Why We Invested: RevUp

It was a rainy afternoon many years ago in Ithaca, New York, which made it slightly more palatable to be stuck indoors, working my way through a list of names and phone numbers that seemed at the time to rival War and Peace in length. I was attempting to fundraise, and it wasn’t going very well — for every donation solicited, I succeeded in annoying dozens of others who had never given, would never give, or who had just given. There wasn’t much information available to me — who were these people I was calling? Did they have a family? What were their hobbies and interests? Did they give to other causes? So I used the same generic script for each call, and rarely managed to have a real conversation with the human being on the other end of the line. “There has to be a better way,” I thought.

Years later, in the 2008 presidential election, a pioneering approach to political fundraising contributed to deliver the White House to President Obama by challenging the old notion that in America’s elections, the same, small number of rich individual donors are the ones who can make or break a candidacy. The idea, led by a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, used a clever approach to help ordinary individuals unlock extraordinary chains of funds by tapping into their social networks and asking their connections to raise money themselves.

Steve Spinner was one of those entrepreneurs, and he saw an opportunity to bring the same approach to others — that’s how RevUp was born. Since then, the analytics software company has made its data-driven fundraising tool available to candidates on both sides of the aisle, helping them “grow the fundraising pie” with donations from untapped sources; and lowering the barrier to entry for challenger candidates, enabling them to run viable campaigns.

We are firm believers that greater political participation — and greater competition — enhances democracy. However, that’s not the only reason why Omidyar Network has invested in RevUp.

Imagine if the same approach could be leveraged for causes beyond the political realm? Academics could find more supporters for groundbreaking medical or scientific research. Nonprofit organizations could more easily raise the funds they need to advocate for civil rights, democratize education, preserve artistic and historical artifacts, save animals at the edge of extinction, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, provide relief during natural disasters, and so much more.

RevUp dramatically improves organizations’ access to information about their current donors and finds new potential ones, by combining social data with publicly available financial data and metadata. More than a CRM tool, which is focused on tracking donors’ past behaviors, RevUp’s unique model provides richer data and insights for growing the pie. The platform also ranks donors on their likelihood to give and suggests key messages and strategies for outreach based on their interests.

And besides the gains in effectiveness, the process also becomes much more efficient, freeing up precious time that politicians can spend working on behalf of constituents and nonprofits can use to focus on achieving their core mission.

There is indeed a better way.

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