How A Gaming Guru Is Powering Up The New Social Philanthropy

Razoo CEO Lesley Mansford is an interactive entertainment and gaming veteran who’s now challenging nonprofits and individuals to raise the bar (and bigger donations) on social fundraising.

If  Lesley Mansford has her way, Razoo will soon be as familiar to you as Kickstarter.

Razoo is a company that's like a Kickstarter for nonprofit causes, an online platform that facilitates crowdsourced fundraising. And though she’s only been at the helm for nine months as Razoo’s CEO, Mansford has presided over the company’s biggest growth in its six year history. 

To date, Razoo’s platform has channeled $97 million to more than 12,000 nonprofits, $60 million of which has been raised by individuals and organizations since September, Mansford tells Fast Company. “The momentum is incredible,” she asserts, but she’s eager to keep building and cement Razoo’s position as a leader in the social giving space.

“The nonprofit world is now a tech world,” asserts Mansford, and as such should have a home surrounded by the best minds in innovation. That’s why she pushed for Razoo to have a presence in the San Francisco Bay area in addition to its original headquarters in Washington DC.

With decades of experience in interactive entertainment (in marketing at Electronic Arts and cofounder of pogo.com) Mansford is also well versed in the finer points of building communities around the gaming experience. So one thing she jumped on immediately was expanding on the success of Razoo’s 24-hour giving contests designed to drive change for clusters of local nonprofits. 

For example, a recent “giving day” enabled GiveMN to raise $14 million for a variety of Minnesota-based charities. Mansford says she hopes to have 18 such events by the end of this year. “It is extremely powerful and it also gives smaller nonprofits the motivation to learn about online fundraising,” she says.

The biggest misconception that most small charitable organizations have, says Mansford, is that online fundraising is difficult and costly. Razoo does take a fee, but at 2.9% of each transaction, it’s lower than competitors such as Crowdrise which charges 5% or FirstGiving which takes a 7.5% cut.

Razoo isn’t competing on cost alone. “The beauty of these events,” she explains, is that they “force the nonprofit to give it a go and find out it's so easy to connect with donors.” Mansford maintains that when organizations incorporate Razoo’s tools—everything from blog articles on how to leverage event photos to get more donors to a donation widget for a website or Facebook page—they can have a very efficient fundraiser. 

Over 75% of the nonprofits that participate get anywhere from 50-70% new donors, according to Mansford. She cites a report by the Case Foundation/Razoo Foundation on “Give to the Max Day” which took place in Greater Washington that indicates 60 percent of the nonprofits that joined in on that competition spent 10 hours or less on it.

The biggest opportunity of all may come from individuals who are drumming up support for causes they care about. “We are definitely seeing more individuals using the fundraising tools for life events as people look to get less and give more,” she observes. It’s about a 60/40 split, she says, between charitable organizations and individuals who set up pages to fundraise for their favorite cause on the occasion of a wedding or birthday.

Instead of amassing gifts for his Bar Mitzvah, for instance, teenager Reed Lipman raised nearly $13,000 from friends and family for Peace Players International, an organization that promotes basketball a means to unite divided communities in the Middle East.

Stories like this just feed Mansford’s vision to build the leading online giving community globally. “Putting the donor in the center of that experience can make it fun, meaningful, and life changing.”

[Image: Flickr user Marc Dalio]

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