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MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Givola banks on user experience to earn

Team behind fundraising platform GiveAsia does not take a cut from donations - just tips

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Mr Aseem Thakur says when donors and charities have a great user experience and see the value Givola is providing, they readily give the company tips.

Singapore

YOU have to take the issue of money off the table and pay your top talent well, said Aseem Thakur of his 10-man team at Givola. And a strong team it is - his developers have the prerequisite tech-giant name experiences under their belts and are into machine learning and artificial intelligence, while another designer used to head Redmart's user experience.

Mr Thakur is himself Silicon Valley-trained, in a manner of speaking - he was exposed to the culture while studying at National University of Singapore - and described his time studying at Stanford University and working at a startup as a "turning point".

"You come back with a different perspective of what an ideal workplace would look like," he said.

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This relentless pursuit of the ideal informs the Givola experience. The social enterprise, which is probably best known for its customer-facing product GiveAsia, a free fundraising platform for charitable crowdfunding, has been operating in the charity space since 2010.

In the space of the last eight years, GiveAsia has gone from raising S$290 in its first month to over S$1 million per month. The aim for 2018 is to raise S$20 million for charities, said Mr Thakur.

About six months ago, it launched its second product, Giviki, a software solution that charities can use to power and control their own fundraising websites.

To date, there are about 200 charities using Giviki and the goal is to have 1,000 charities using it by the end of the year, said Mr Thakur.

That the Givola team sets a high bar on the giving experience is in large part driven by the belief that they are solving a real problem.

"I believe that the main objective of a company is to have users who like using your product and service, and they pay for that product and usage."

This relentless focus on the user experience means that all products are put through the "one thumb test" - the donation process should be so simple, donors are able to navigate the platform whenever inspiration strikes - even if they are on the train, clinging to hanging straps.

"We don't collect unnecessary information and we don't create unnecessary steps because we know that every additional step you add, you are going to lose about 50 per cent of donors," said Mr Thakur.

"Other solution providers do not put as much emphasis on the flow as we do. That could be because our team has designers who have experience in the e-commerce space."

And the team puts its money where its mouth is.

Unlike the industry norm, where third-party fundraising companies charge charities between 20 per cent and 25 per cent of funds raised, Givola does not take a cut from donations made on its platforms. Nor does it charge the charities a service fee. Instead, donors are invited to give Givola tips.

"We realised from talking to donors that they don't want to give a percentage of the donation to the intermediary. So we experimented with this idea of telling the donors that all the money they are donating will go to the charity, but if they wish to, they can give an optional tip to us," said Mr Thakur.

While many question if such a revenue model is sustainable, it has worked for Givola.

"This pricing model ensures we don't lose donors and it works out for the beneficiary and the platform," he added.

"It's also in line with the incentive model, which means we have to provide a great experience to our donors and our charities, so they continue to see the value we are providing and in return they give us tips.

"I think it is a fair business model.

"For my partner and me, we are focused on building something organically - solving a problem and focusing on users. It takes time, but this way, you're accountable to only your users."

  • This article is part of a biweekly series highlighting Social Enterprises in Singapore. Social enterprises provide business solutions to address unmet and emerging social needs and gaps. Visit www.raise.sg to learn more about these socially impactful companies.