Validating the Last Decade of My Professional Life

Matthew Combs January 17, 2018 Employee Engagement

I don’t know if it’s the right way, the wrong way, the morally correct way, or simply the most impactful way. I just know that it’s been the YourCause way for the last decade…and as a follow-on to the most recent posting by our Chief Strategy Officer, it’s the same way that GoFundMe (and Facebook) will handle domestic donations flowing through their system: no additional transaction fees!

Removing percentage transactional fees might not seem all that important, but in so many ways this single action sure does support so much of what I have poured my passion and energy into over the last decade of my life.

I have always looked at fees taken out of a donation a bit like an “interception” of an individual’s generosity. For me, personally, there is very little that angers me more than when someone does something to interfere when I’m trying to do good. When I make up my mind to help someone or something, I want every penny to count.

When I began YourCause and made the decision to NOT form my business model around ‘intercepting’ the generosity of others, I ran this very simply scenario through my mind: If $100 was going to help 100 kids – then how could I (or YourCause), as the trusted delivery service of other’s generosity, tell 5 children (assuming a 5% fee) that today, as a result of fees deducted from the donation, they would not be receiving support? Moreover, how could I face the donor – who is entrusting me as their servant and steward of good – and tell them I would be reducing their impact in order to financially support myself? Even as I write that, it just doesn’t feel right.

To me, it was pretty clear as to why I simply could not go in that direction with my business model. I didn’t want to be associated with a transaction model that defeated the very purpose and/or cause behind what I was trying to do. Even though a SaaS business that has that “toll road” type model is often times cherished by private equity and one that allows a startup to post much higher numbers to their investors, it was just not something that more moral compass was pointing me towards. And as I have mentioned in a previous post, I chose to take what I considered to be the high road – which now, is the same road that has been confirmed and joined by the likes of GoFundMe and Facebook.  Welcome to the family!

I understand that building the technology, operating the servers, providing support, and even delivering the donations, cost money…I’m not naïve and I sure don’t consider myself to be an idiot. I know it costs GoFundMe and Facebook money, just like it costs us. And the cost to do what we do is not insignificant. Without making up those fees somewhere, none of this is even possible.

And that is where I find users – the donors – are often willing to pitch in. And in our case, the enterprises using our platforms. I conducted an informal survey this year with a couple dozen of our clients, whereby I asked them specifically why they prefer our “no fee” model. Invariably, the responses were the same: “We are seeking to provide a benefit to our employees – and that specific benefit is to ensure that 100% of their generosity is getting to the cause that matters to them.” If done any other way, it would be difficult for them to argue that it’s an employee benefits program, let alone a Corporate Responsibility initiative.

I don’t write this to propose that companies and/or products doing work similar to ours should be these financial martyrs in order to ensure that 100% of all generosity gets to its end recipients. That’s unrealistic and impractical. But like we saw with GoFundMe, or Facebook, or even YouCaring, there are alternative models that protect the donor and seek to deliver greater support to the very nonprofits that are trying to improve our world.  Tips or subscriptions have shown to work and, in fact, be more effective in some cases.

And for that, I applaud the efforts we’re seeing in today’s market and can only hope that what we are seeing is the new ‘normal.’ …dilly dilly.