When Victor Cho and his wife threw a birthday party for their 8-year-old daughter last August, they forgot to include their no-gifts policy in the invitation, and she ended up with “a mountain of presents” she didn’t want or need, Cho said.
That personal experience clicked with something Cho was seeing in his professional life as CEO of Evite, whose customers were regularly asking the online-invitation platform to add a one-click donation function. “It just struck me,” Cho said, “that when you’re bringing people together for a birthday or for an important business event that has this commercial component to it, there really should be alternatives.”
A month or so after Cho’s daughter’s birthday party, Evite partnered with Pledgling, a nonprofit donation platform, to introduce a built-in donation capability. Through Evite Donations, Evite users have the option of asking their invitees to make a donation to one of thousands of charities on a drop-down list, from big, well-known organizations like St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital to local elementary schools. “If the nonprofit that you want to donate to is not there,” Cho said, “there’s actually a workflow where you can request that it gets added.”
The cost of Evite Donations for users: nothing. Nor does Evite take any of the money as a processing or administrative fee. “My take was, if you’re doing this for social good, you really shouldn’t benefit from it,” Cho said. “Why are you taking a cut? The infrastructure stuff is pretty simple, and we were blessed that Pledgling had this capability.”
When Cho spoke to Convene last month, about 7,000 events had used Evite Donations to raise nearly $200,000 — 40 percent from birthday parties. The average donation has been $52; the highest single donation has been around $2,500. All of that has been with little to no marketing, Cho said, “because we follow a lean startup [model] for everything.”
That was Phase One for Evite Donations. As part of Phase Two, right before the holidays, Evite launched the #GiveMeFive Challenge, which asked people to encourage friends to donate $5 to the charity of their choice. As Evite continues to ramp up marketing on the new program, Cho expects to easily raise more than $1 million, and thinks tens of millions isn’t out of the question.
“We’re testing, are there particular marketing angles that are resonating?” Cho said. “Are there particular category segments where people are going to be a little bit more excited? Birthdays is a big category. Corporate events would be another one. Professional events where people are coming together to raise money for a cause is a huge one from our perspective.”
Cho is convinced Evite Donations is tapping a resource that has been largely unexplored. “There are of course a large number of nonprofits that use events; it’s probably one of the biggest ways that they raise money outside of the crazy direct-response [mail] that they still send,” Cho said. “If you’re [organizing] one of those events, you’re probably going to be sending an Evite or something like an Evite anyway.”