As we work with the leading marketing tech providers supporting the nonprofit industry, we are seeking out the movers and shakers. We caught up recently with Jason Smith, the founder of GivingTools. Jason has been in the industry for over 20 years and has extensive experience with printed materials and online solutions. Enjoy this interview with Jason and read more interviews from the Strength in Members Industry Expert Interview Series.
Could you introduce yourself and tell us about your background?
My background is in capital campaign communications. For over 20 years, I've worked in support of capital campaign consultants to provide effective printed materials and online solutions. Through that experience, I have had the opportunity to travel throughout the U.S. and internationally to absorb and communicate fundraising needs.
How did you get involved working with nonprofits?
My first job out of college was at a PR agency that served nonprofits, and I've been hooked ever since.
How did you get involved with GivingTools?
I own a firm that specializes in capital campaign communications. Part of what we do is provide a website for each campaign that complements the look of the printed materials. We found that integrating traditional online payments options was cost-prohibitive for nonprofits, especially when bigger dollars were involved. So, we set about to create an online giving platform that cost less than anything else we could find. We also used our designers and videographers here to create an interface and marketing experience that is fresh and accessible.
How did your previous experience prepare you for your current position?
As founder of GivingTools, I try to provide consistency of spirit in what we produce...and I try to push back on behalf of our customers to constantly refine and improve our product. My previous experiences working with nonprofits as well as with communications (both print and online) have given me a unique perspective on this. I've seen the face of need and the power of technology to address these needs. While GivingTools makes very little per customer, we are excited by the rapid growth of the platform and by the many worthy causes that have benefited from our hard work.
Could you tell us a bit more about what GivingTools does and how you interact with nonprofits?
We offer an online platform to help nonprofits accept donations electronically. GivingTools provides secure appeal pages and also appeals can be embedded in customer websites. We also offer free "white glove service" which is basically helping as much as we can...helping customers set up their giving page to match their style, even setting up appeals to help them get started. I enjoy interacting with as many customers as I can, visiting their websites and working to be sure they are off to a great start with GivingTools.
How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors and what kind of nonprofits do you like to work with?
We offer a basic system that is elegantly presented and provides rates lower than nonprofits are likely to find anywhere else. We do best with what I call "entrepreneurial nonprofits"—those who are motivated to find new ways of doing things and who are eager to push every penny they can into doing good.
Is there a blog you read religiously?
Nope. I'm too busy answering emails and envisioning ways GivingTools can constantly improve.
What's your favorite music? Book?
Is there a customer success story you would like to highlight?
I'll never forget when a customer asked if the rates on our site were really THE rates...she thought the processing rates must be on top of them. When I explained that these really were our rates, she commented: "That's so low, we'd be able to save an additional child per year!" Her nonprofit saves Kenyan orphans from lives in landfills and alleyways. This exchange really stuck with me and helped me to know we were really doing something right by helping her do something good.
What are some nonprofits that you admire the most?
I find I admire every new GivingTools customer that comes in the door. I am directly exposed to a world of generosity and hope and to the kind-spirited, passionate entrepreneurs who are willing to set their own needs aside to help others. It is my honor to help them.
What do you see as far as general industry trends?
Online giving is definitely an essential component of fundraising. That being said, I learned years ago that "people give to people for people." So, no matter the tools, that essential relationship is what drives fundraising success. I think kiosks are a little silly and am unsure if text giving matters too much when everybody carries the internet in their pocket.
What is one trend you think people don't see coming?
That's a secret I am not willing to share!
Do you have a personal quote you'd like to share that is emblematic of your beliefs about the industry, your organization or life?
Unus sed leo. (Latin: "Only one, but a lion.")
About Strength in Members
Founded in 2012, Strength in Members is a team of strategists, designers, writers, developers and engineers who provide digital marketing and technology development expertise to organizations who do good in the world. The company helps clients shore up their digital marketing, fundraising, donor engagement, direct mail, social media and technology. The firm client’s includeThe Sierra Club, The Human Rights Campaign, Malaria No More, Polaris,HelpMeSee, AARP, Morris Animal Foundation, Children’s Cancer Research Fundand the Natural Resources Defense Council.
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