Over $1 million dollars a day is donated through LaunchGood in Ramadan, mashAllah. But why? What makes LaunchGood so unique?

  • It’s not the tech - that’s pretty straight forward, and many companies offer fundraising software.
  • It’s not a place to donate, you can do that directly on any charities’ websites.
  • It’s not even the branding (although that’s pretty solid, mashAllah).

It’s the Giving Ecosystem!

But what is that?

A lesson from permaculture: the 3 sisters

Have you heard of the “3 sisters”? It’s three types of crops Native Americans (specifically the Iroquois) would grow together in a symbiotic relationship:

  1. Corn
  2. Beans
  3. Squash

The corn grows tall, providing a trellis for the beans to climb. The beans, in turn, fix nitrogen in the soil, which feeds the corn and squash. The squash covers the ground, blocks weeds, and prevents evaporation, thus preserving the resources in the soil for all three.

The “3 sisters” of LaunchGood

At LaunchGood, we similarly have “3 sisters” that have helped us nurture a Giving Ecosystem that’s uplifting the entire Ummah!

  1. Donors
  2. Fundraisers
  3. Giving Pool

LaunchGood offers donors the chance to schedule their donations at special times like Ramadan and on Fridays in order to maximize their good deeds. Donors have the option to choose where their giving goes. If they don’t, they let LaunchGood choose for them, and this creates the giving pool. The giving pool funds various incentives for fundraisers (leaderboard prizes for most raised/donors, match challenges, and referrals) that help them earn additional donations, or boosts, for worthy causes around the world. These boosts empower fundraisers to further activate their donors, raising far more than offered, thus multiplying the impact of the original donations. This feeds back into the giving pool in a positive up cycle.

The Giving Ecosystem Impact: $40 million annually

The Giving Ecosystem on LaunchGood directly manages around $10 million in automated donations annually from 50,000 donors. The leveraging effect of leaderboards, referrals, and matches (see below) catalyze an additional $30 million, resulting in a total impact of $40 million!

That’s a massive effect - but it didn’t happen overnight.

How it all started: 2015 Ramadan Challenge

We launched LaunchGood in September 2013, and experienced our first Ramadan in June 2014. It was eye-opening to see how much more active we Muslims are donating in Ramadan, and the next year we really wanted do something to support that.

We decided to experiment with a “Ramadan Challenge” to challenge donors to give every day of Ramadan. To keep it simple, we made a daily email list for 1 fundraiser a day, and thought if 100 people signed up that would validate it - instead 718 people signed up!

But it was hard to keep up and manually donate every day for 30 days, so based off user feedback the next year we built an option for automating donations, and over 80% of donors preferred that.

We further expanded it from just Ramadan to Dhul Hijjah and Fridays, and started to have thousands of donors giving automatically year round.

But where to send their donations?

From Giving Pool to Leaderboards

At first, we used to use a Facebook poll to ask donors where we should send donations, but 99% of people wouldn’t participate. We then created a Giving List, which makes it easy for donors to queue their automated donations, but still 80% prefer LaunchGood just choose a worthy cause for their donations.

There are thousands of active fundraisers on LaunchGood - which makes it impossible to determine who is “most deserving” of those donations.

The solution: Leaderboards

We created leaderboards for fundraisers, one for most funds raised, another for most donors, with prizes funded by the automated donations entrusted to LaunchGood.

This way, we are ensuring the fundraisers receiving the donation boosts are those that are working hardest and donors trust the most (otherwise, theoretically, they wouldn’t get onto the leaderboard to begin with).

It also removed bias from the process - fundraisers aren’t getting boosts because they’re friends with LaunchGood, but because they earned it (and had fun doing so!)

The IRUSA team having fun winning the GivingTuesday leaderboard

The Leaderboard Impact: 6x

Leaderboards don’t just help us fairly disperse the giving pool - they are a powerful tool fundraisers can use to motivate their donors to give.

We have found that every $1 of leaderboard prizes activates $6 of donations!

For example, in Ramadan we give out $30,000 daily in leaderboard prizes - that’s activating at least $180,000 in extra donations.

Fundraising is hard work, but gamifying it with leaderboard prizes makes it so much easier and more fun for charities.

Referrals: Further Boosting the Giving Pool

A few years ago we figured out an additional way to strengthen this Giving Ecosystem: referral boosts.

For every automated donor a fundraiser brings in, they’ll receive a $50-100 boost from the Giving Pool. Typically those automated donors contribute $150 throughout Ramadan, so overall it’s a net positive to the Giving Pool, allowing us to scale indefinitely.

This is a great alternative to the leaderboard because whereas the leaderboard prizes are limited, anyone can earn referral bonuses.

Typically the leaderboards are dominated by influencers fundraising for classic feel-good causes, like feeding orphans. So for worthy causes that may not have the same emotional pull, for example an Islamic school, getting sign ups for the Ramadan Challenge is much more effective than competing for the leaderboard.

For example, Zuhri Trust is a wonderful masjid & education center in the UK - a very worthy cause, but one that doesn’t do as well direct fundraising in Ramadan as compared to feeding orphans. But they were able to get almost 100 people to join the Ramadan Challenge, earning their Ramadan fundraiser $10,000 (while simultaneously increasing the size of the Giving Pool).

Match Funds: 4x impact

Another opportunity we found to leverage the Giving Pool is matched funds where we offer fundraisers a match if they can raise a certain minimum. For example if they raise $2,000 within 72 hours, they’ll get a match of $2,000 from the Giving Pool.

This has been an incredible tool for boosting smaller fundraisers that again may not be able to compete for the leaderboard, especially personal fundraisers.

A great model of this is Ustadh Ashir Kirk in Tennessee. He’s been supporting lower-income Muslim families around him go to Umrah and rebuild their lives after tragedy.

Before the match offers, he might struggle to hit $2,000. But once he had the match in hand, Ashir was able to raise $2,000 in a few hours, and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars.

What if I don’t want my donations going to a Giving Pool?

When a donor signs up for automated giving, they can pre-select an unlimited number of causes for their donations to go to by adding fundraisers to their “Giving List”. A donor can add fundraisers to the Giving List by simply tapping the heart icon ♡ in the top right corner of the page of any fundraiser they find on LaunchGood. Each week, their automated donation is directed to one of the fundraisers on their Giving List.

If a donor doesn’t want any of their Ramadan donations to go towards the Giving Pool, they can simply add 30 fundraisers to their Giving List, and each daily donation will go to the causes they have chosen.

Red Lines: what we do not do

We believe these donations are a huge amanah (trust) from our donors, and its important to use them not just effectively but ethically.

To be abundantly clear:

  • We do not receive auto-donations ourselves
  • We do not use auto-donations to generate direct revenue or benefit to LaunchGood
  • We do not sell donor data (all auto-donations are anonymized)

Simply put, automated giving donations are only used to directly catalyze fundraising and giving on the platform. Donations go directly from donors to the fundraisers that earned those donations.

Giving Ecosystem: Whole Greater Than Sum of Parts

One of LaunchGood’s core values is “We Make Stone Soup”, which is a reference to an old European fable where strangers passing through a town convince the villagers to all come together and contribute to a soup that, with everyone’s contributions, creates a feast greater than any one person could’ve made alone.

Likewise, this Giving Ecosystem we’ve created has made a fundraising banquet where we can all feast together and maximize not just the blessings of our donations and effectiveness of our fundraisers, but ultimately the support needed to uplift the Ummah.

LaunchGood exists to uplift the Ummah, and we’re proud to innovate new ways to achieve that goal.

ps - Please join us in this cornucopia of giving 🌽🎃🫘 by joining our Friday Givers here!

Chris Blauvelt is the CEO & founder of LaunchGood.com, a passionate Muslim American entrepreneur committed to building up the global Muslim community to reach its full potential.