Likecharity: The Dublin Startup Changing Mobile Donations For The Better

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“As a startup, to say that 20% of the nation’s population have engaged with our product, that’s phenomenal.”

How many startups can say they won over a major angel investor – John Ason, of Kewpie Associates – completely by chance, at a Christmas party with live bongos playing in the background, charming their way to a major investment within forty minutes?

But then Likecharity make it look easy. Ason explained why this particular Dublin-based startup stands out and challenges global industry standards: “What makes Likecharity different is that currently charities use ad agencies to run campaigns and bring in donors, or they use speciality donor companies,” he said. “Likecharity provides them with these donors at a fixed price. That’s very unique, and has good scaling opportunities. They take the risk out of running campaigns, which can turn out to be very expensive.”

Mobile donation is nothing new, but for years the problem with text-based fundraising has been the percentage spent on the service. What makes Likecharity different is their contract with Ireland’s five top MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) – Vodafone, Meteor, Three and Tesco Mobile – agreeing to waive the fees for charity campaigns. This means that every bit of the donation made goes straight to the charity, rather than being spent on premium texting and admin fees.

Founded in 2013 by Tadhg O’Toole, an entrepreneur, investor and partner in Tribal VC (where the company is based), the fundraising startup now employs a team of 11 with a second branch in Raleigh, North Carolina – where they’ve signed their first US client, Covenant House.

Now this small Irish company works with 250 charities, streamlining the donation process and bringing it into the future. Most significantly of all, they’ve created a service that tangibly makes the world a better place: not only do they ensure that every bit of the money donated goes to the charity, they made it that much easier to donate. Fundraising phenomena like the No Makeup Selfie and the Ice Bucket Challenge could never have happened in Ireland without Likecharity’s participation.

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We spoke to Likecharity COO John Kyne:

Tell us how Likecharity works…

People want to help the causes that they care about, but this process needs to be simple and frictionless. It should be as easy as throwing a few coins in a bucket. When viral social media campaigns highlight a cause, organisations need to be ready to harness public interest and capture support in the form of donations, instantly and efficiently. Sending an SMS is easy to do: Likecharity is a tool that lets people react from the heart.

How did the concept originate?

Likecharity came about listening to Christmas FM one year. We noticed how little of the mobile donation actually found its way to the charity, after fees and other deductions. Being from the mobile industry, it was obvious that the costs involved just didn’t add up. We set about removing the barriers that made setting up a mobile fundraising campaign expensive, and launched our product with the support of each of Ireland’s mobile network operators.

How did you convincing charities and to use it? 

Our bread and butter is simplicity: one of our biggest learnings was that when people were given an easy way to donate, the number of people who actively engaged and donated increased by ten or fifteen fold. We made a new method of fundraising available to the Irish charity sector, and then we proved that it worked. This is how donors want to engage with charities. When we were founded back in 2013, Likecharity worked with six charities; we now have over 250 charities using our platform in Ireland.

What has been the biggest challenge?

Introducing a new product into a long-standing market was always going to be the hardest part. Charities initially were happy to stick with their tried and tested methods, but now we’ve proved that our platform is a valuable tool to have in the fundraising toolbox. Charities are becoming increasingly willing to embrace new ideas and use new channels, and we’re on hand to help them do that.

Was there a landmark moment for Likecharity? 

Every campaign has been instrumental in proving that our platform works. When Majella O’Donnell shaved her head live on The Late Late Show (for the Irish Cancer Society), the audience was given three on-screen methods of making a donation: SMS, a website or a phone number. 15% of the Irish population sent in a text message and donated that night. That was 85% of all of the donations made.

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Hitting the €1 million mark for the No Make-Up Selfie campaign last March was also a landmark for us. Through this campaign donors became familiar and comfortable with Likecharity’s service, and any charities who hadn’t heard of us before certainly knew who we were after that.

Has being based in Dublin helped?

Definitely. The Irish are renowned for being good-willed, but the force with which they supported Majella O’Donnell, the No Make-Up Selfies and the Ice Bucket Challenge was unprecedented, and that’s not even considering the thousands that use our platform on a daily basis. Over 20% of our population have text a donation via Likecharity. As a startup to say that 20% of the nation’s population have engaged with our product, that’s phenomenal.

Image via Flickr and RTE (via the Likecharity blog)

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