As the holiday season continues we will continue profiling as many social entrepreneurs and their startups as we can. Greg Hoffman and Ben Daniel are two of those entrepreneurs. Their California startup, RaffleForGood, is exactly what the name suggests, a raffle platform to do some good.
With the rise in use of the internet businesses big, small, for profit and non profit want to use the internets vast reach to offer prizes in raffles to raise money for charity. The problem is, that posting a product on the internet, and raffling it off isn’t just time consuming, but there are mountains of legal red tape that prevent companies from raffling things off at their own whim.
RaffleForGood handles all of that for their users. They’ve simplified the raffling system down to just about listing a prize and starting the raffle.
“Basically, Raffle For Good is an online fundraising platform for organizations to raise money through an interactive, skill-based raffle system. Companies donate items to causes they support. The causes then list the items on their personal Raffleforgood.com
subdomain, at which point they direct their supporters to purchase tickets. It’s a fun reinvention of the raffle designed to make online fundraising more effective, engaging, and exciting, for all parties involved.” Hoffman told us in an interview.
Check out the rest of our interview with Hoffman below:
What is Raffle For Good?
The Internet has transformed the world. It has been the source of our employment, given us the power over information, maintained our relationships with family, friends, girlfriends, and even subsidized our education. Without this tool, we would not be where we are today.
However, the Internet hasn’t solved everything. There are few options for interaction between nonprofits, for-profits, and consumers. Nonprofits are limited to collecting direct donations and are incapable of fundraising in an engaging, exciting way. For-profits are unable to engage in philanthropy with nonprofits in a way that is mutually beneficial and at all sustainable. Users are limited to non-engaging interactions with the causes they care about and are expected to give their money with no reciprocal benefit.
We believe in an Internet without these barriers, an Internet where nonprofits, for-profits, and consumers interact in harmony. Raffle For Good allows this. Raffle For Good provides for-profits with the ability to engage in philanthropy in a way that is sustainable for their business, allows nonprofits to fundraise online easily & affordably, and presents users with an interactive, exciting method of supporting the causes they care about.
In layman’s terms, how does it work?
Basically, Raffle For Good is an online fundraising platform for organizations to raise money through an interactive, skill-based raffle system. Companies donate items to causes they support. The causes then list the items on their personal Raffleforgood.com subdomain, at which point they direct their supporters to purchase tickets. It’s a fun reinvention of the raffle designed to make online fundraising more effective, engaging, and exciting, for all parties involved.
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
Gregory A. Hoffman, Founder & CEO
Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Greg left for California to attend Claremont McKenna College, where he is an Organizational Studies major. With a passion for business and social change, he’s always trying to come up with the next big thing. After years of providing a mix of creative ideas yet taking no action, he found an idea he truly believes in and hasn’t looked back! Greg is confident that Raffle For Good will revolutionize how nonprofits, for-profits, and consumers interact in the digital landscape. Greg, passionate about startups, also advises and consults for a number of other ventures. When not nose deep in his work, he can be found cruising through the country on his bicycle, lazing about watching sports, or doing a strange thing called homework.
Ben Daniel, Co-Founder & Advisor
Ben started an iOS development studio when he was 17. Between high school studies, sports, and extra-curriculars, he managed a variety of projects and had the opportunity to collaborate with Infuse Medical, building enterprise and sales applications for Medtronic. After graduation he accepted a scholarship to Utah State University and was accepted into the Huntsman Scholar’s Program studying international business and psychology. He worked on several startups which didn’t gain much traction, but ultimately dropped-out of college to focus on the exploding mobile computing market. Ben re-located to Silicon Valley and began working on his latest project, Brick, which gives users amazing control over their digital world. Ben became a founder of LifeLine Cloud Inc when Brick was merged with it. Ben has provided constant support to Raffle For Good and was instrumental in getting us to where we are today.
Where are you based?
In true startup fashion, Raffle For Good operates out of Greg’s dorm room at Claremont McKenna College in sunny Claremont, CA. When school is not in session, the company operates in Miami, FL.
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
The startup scene at the Claremont Colleges (a 7-college consortium of which Claremont McKenna is a part of) grows larger with every passing day. Just this year, the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship launched. They’ve provided Raffle For Good with awesome resources, including workspace, workshops, and networking events. There is also an awesome on-campus start-up contest, the Innovative Startup Award, which is sponsored by the Kravis Leadership Institute. Raffle For Good has enjoyed taking part in the associated events, and is excited at the prospect of competing in, and hopefully winning the award!
It’s no secret that college campuses are great places to start a business. We certainly take advantage of all the brilliant, young friends that live close. For instance, we’ve asked accounting and finance majors to help ensure that Raffle For Good’s books are in order. We cannot possibly count the times we’ve asked people for an opinion on a design, or for general feedback on the site.
Perhaps the greatest resource that Claremont McKenna College has provided is a seemingly endless network of contacts. CMC offers us students a unique opportunity to eat dinner and connect with speaker brought to campus prior to their speech. We’ve taken advantage of this and pitched the idea to a number of influential professionals and received invaluable feedback. The college’s faculty and alumni network has also proven useful along our journey.
How did you come up with the idea for Raffle For Good?
The inspiration for my idea was inspired over time from a culmination of experiences. I had long been enamored by the idea of starting a business and creating a company from scratch with my own vision. Over time, a close friend of mine urged me to ensure that I wasn’t a typical greedy, unethical corporate Wall Street CEO. That stuck with me.
Then the Haiti Earthquake happened in 2010. I was on the computer reading about it and decided I wanted to help out. I browsed the websites a number of nonprofits that were dedicated to disaster relief. I was struck by the lack of ways I was able to help out and engage with the nonprofits. It seemed as if I were limited to just giving them money and receiving a thank you email.
While good will is certainly reason enough to give money, which I ultimately did, direct donations as the only method of being able to support a cause online didn’t seem right to me. Why was that the only way to support online when in real life I can go to a charity auction, a charity raffle, or volunteer my time? It was at that point that I began to brainstorm more interactive, engaging ways for users to support the causes they care about.
It took about a year before I finally got the wheels churning on a solution. There was not a specific event that triggered me to commit to the journey of taking my idea into action. Rather, it was the Internet. I regularly visited a number of startup sites that all have vibrant communities that really encourage people to take the plunge, to start a business. I also read a number of books about start-ups. My personal favorite is Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie.
Committing to a startup is a huge commitment, and in my case it required a lot of nudging my others and reassurance that I would not be alone in my journey, and knowing that regardless of if I succeeded or not, I would learn a tremendous amount along the way.
What problem does Raffleforgood solve?
Raffle For Good solves problems for nonprofits, for-profits, and users. Here’s a brief breakdown of the problems solved from each one’s perspective:
•Expecting to fundraise effectively online solely using direct donations is an inconsistent, archaic ideology. In today’s uncertain economic climate, nonprofits need to present web users with an attractive value proposition to convince them to donate their scarce dollars.
•Most for-profits today engage in philanthropy as a way of improving their reputation and to begin attracting new customers. The primary way companies do this is through monetary donations & grants. However, they are limited in their ability to perform philanthropy, as giving money away with no return is unsustainable. Companies demand a way to support non-profits while also benefiting their bottom line.
•Though there are ways for users to connect with non-profits online, they are largely unexciting & unrewarding. Users are expected to give their hard earned money to causes with little interaction and few benefits, and that’s not okay. While users may truly care about a cause and wish to support it, they need a more engaging, painless way to do so.
What’s your secret sauce?
Our “secret sauce” is the interactive, skill-based raffle system. No longer an engage-less activity, entering a raffle now requires skill and some quick-responses. The big difference to traditional raffles is that the user gets to number their own tickets. To win, a user simply needs to have the lowest numbered ticket that no one else chooses. For example, if three consumers choose the number one and one consumer chooses the number three, the one who chose the unique number—in this case, number three—would win.
Overall, Raffle For Good provides nonprofits, for-profits, and consumers with a medium to interact with each other and further everyone’s respective goals. Raffle For Good is unique in this capability.
Are you bootstrapped or funded?
Raffle For Good is bootstrapped. The company was funded using money the money I had previously invested on the stock market. However, we were not fully able to self-fund. Thankfully, my parents kindly offered to fund the difference. We would not be able to launch without their support, and are eternally grateful.
What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
The biggest challenge I had to overcome was a fear of failure. When I began to work on Raffle For Good it was a very emotionally draining period. I was very excited about it and worked on it at every possible moment. While the online entrepreneur communities are very nurturing and supportive, there’s also a great deal of discussion on the reality that the vast majority of startups don’t succeed. For a long time after I started working on Raffle For Good I had a hard time dealing with the thought that it’s, statistically speaking, far more likely that I will fail than succeed.
There came a point, however, when I sort of accepted failure as a possibility. I think it’s a point that every entrepreneur crosses in his or her journey, and it’s a vital one. I believe it’s vital for an entrepreneur to accept failure as a potential end result, to accept that their efforts and investment may ultimately go down the drain. Without accepting failure as an option there is no never-ending effort to avoid it. I think that a first-rate entrepreneur is one who can accept the fact that the vast majority of startups fail and use it to their advantage by acknowledging it on their journey and using it to their advantage, which is what I did.
What’s next for Raffleforgood?
Right now, Raffle For Good is in a pre-launch beta phase. We are ironing out the backend workflows, making sure the experience for the users is as efficient and easy as possible. We will open up the site to the general public by mid-December. We’re incredibly excited to help nonprofit’s fundraise, companies practice philanthropy, and users engage with the causes they care about!