impact. When you see wealth distribution in the country and you have less and less disposable income to give, you feel like, “Well, maybe my contribution really won’t matter for some of these huge organizations.”
And yet, exactly to your point, you can see that coming to life with individuals. So I think the challenge to nonprofits is: How do you make it clear that every dollar matters and is actually having impact? And it’s having impact in these really sophisticated ways, which only organizations really at scale can drive.
And it’s that storytelling element, that’s storytelling to inspire, but also storytelling to educate that I think we try to partner with our nonprofits to drive. I was reading something about spending behavior in times of economic uncertainty, and people, again, usually will cut out extraneous expenses, try to price down if it’s things that they kind of need, and then pull back or delay other spend.
And yet, you’re seeing: People think about their philanthropic contributions as critical spend. That should be a point of encouragement. And so, I think there’s opportunity there, and it’s really about that connection point and how their dollars actually matter and where they can go.
Denver: Yeah. Really interesting. Let’s pick up on the economic uncertainty. I mean, we’ve had inflation at a 40-year high, and we’re looking at some kind of a recession, maybe a mild recession as Bank of America says. It may be a more severe one depending on who’s on CNBC that morning… that’s all over the lot.
What is the impact of a recession on fundraising for an organization? Or what are some of the things you’re advising your clients to begin to think about right now as we head into 2023?
Soraya: Well, I’ll tell you, we have been looking very closely at what we’re seeing– the impacts, at where the impacts are hitting. We are not seeing them right now, and I think that goes back to this conviction. There’s one interesting… so we just came off of GivingTuesday. The Classy platform supported about $44 million. Over $44 million being raised through the platform for our clients. Incredible numbers. And we were looking at what is the shift in giving?
We are actually not seeing a ton of impact yet. Whether that changes, we’re staying attuned to, what we did see is a disproportionate spike in new recurring commitments. So you usually see recurring as a way to say, “I don’t know that I can make this big ask,” but nonprofits talking to their donors and saying, “It’s okay, give a smaller commitment, but just make it over time.”
And that feels more palatable, attainable, reasonable for donors. That started to take hold in a real way this year, and we saw it across organizations, across donation amounts, across cause categories, but we saw about 40% more recurring donors and commitments made this year versus last. Normalized for new clients, like we are growing, but we actually try to take year over year comparable performance.
That’s a big driver or a big jump, which is huge for organizations as well. We know because it actually allows you to plan and understand what your revenue streams will be. And we find that really, really encouraging. People are thinking about: What can I afford? And how can I make it work?
“…so we do see younger donors more willing to declare that they’re going to take lifestyle hits in service of philanthropy. We also see them much more activated on current events. Older generations are kind of committed. They know their giving patterns, they know their causes, and those stay pretty true. But younger donors are establishing like: ‘Who am I as a citizen right now?’ And they’re finding their causes. And those are heavily influenced by macro factors.”
Denver: Yeah, that is encouraging. It is crazy when you hear about all this recession that’s going to be coming, that Black Friday is through the roof, Cyber Monday is through the roof, GivingTuesday. You don’t know whether that’s going to continue or whether people are just doing things right now. Maybe because they’ve just been so pent up that they’re just spending, because you do see that the savings have really gone down significantly. So it is hard to say, and as you say, this is what you’re seeing, but you’re also preparing.
Hey, and those recurring donors, is that across all age groups? Are we seeing it skewing a little bit younger, or my age, or what?
Soraya: A good question because we marry up. So, Why America Gives…is donor sentiment, and so we can understand who are these people– age and political affiliation, and all of the different things you’d be curious about.
But this data was actually platform giving data, and we don’t have ages on it, so I have no idea. And I love that question, and so we’ll have to kind of cross- reference. What we see with big age or generational splits is around: how do people think about engaging? So we do see younger donors more willing to declare that they’re going to take lifestyle hits in service of philanthropy.
We also see them much more activated on current events. Older generations are kind of committed. They know their giving patterns, they know their causes, and those stay pretty true. But younger donors are establishing like: “Who am I as a citizen right now?” And they’re finding their causes. And those are heavily influenced by macro factors.
So this year, international human rights crises. You think about Ukraine. Climate change was really big… Reproductive rights in women’s health was really big. And that was activating younger donors in disproportionate ways, and they’re making these commitments. And we’ll see if those stay constant as these generations settle into their giving behavior. But it’s a great question, and I wish I had better data on it, and I don’t.
Denver: Will soon.
Soraya: Soon. Soon. We’re working on it. We’re working on it.
Denver: Yeah. I speak to a lot of organizations who wish they could somehow optimize these current events. They say, “We know that these donors are coming, but how do I manufacture?” And I don’t mean to say that in a cynical way. But in some ways, you have to look at the reports that are coming out. You have to do some things to try to highlight the issue and make it have some urgency, and not enough of them I think are doing that. I don’t know how you feel about that.
Soraya: Oh, I’ve got two reactions to it. The first is, actually I do think that more people are impacted by, you know, name your cause. I think in individual stories, people are impacted by these things all the time. It just doesn’t take headline news. But again, that’s where the GoFundMe promise comes in.
These people are affected in their lives by your Humane Society and what it did for their neighbor in this time of crisis. That is those mini moments. And if you can do that at scale and say, “Okay, now is my time to talk to you about what we do as an organization,” and capture you as if not an active supporter, at least somebody who’s aware of the organization.
And over time, you can cultivate them to become a longtime supporter. There is promise there. And so there are these mini moments; you just have to have access to people when they’re thinking about your cause. The other thing is even the organizations who are working at the heart of what might show up in the news, you will lose those donors right away if you don’t figure out these constant engagement strategies.
And for those organizations, those who promote: become a sustaining member first, you see for years, they might actually take a hit on upfront dollars raised because they’re funneling people into lower donation commitments. But over time, you see their baseline of funding for their causes really go up.
And so it’s a really hard balance to say, “I’m in the news right now. I want to capture all the funding I can to respond to this,” whatever this crisis or opportunity is. And so they want to say like, “Yes, give us as much as you can, but actually we see the organizations have the balance to say, “You know, give me a little bit less. It’s okay, but commit.”
A year later, two years later, you’re seeing that whole baseline, that water level has gone up and it’s staying up for them. And so it’s something to think about, but it’s hard to balance.
Denver: Yeah. It’s a long game. Well, I think a couple things on that, too, is that I don’t think sometimes organizations are ready for when their cause is going to get in the news. And you cannot get flatfooted. You sometimes have like 48 hours, so you almost have to have a team ready to say: If somebody has a crisis, and particularly let’s say a celebrity or whatever, and it’s all over the place, you better be ready because the time you get your group together and figure it out, something else was going to have taken its place.
Soraya: That’s right. No, that’s right. And honestly, the better technology that’s coming out, not to promote technology, but I do think the value of technology is that it should be easier to do this, right? You have things at your disposal where you can whip something up quickly. You can hit scale quickly. You can process as much as is coming in, as quickly as you need to.
And you should demand a lot of your technology partners, of your digital partners, of your agency partners, of your CRM partners, because we are here to support you in those moments. And so it shouldn’t be impossible, and it shouldn’t require a week of all-nighters for your teams. There are tools out there to help.
Denver: Yeah. So Soraya, as a fundraiser extraordinaire, and coming from the Classy side of the house, has there been anything you’ve learned from GoFundMe, from the psychological point of view, that you would say: Nonprofit! Some of these people who are doing GoFundMe campaigns, they have a sauce there that you should really maybe adapt, use for your own pitches?
Soraya: What’s so interesting is the GoFundMe, if you look at the fundraising at GoFundMe, there are a lot of people who are first-time fundraisers who have kind of… it’s really hard to be vulnerable, to ask for help, to mobilize your networks, to mobilize your networks’ networks. That’s really difficult and kind of the stumble through that has been like inspiring when you see how much people are trying to navigate and really gain an appreciation for what professional fundraisers so often are doing.
But the really great fundraisers on GoFundMe are ones who are using the platform essentially to democratize funding. They’re saying, I don’t want to do this big, the grant ecosystem that’s trying to get access to really high net worth. Like, I just want to do this mission. But they are amazing storytellers. You see how they activate on social platforms, and they’re out there constantly telling their story.
And they don’t worry about perfect branding, perfect scripting, perfect imagery, perfect alignment to every component of their brand book. They’re just out there being very authentic… constant creation and putting it out there daily, just like: This is what we did today; this is one tiny story. And that keeps people coming along and really in their corner and rooting for them.
And I think sometimes we get so big, we have too much to lose in terms of the brand that we’re projecting, but then you lose that authenticity and credibility and trust in the institutions. And so that balance… I’ve been really inspired by some of these campaign organizers on the GoFundMe side. That authenticity and presence is something to admire.
Denver: I love that. Being a little messy goes a long way. And you trust somebody, and I do think that sometimes when you try to get it too perfect, you become sterile. And it’s kind of like there’s nothing real here. You know what I mean? It’s too professional and it’s just too slick.
What are some of the new best practices that have got you excited? I know you’re always looking at what’s new and different, and you deal with so many different organizations. Is there anything new out there that you’re saying, “This has really caught my attention this past year.”?
Soraya: You know what? One of our clients, the Salvation Army, which is just such a cornerstone of when you think about America in so many ways, when you think about Christmas time, and you think about that red kettle, and you think about kind of traditional Americana in some ways, but also like how much good that this organization does.
They’re actually an incredibly innovative organization. And we love partnering with them because we’re always trying to say like, “What can we test? What can we do differently? How can we better engage people? How can we make it easier?” And they’re always the first ones to raise their hand and say like “We’ll test it out. We will be partners with you.”
And this year, when you see that red kettle, you’re going to see QR codes on those red kettles that direct you to a localized site to engage with giving. And I actually just passed by my local grocery store on Saturday and I saw it, and I was so excited because our team developed it with them. And so I did the QR code, and I went to the site and I gave 20 bucks. And that’s not a lot, but you give 50 cents on those red kettles, and you would never give 50 cents on an e-commerce site.
And so even if you get kind of a lower take, suddenly what you expect to give on a digital site versus what you expect to drop into a bucket changed. And it’s like I felt cheap giving 20 bucks, and yet you would never have considered that. And so I think that’s very interesting.
And as you think about the world’s reopening, this is not a new take on omnichannel presence, but actually how to push that forward. When we think about these events and our velocity there, when we think about physical presence and how you include really personalized, contextual, easy giving opportunities, I think there’s a lot of exciting things coming.
Denver: Yeah. Well, Salvation Army gets themselves into that spot, I guess, because not as many people go to the store. We go to Amazon instead. And we don’t carry cash around the way we used to carry cash around. So you then begin to start to say, “Oh, we got to come up with something different. And we have this iconic brand, particularly for this time of year.” And that’s exactly, with your help, is what they’re doing. And sometimes it can be a blessing in terms of their total take.
Soraya: That was the interesting thing is: I don’t think that QR codes on a red kettle is in and of itself insanely innovative. It was hard to do because of how they localize everything, and they really give to those individual chapters within their kind of national infrastructure. What was really interesting is the donor psychology of it, of, “Oh, what feels like a much too rich gift to drop into a kettle, feels like a too small gift to give online.”
And so what does that do when you think about the average donation size of that kettle now? And that is the part that I think: there’s something; there’s a nugget there that we have to figure out in service of the sector.
Denver: Yeah. I’ve had some sponsors of people doing runs and sometimes they’ve put it up there. And when I see people put in 50 cents a mile or a dollar a mile, I might do a dollar, dollar and a half. But when I see $10 or $12 a mile, I say, well, I got to give them at least five. You know what I mean?
Denver: We really, we look at the other people doing it. It just sort of sets the bar, and we don’t want to be different. I don’t want to give too much. But my goodness, I don’t want to give too little. I want to be right in there in the middle. But that’s part of, I think, the psychology that’s been going on. Yeah.
Soraya: And maybe I’ll throw one more thing in. We see on the GoFundMe side, you really want to start with a donation. Whenever we have somebody starting a campaign, we say, definitely start with a donation because people want some kind of social proof that this is somewhere to give.
And so you need to have at least an initial gift to say: we’re not starting at zero. Zero to one is a hard donation. One to two is actually not. And that’s something that I think we can really apply in the nonprofit sector. We’ve seen the real impact of, like match programs.
A lot of the reason is, you know somebody is back there getting your money to go further and has validated this campaign. And it’s not the nonprofit itself, it’s some third-party social proof that says, “I believe in this campaign. Come with me.” And I think the more we can think about, you know, donor psychology is the same everywhere.
And so when we’re starting these campaigns, thinking about that seed funding essentially for these campaigns can be very public, I think we’ll get your donors more engaged as well. So another little thing to leave for your listeners.
Denver: Yeah. That’s really interesting. Yeah. Well, I don’t think does the matching campaigns as well as public radio, because they’re telling me that this hour that I’ve got 12 minutes left. You know what I mean? So like: Okay, I better do it.
Soraya: Don’t let us lose all of this funding. Exactly. Yeah.
Denver: Yeah. Soraya, this has not been an easy time to be in charge. Leadership has changed, I think dramatically as you know better than I, over the course of the last three years. It’s hybrid, it’s virtual, it’s remote. It’s new generations of workers.
There’s certainly new expectations of leaders, and in your particular case, you’ve had a whole new set of responsibilities laid on top of that. How has your leadership changed over the course of the last three years, and how do you think it’s going to change going forward?
Soraya: Well, you’ll have to ask my team if they think I’m any good at it, but at least in my approach, I have gotten really comfortable with what I know, what I don’t know, and what my style is.
And I think when you come into something that’s a big role, big responsibility, and you’re trying to service a lot of people with different opinions and expectations and context… when you’re new to leadership, you can get really caught up in trying to meet everybody with what they need, and you will fail at that. You will absolutely fail. and you will burn yourself out in doing it.
And so I’ve gotten really comfortable with being very, you know… authentic is almost an overused word at this point, but I’m very comfortable with being a little unscripted, a little bit like leaning in, trying to figure it out, eager, intense, all of the things that get me excited about my work. If you liked that to the point that you wanted me to have more responsibility, then that’s how I’m going to show up as a leader.
And it makes the work more fun when you’re not always trying to also filter what you’re trying to do and how you’re trying to engage with people. And so I think everybody’s gotten more comfortable with it, but it certainly helped me navigate a lot of change.
Denver: You sound more like a GoFundMe fundraiser than a slick nonprofit in terms of a little authentic, messy, kind of out there, as opposed to trying to be so perfect.
Soraya: Figuring it out. But I do think that where the Classy side comes in is the really, really big ambition. When you’re working with clients, you want to eradicate homelessness and eradicate cancer. I mean, our ambitions are just as big.
And so, the messiness is in service of, you know, you try to package it too much, it will actually slow you down. And our bar is very, very high; our ambitions very high, and if you spend all of your time trying to filter it, you won’t get anything done. We just don’t have the time for it.
Denver: So, looking at this period of time we’ve been through, 36 months almost coming up in March, everything has changed a lot. What do you think is going to stick from this period, and what do you think might just disappear and go down as a fad?
Soraya: I think what’s going to stick is much more understanding of people in their whole selves. There’s a lot going on outside of work, and I think people are much more comfortable saying, “I’m going to be out for 20 minutes. I have to grab my kid, I’ll be back.” The accommodation and the acceptance and the understanding, as opposed to pretending you are a work bot I think is here to stay, and that’s a wonderful thing.
I think what’s going to go away is the sense that before, you always had to be together to do anything. Then you didn’t have to be together, and you saw productivity skyrocket because you’re not wasting your time on a million coffee meetings, and you’re actually just getting to the heart of it.
And then you realize that’s just not as much fun. And the connection and the humanity of why we show up every day, why we believe in each other, why we strive to do better things together, needs a little bit of FaceTime. And so, I think that this sense of, we don’t need to be in the office together every day, but we do have to get a drink together after work kind of thought, I think that’s coming back.
And that balance is, we’re all navigating it right now. Every six months, I feel like everyone’s view of what the future looked like changed based on where we all were mentally. And I think that’s where we are right now. I want the best of both worlds, and I think it’s really doable, which is exciting.
Denver: Yeah, I got to tell you, from my non-scientific observations, people who’ve gone back actually seem a little happier than the people who are still at home. And I don’t want to go back. Nobody wants to go back because I’d want to be in my pajamas and sit around every morning. I don’t want to go out when it’s raining outside.
But I have really paid a lot of attention, and the people who are back three, four days a week, there’s something, there’s an energy there. And I think just being around people sometimes, it takes a lot of work, but there’s an energy there, and you kind of thrive on it.
So it’s like almost going back to the gym and when you haven’t been to the gym in a long time, it’s like: don’t worry about going; just put your sneakers on first. You know what I mean? Lace up. But once you go back to the gym, you’re like, I love the gym. Why did I avoid the gym? And I think work is a little bit like the gym. It’s good for us. It really is.
Soraya: It is. Yes, once we regain the muscle memory, you can do it all. And I do think the understanding that different people have different preferences, and there’s no pressure to conform to one or the other; I think that’s really healthy for all of us, and I think that is here to stay.
Denver: Finally, what’s next for GoFundMe and Classy, come 2023? You’ve got a year under your belt, you see how this thing fits: what’s got you really excited for this coming year?
Soraya: To count the ways… I think the most exciting thing is we are really trying to figure out what this joint unlock looks like. When I look at the state of the world and how distributed giving is; people are giving through their financial institutions, and through their neighborhood associations, and through their commerce practices.
They’re rounding up and they’re buying whatever that adds five bucks for charity… and all of these different places to try as a fundraiser, to stay abreast of all of that and engaged in all of that, and talking to donors at the center of all that is becoming near impossible. And our ambition is actually to make that a lot easier and help connect all of these pieces.
But mapping that out and actually starting to put like a very concrete plan that we’re moving to and that we can show everybody and they can use… takes a lot of work, and that’s what the year ahead is going to be.
Denver: Yeah, we all have our own concierge, you know? I mean like the wealth advisors with technology, we’ll all have our own little private thing that we can go to and consult with, and I think you’re absolutely right. I think that is what the future is going to bring.
Finally, Soraya, for those organizations that want to get off on the right foot in 2023, know they need to up their game a little bit, particularly as it relates to online fundraising and technology, tell us about your website, what they’ll find there, and then how they can get in touch with you.
Soraya: Thanks so much for asking. Classy.org is where you can find a lot of information about the platform. We work exclusively with nonprofits, and we support all of their digital fundraising needs… so embedded giving, main donation pages, events, peer to peer, live events, and hybrid events.
We’ve got all kinds of tools available to help you really take that to the next level. And so we would love to chat. Please do reach out, and we can talk about what you are trying to do, and how we might fit in.
Denver: Fantastic. Well, thanks, Soraya. You know, it is always such a pleasure to talk with you. We do it in December; I hope we can do it next December.
Soraya: See you then. Thanks so much. Can’t wait to read the book as well.
Denver: Thank you.
Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving serves as a Trusted Advisor and Executive Coach to Nonprofit Leaders. His Book, The Business of Giving: New Best Practices for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leaders in an Uncertain World, will be released on Giving Tuesday, November 29th.