I’m not sure if you caught the news today but CauseVox has launched their public beta! I’ve been following the work of Rob and his team closely as they have shown not just interest, but passion and intent for engaging with the community at large to create a tool that meets the needs of nonprofit organizations and keeps us involved in making the tool better and better. In spite of having a busy launch day, I got ahold of him to ask a few questions. Check out the short interview with Rob below and a preview of some of the functionality launched today!

Interview: Rob Wu, CauseVox Founder

What inspired you to start CauseVox?

A few years ago, Jeff and I went on a pro bono IT consulting project to Uganda to serve a Action for Children, an NGO that fights poverty by preserving families and delivering micro-finance. Like a lot of pro bono projects, we had to fundraise our way to get there, but there weren’t any good tools to make that happen. Long story short, Jeff built a prototype fundraising platform, and we were able to raise more than enough funds to go. We saw the power of grassroots and peer-to-peer fundraising and the impact that it can have. From there we were inspired to scale social good through technology.

Here’s our blog post that explains our story.

What drove you to start CauseVox?

Our experience in Uganda helped us see how valuable technology and fundraising is to creating change. Non-profits are on the front lines, and we want to support them through technology. When we canvassed the environment and talked to small and medium non-profits, three themes kept on bubbling up. We started CauseVox to address these themes.

“Technology is hard to use”

This means long, expensive setup cycles and feature overkill that were not meant for small/medium non-profits. The donor and fundraiser experience also left something to be desired. Our mindset going in was to look at every aspect of the setup and launch of a fundraising campaign and remove what was bloated or confusing.

“My donors are confused…I’m competing with other non-profits”

In the age of the social network, new sites want to be “the hub” for information/engagement and the non-profit space is no different.  We’ve seen the rise of a lot of destination sites; sites that allow you to expand your reach and exposure, but often times do so at the expense of your message and storytelling. Your non-profit becomes a commodity in a marketplace of organizations. Every non-profit’s story is unique; it is also unlike any others. We want to give non-profits the ability to preserve this story. By being able to fully customize the look and feel, non-profits can better preserve their core message.

“I don’t know what to ask my support base to do”

We realized that a lot of times, we want a way to help an organization, but don’t know how. Fundraising pages are a tangible way of realizing that. Rather than direct our friends to a generic donation page, we wanted to be able to weave our own personal story within the cause we support. By allowing us to create fundraising pages that contribute to an overall campaign goal, we can take ownership of the causes that move us and also directly see how our efforts contribute. This isn’t the ultimate solution, but it’s a step toward figuring out how to promote better engagement.

What excites you about this work?

We love non-profits and the impact they have. You can say we are idealists at heart and super passionate about causes. It’s exciting to see how much resources we can help non-profits obtain just with a little bit of technology. The opportunity for online fundraising and engagement is limitless. Since we started CauseVox, there hasn’t been a day that we didn’t want to wake up and make the best technology that we could.

How can the community at large feed in to, support and help impact the direction and future of CauseVox?

We want to be a community-driven company; we want the nonprofit community to own the vision for our platform. Non-profits must collaborate to create change, and we are no different.
We’re good at developing technology products, but we lack the deep expertise of non-profit staff. Because that, we come up with hypotheses on how technology should work. We need honest feedback from a wide audience of non-profits to distill themes. These themes are then used to drive product development in the right direction.

As a next step, nonprofit visionaries can join our Advisory Community as a first step in bringing in the larger non-profit community. Outside of that, non-profits need a culture shift an they need to take leadership. Rather than seeing technology as something you buy from vendors, non-profits need to be vocal on what they like and don’t like about the technology that they use. Influencers and organizations like NTEN and Netsquared are prime to be the leading voice in setting vision for how technology is intended to be for nonprofits.

Here’s a run-down of some of the functionality CauseVox has launched:

New Donation Processing
We’ve partnered with FirstGiving to provide an alternative to PayPal. Donors can enter in their credit card and submit it for processing into your donation box without being redirected to another site. This provides a more seamless experience for donors. Donations are disbursed monthly by check or weekly via EFT to your non-profit.

Continuous Fundraising
Fundraising doesn’t have to occur just during planned campaigns. We’ve added in the ability for supporters to fundraise for you year-long — during their birthday, for an event, and much more. Just create an on-going campaign. Your fundraisers can set the end date and target amount to raise on their own fundraising page.

News Feed
Keep track of activity through your news feed in the administrative interface. It works similarly to your Facebook feed.

Support Center
We live on feedback to make this platform the best that it can be for non-profits. Come visit our supporter center, and let us know what you think.

Interview with Rob Wu & Public Launch of CauseVox
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  • thanks amy for the post and all the support/encouragement! we’re excited about the launch and would love any brutally honest feedback the community has 🙂

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for sharing your story with us and for taking such deliberate steps
      to be open to the community! I’ll be digging around this weekend and sharing
      feedback (brutally honest feedback, of course).

      Thanks again!

      • we look forward to it!

  • Sarah

    Hi Amy! I’ve just recently discovered your blog, and I’m finding it to be a tremendous resource already. I work for a non-profit that promotes literacy, and I’m intrigued to find out if CauseVox has applications for us. I will definitely look into whether it could be another new way for my organization to approach fundraising. Thanks for the heads-up on another way to help my organization lead the pack in harnessing innovative technologies like Rob’s!

  • Debra Askanase

    I love the way Rob explains the CauseVox philosophy: “we want the nonprofit community to own the vision for our platform.” The Advisory Committee is a great idea. Rob – have you gotten a lot of nonprofit interest in the committee? If only more vendors felt the same way about inviting their community inside!

    Oh and I wanted to add: I’m also pleased to say, as the Community Engagement Manager at FirstGiving, that we’ve found a great partner in CauseVox and look forward to their success.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Debra! I feel the same way that our technology landscape would be
      very different if vendors and creators thought more like Rob and the
      CauseVox team! I hope that by shining light on examples like this, and
      answering the call to get involved, we can model the positive behavior,
      provide the positive reinforcement, needed to help change the landscape
      ourselves.

      Great to have FirstGiving partnered up with them!