🚀 The next chapter
The story behind our biggest launch ever
28 team members. 35,000 good causes. 100,000 users. $150M donated. 🤯
Even though we started Givebutter way back in March 2016, almost all of these stats come from the last 18 months. It’s been an amazing journey, and I’m excited to use this newsletter to bring you along for the ride.
So, to kick things off, I will be sharing the story behind the video below, which was the culmination of the biggest launch in our 5+ year history and one of the proudest accomplishments in my life so far.
It’s crazy to see something you’ve spent 5+ years of your life on distilled into 3 minutes and 41 seconds.
The biggest launch in Givebutter history
Quick note: One of the things I’m most excited about with this newsletter is that it gives me a space to share more of the “behind the scenes” at Givebutter. I’ve sent ~10 of these Friends of Givebutter emails over the years, but always through a Google Group and alongside my co-founders. Going forward, I’ll be sending these from my personal Substack account, and I’ll be going deep on topics that I’m passionate about, like social impact, startups, work-life harmony, and of course - the Givebutter journey. Thanks for being here!
As we say in the video: “first, we should probably explain how we got here.” Well, here is the inside scoop. 🍦⬇️
How we got here 😅
COVID changed everything. Nonprofits—organizations previously thought of as slow-moving and risk-averse—were now adopting new technology at an unprecedented rate. On top of this, many were looking for ways to save costs and raise more during a time when budgets were being frozen and many of our most vulnerable needed more help than ever.
Some organizations had never raised a single dollar online before. Suddenly, with lockdowns, they had no other option than to move their in-person activities online.
Enter: Givebutter. A transparent, low-cost, easy-to-use fundraising platform with modern features like Venmo fundraising, virtual events, text-to-donate, and more. Need a hand? Our entire team is here to support you, literally.
It was the right pitch at the right time. So, with 4+ years of building and talking to customers under our belts, we felt ready to meet the moment.
Explosive growth… but then what? 🤔
Around this time last year, Givebutter was just 5 people (3 founders + 2 contractors). We went from processing $2M in all of 2019 to $2M+ per month, and we were growing faster than ever. But all of this growth meant we could barely find the time to hire people to help. It felt like we had been preparing 4 years for this moment… but then when it happened, we were completely overwhelmed. So initially, we just did what we always did: kept building. Learning how to scale ourselves and our team did not come naturally. Plus, we were scared – what if the growth didn’t last?
For all the people battling imposter syndrome out there: I remember how anxious I was trying to figure out how to actually hire someone as an employee! Justworks, a lot of Googling, good lawyers, and incredible mentors were a life-saver navigating taxes, benefits, contracts, all that fun stuff. Perhaps a topic for another newsletter…
Fast-forward to January 2021. The end-of-year giving season exceeded all our expectations, and we ended up being so profitable in 2020 that we now owed almost as much in taxes as we made in revenue the year before. Despite the incredibly difficult year—or perhaps, because of it?—the nonprofit sector as a whole also had its biggest, most impactful year ever, with 5.2% fundraising growth overall and more donations than ever happening online, showing just how resilient nonprofits really are.
Best of all, we were stoked to be able to grow our team and officially hire our first 5 full-time employees, including our very first contractor from 2019. Everything was coming together.
So we had a decision to make. For the first time ever, we had a real team, what felt like unlimited resources, and an amazing product that people were adopting faster than we could keep up with.
What would you have done next? :)
Our key insights 💡
After experiencing so much growth, I think most startups would have decided to just keep going down the same path. We had demonstrated product-market fit, so the obvious thing to do would have been to keep doing that same thing, just better.
This could have worked, but we settled on an even bigger vision. We wanted to be the world’s leading giving platform, and 3 key insights made us realize that staying on our current path would not get us there:
Key Insight #1: Every nonprofit CRM (which holds all of a nonprofit’s donor data) eventually tries to also process online payments themselves. This means that every CRM in our space actively competes against fundraising platforms like Givebutter for nonprofits' payment processing volume.
Key Insight #2: We make over 95% of our revenue from our payment processing volume. So we should (1) focus on that and (2) get rid of the other 5% (subscriptions).
Key Insight #3: There are tons of options when it comes to nonprofit technology like CRMs and email marketing, but very few are doing it for free. And no one is doing it all for free under the same roof (end-to-end).
Which brings me back to January 2021. After a historic December where we processed nearly $10M in online donations, we crashed back down to earth with our slowest month in almost a year. However, instead of panicking, we doubled-down on these key insights, and made some of our biggest bets ever.
Introducing: The world’s first completely free, end-to-end fundraising platform 🚀
I still can’t believe we actually did this. But we did. It’s all live, and it’s awesome.
Not only did we build and launch our very own CRM in 9 months (Track), but we also launched a brand new marketing product (Engage), an updated fundraising product with custom branding (Raise), and a brand new website to share our vision with the world. Givebutter is now truly an end-to-end fundraising platform: Raise → Track → Engage → (repeat).
And it’s all completely free. 100% funded by Tips and Platform Fees (the choice is yours). On the day we launched, we refunded and canceled over $200k in annually recurring subscription revenue, fulfilling our commitment to building a truly free end-to-end fundraising platform. Something that no one was expecting or had asked for, but we knew it was the right thing to do.
The list goes on and on… in some ways, it felt like we were building a new company from scratch. We redesigned our dashboard from the ground up. We scrapped our old marketing site and built a completely new one. We re-architected our platform and launched 70+ completely new or improved features. And we made an awesome new video (the one at the top) to share it all.
Although, if there’s one thing I’m most excited about, I think it’s our new mission:
To empower the changemaker in all of us.
For the longest time, I felt disconnected from the Givebutter community. There were so many incredible causes on our platform doing amazing work in their own communities, and I honestly started feeling like I wasn’t “good enough” to be working with them. But then I realized something… we’re all changemakers. All of us. Me, you, and yes - even that friend of yours who has never donated a dollar in their life. I believe that as humans, we all have a desire to make the world a better place. And at Givebutter, it’s our mission to empower you to do so. That’s why we started Givebutter, and it’s why I’m more excited than ever to be a part of it.
So for the last five years, we were just a fundraising platform. Now, we’re an end-to-end fundraising platform. Tomorrow, well, you’ll just have to wait and see. 😉
Closing thoughts 💭
THANK YOU! This launch involved so many people that I’m scared to even try to name anyone since I will inevitably leave people out. But here’s a few…
Mom, Dad, Michael, Ari, Sonja, Buttercup — You are always my #1.
My two handsome co-founders — Going through all our old memories to put together this video reminded me just how lucky I am to have found two people as crazy as me 🤪 Here’s to the crazy ones!
The Givebutter team — I’m so grateful to be on this journey with you all. Thank you for embracing change and trusting me to steer this ship, even if sometimes it means that I have to figure out how to assemble the wheel as we turn. You are the true heart and soul of Givebutter, and you all inspire me every day.
Friends of Givebutter (YOU!) — I’m glad you made it this far :) It takes a village, and none of this would be possible without all of your support. Even if it’s just a single email we exchanged, or a meeting we had 4 years ago, or maybe you’re just hearing about Givebutter for the first time right now… your support means the world, and I’m so glad you’re here.
Until next time 💛
Thank you to Sonja Eliason, Liran Cohen, Ari Krasner, Mark Rummel, and Lucy Winterhalder for reading drafts of this.
Open Rolls 🍞
P.S. We’re hiring! Know a talented engineer, support specialist, or just an awesome person who we should meet? Send them to our all-new Careers page at givebutter.com/careers! We even updated our buttermojis, too…