Online donation startup SimplyGiving seeks 2nd round funding
By A. Asohan May 21, 2014
- Platform for people to raise funds for their favourite charity or cause, or P2P fundraising
- Seeks funds to expand to more markets and consolidate regional leadership position
KUALA Lumpur-headquartered SimplyGiving.com, an online platform which allows users to donate and contribute to causes they care about, is seeking a second round of funding to fuel its regional expansion.
The company, which has registered businesses in Singapore and Hong Kong as well, launched in 2010 with bootstrapped funding by its founders, and subsequently secured S$1.2 million in 2011 through “friendly funding,” its chief executive officer Kristofer Rogers told Digital News Asia (DNA).
“We are looking for S$2 million in this round for up to 20% of the company, to achieve a post-funding valuation of S$10million. We are already 30% subscribed,” he said via email. [S$1 = US$0.80]
SimplyGiving.com, which currently has seven staff mostly based in Kuala Lumpur, with a country manager each in Hong Kong and Singapore, was founded by James Greaves and Jeffrey Saw.
Greaves, the founder and majority shareholder, is an entrepreneur and serial investor in businesses including online restaurant delivery website Room Service.
He is also vice president of Appco Group Asia, a sales and marketing company which employs more than 1,500 people across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Hong Kong and South Korea, according to Rogers.
Saw is the cofounder and brings more than two decades of experience in the technology sector to the table. Through his Fourtitude Asia group of companies, he provided web development services to build and maintain the SimplyGiving.com platform.
[Disclosure: Uberfusion, a Fourtitude company, is DNA’s web development and technology partner]
SimplyGiving.com claims to be the largest online giving community and network in East Asia and South-East Asia. It provides a platform for supporters to raise funds for their favourite charity or cause, which the company describes as “peer-to-peer fundraising.”
Since its launch, SimplyGiving.com has helped more than 17,000 people donate to their favourite charity or cause, the company said.
It also provides technology tools and support to help local non-profit organisations get online and reach more people. It works with more than 300 non-profit partners in 16 countries.
Some of the big names include Unicef (both in Malaysia and the Philippines), Singapore Red Cross, Save the Children Hong Kong, World Vision International, Rotary International, Make a Wish Foundation, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Singapore Cancer Society, National Autism Society of Malaysia, and Makna (the National Cancer Council Malaysia).
“The great thing about our platform is that we do work with the Top 100, as you would expect, which have established fundraising programmes,” said Rogers (pic). “But we also empower smaller societies and grassroots organisations.”
“We have established a support team to offer our partners help with engaging fundraisers and achieving better results.
“This is very important for a sector which is not as tech-savvy as most, and helps drive more volume through the platform.
“Were we to grow, we will provide consultancy services to partners which require more help,” added Rogers, who came on board as CEO in late 2012.
SimplyGiving.com believes the time is right for it to move on to the next level. Citing eMarketer.com, it said that nearly 42% of the entire world’s Internet users live in Asia and are leading the charge with e-commerce, specifically via smartphones and mobile devices.
This is also changing the way in which people give to charity, with SimplyGiving.com announcing a record donation turnover of nearly S$1million since November 2013.
According to a report from Giving USA, online donations already represent 10% of total charitable giving in markets such as the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia, but are still an emerging trend in Asia, SimplyGiving.com said in a statement.
However, according to the most recent World Giving Index published by the Charities Aid Foundation, six of the top 10 countries for donating money to charity are in the Asia Pacific region, including Thailand, Hong Kong and Indonesia.
“As e-commerce growth accelerates globally, non-profits are adapting to marketplace-driven demand for online giving in Asia,” Rogers said in a statement issued earlier by his company.
“We’ve experienced a significant growth in partner registrations as more and more non-profits recognise the importance of technology as an effective fundraising channel,” he added.
According to Rogers, SimplyGiving.com helped raise a record-breaking S$976,000 from November 2013 through to the end of the first quarter of 2014.
“We had a record S$404,000 in the fourth quarter of 2013 due to a successful Typhoon Haiyan appeal by the Singapore Red Cross. For the first time, it included a link to a ‘peer-to-peer’ network like SimplyGiving.com in its official press releases, rather than just a direct donation request,” he told DNA.
“As a result, lots of corporates and individuals chose to create their own appeals to reach out to their client bases, offering CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) benefits to these fundraisers as well.
“This raised nearly S$160,000 in under a week and, interestingly, there was a 96% opt-in amongst donors to receive more information – so it was a great acquisition exercise too.
“Similar appeals were run by Unicef Philippines through the platform.
“To put this growth in perspective, we experienced a higher donation turnover in the past six months than the entire 2010 and 2011 combined. Our target for 2014 is S$3.7million, having recently secured a long-term partnership with the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon.
“We’re also in advanced discussions with some of the region’s biggest fundraising programmes, which appreciate that a partnership versus proprietary systems would ensure 'future proof' technology,” Rogers added.
Social good via digital technology
SimplyGiving.com’s mission seems very much in line with one aspect of the Malaysian Government’s Digital Malaysia programme that isn’t talked about much.
Digital Malaysia kicked off in July, 2012 with an aim to transform the nation into a ‘digital economy’ via three strategic thrusts:
The three thrusts are:
- To move Malaysia from being supply- to demand-focused;
- Shift behaviour from being consumption- to production-centric; and
- Evolve from low knowledge-add to high knowledge-add.
Eight initial projects were announced at the launch, which focused mainly on increasing the gross national income and number of jobs, but an oft-neglected aspect of Digital Malaysia is also improving the quality of life via the use of digital technologies.
For instance, in April 2013, the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) – the lead agency in charge of Digital Malaysia – announced another Digital Malaysia initiative called Pokok (Pembangunan Oleh Komuniti Untuk Komuniti or Development by the Community for the Community).
Pokok seeks to harness and coordinate greater private sector contribution in community and social development targeted at the B40 group, the lowest 40% of the Malaysian population in terms of household income.
The ICT-enabled collaborative platform and its methodology aims to match B40 issues and needs with contributions – in the form of programmes, products or services – from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the private sector.
Two of the eight priority Digital Malaysia projects are ‘Microsourcing to Generate Income for the B40’ and ‘Facilitating Societal Uplift.’
The first aims to mobilise the latent workforce which currently exists in Malaysia by offering them digital access that would help them generate income; while the second involves training and facilitating the under-privileged in microsourcing work.
In the pipeline
Meanwhile, SimplyGiving.com has plans underway to enhance its reach to more individuals and causes. It is currently in beta for a major site update in June 2014 that will include a crowdsourcing option.
“To date, our platform has been a ‘peer-to-peer’ platform, where fundraisers can create pages for a major event, personal challenges, or even in lieu of gifts for a birthday or wedding,” said Rogers.
“This makes it easy for them to share amongst their social and professional networks to ask for donations. But we are seeing a big demand for direct donation appeals that include the same social integration and reach, which is why we have built a tailored crowdfunding platform due for release next month,” he added.
The second round of funding SimplyGiving.com is seeking would help it expand faster and consolidate its position, the company said.
“We plan to launch into at least three more key markets within the next 18 months,” said Rogers, adding that he would rather not disclose these three markets at the moment.
“We are able to provide great support out of Hq for our current footprint of 16 countries through dedicated support staff and online resources. This means our satellite offices can be business development only, with a country head, for example.
“We remain opportunistic in our approach to market, but look at population, online spending trends and general propensity to give (an emerging middle class, for example),” he said.
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