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Start-up matching donors with charities gets ready to launch

9 March 2022 at 4:39 pm
Nikki Stefanoff
“The problem we're looking to address is how to encourage individuals, corporates and families to give more.”

Nikki Stefanoff | 9 March 2022 at 4:39 pm


Start-up matching donors with charities gets ready to launch
9 March 2022 at 4:39 pm

“The problem we’re looking to address is how to encourage individuals, corporates and families to give more.”

Kylie Wallace and Jessica Bowman are no strangers to the charity sector. 

Wallace spent the past 12 years working with small NFPs before taking an innovation role with World Vision, and Bowman founded The Good Cause Co, the first website in Australia to independently review Australian charities. 

With their new venture, Seedling, they’re combining their experience, their networks and their passion for the sector to create a service they hope will change the game when it comes to giving. 

We caught up with them to find out where the idea for Seedling came from and how they hope the service will benefit both charities and donors. 

Kylie, how did you and Jess meet and where did this idea for Seedling come from? 

I’ve worked in the sector for a long time and had just finished up working on the Polished Man campaign when everything started to unfold in Afghanistan last year. Because of my work in the charity sector, I had family and friends reach out to me asking what they could do to help. I started researching which charities were doing the work and chatted to the World Vision team in Afghanistan and found that most of the aid workers were either in hiding or had been evacuated out of the country. It was then that I remembered The Good Cause Co, which was an online platform I knew had just closed down, and so I reached out to its founder, Jess, and told her about how I hadn’t been able to work out where to send money and that I thought it demonstrated a gap for the sector. I was keen to buy some of the assets from The Good Cause Co, but after chatting she said she was interested in evolving the work she’d done with the platform and so we started to talk about building a new venture together – which is Seedling. 

So, Jess, why did you close The Good Cause Co?  

I started Good Cause in 2015 because it was so hard to identify high performing charities in Australia. I’m an analyst and so I started reviewing large Australian charities by looking at their financial reports, their impact statements and annual reports and then I would apply a systematic methodology to audit them. I would look at around 100 charities every year and started offering consulting services to high net worth individuals looking to give away millions of dollars. It was meaningful work. 

I decided to shut it down because I realised that a lot of people just want to give to small and medium-sized organisations and the analytic method I was applying wasn’t suitable. It also gave an incredible advantage to charities that were already very big and had established systems in place. 

I could see that the real solution in helping people give to high performing charities that align with their values would be a one-on-one service. And I didn’t know how to do it myself. And then Kylie called and pitched Seedling! 

What problem is Seedling setting out to solve? 

Wallace: The problem we’re looking to address is how to encourage individuals, corporates and families to give more. Plus, how can we help donors have more trust in how charities are utilising their funds. We also want to help with the overwhelm people can feel when they want to start regular donations but don’t know where to start – there are over 57,000 registered charities in Australia – and we want to help people commit to giving to a cause that’s in line with their personal values. 

Do you mean instead of having someone sign up for something on the street? 

Wallace: Exactly. I think sometimes people sign up for things because they don’t have the courage to say no. When a relationship of giving starts that way, it doesn’t build longevity. 

Jess and I also found that good advice around giving is really exclusive. It tends to be only given to high net worth individuals through wealth management and everybody else is on their own. 

And is this where Seedling comes in? 

Wallace: Yes. It’s also where all Jess’s learnings from the Good Cause Co come in. What we want to do with Seedling is offer people free one-on-one charity matching. We’ll get to know an individual’s passions, values and life experiences and will tailor a giving opportunity specific to them. 

We do all the due diligence work on the charities and boil it down to three aligned high performing charities for that donor to support. Once they’ve chosen which charity they want to donate to we’ll sign them up.  

Is there a limit on how much they can donate? 

Wallace: The two demographics we’re going to be working with will be regular givers who want to give just $50 (or more) a month and then we want to eventually branch out into bigger donations from corporate donors. Both Jess and I are passionate about not only growing philanthropic giving in Australia but also removing the barriers for anyone who wants to give to charity but doesn’t know where to start. 

Is Seedling working with particular charities or is it kept independent?

Wallace: We’re in the process of building up a panel of 500 high performing charities as our core stable, and so around 85 per cent of people will be matched with a charity from that panel. 

What if a donor doesn’t connect with any of those charities? 

Then we would find a charity outside of that panel that’s a better match for them. We would then reach out to that charity, do our due diligence and bring them on as part of the Seedling family, that’s how we aim to slowly grow our panel over the years. We want to focus on finding not only high performing charities but also ones that are well aligned with our donors’ passions and interests.

As the service you’re offering is free, how’s Seedling going to make money? 

Wallace: Charities will pay us a one-off placement fee for a successful match on a sliding scale of fees. We’re completely transparent on this with both the donors and charities.  

We also give the donor the opportunity to pay that one-off placement fee so that 100 per cent of the money goes to the charity, alternatively, they can pay a percentage of it. 

The real value we feel we can bring to the sector with Seedling is that we want to encourage donors to sign up for a minimum of 12 months, however, if a donor cancels their donation within the first 12 months, we will pay the placement fee back to the charity. Meaning there is no risk to a charity in coming on board. We hold all the risk. We predict that working this way will result in much longer, and larger, donations than in other, more traditional, forms of fundraising.

When are you set to launch? 

Wallace: We’ve just run the pilot, which went really well and the feedback has been positive from both donors and charities. The website’s up and running and the next few months will be our soft launch. Seedling is offering such a personalised one-on-one service that we want to slowly open up to, say, 50 people every month. It gives us time to do due diligence with the charities and also makes sure our donors get the time and attention they need. 

What do you want to achieve with Seedling? 

Wallace: We want to offer a new avenue into Australian giving, which means working collaboratively with our donors and within the charity sector. We also want to build a connection between the donor and their charity, and so the only requirement that we have for charities is that they provide us a 250 word impact update every six months. We will then share that with the respective Seedling donors. It gives donors a guarantee that they’re going to regularly hear from their charity and they can then build a connection with where their money is going. 

Find out more about Seedling here

Nikki Stefanoff  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Nikki Stefanoff is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.


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