Walle Mafolasire Creates Charitable Donation Platform Givelify
Charitable giving is alive and well in the US. Individuals, bequests, foundations and corporations gave an estimated $471.44 billion to U.S. charities in 2020, according to the Giving USA Foundation. Yet an even greater number of individuals would dig into their wallets for charitable giving if there was a trusted and easier way to do so.
That was the inspiration to the founding of Indianapolis-based Givelify, an online and mobile giving platform started by its Nigerian immigrant founder and CEO Walle Mafolasire and his co-founder Tayo Adamuyiwa in 2013. “I found myself sitting in church, and the offering plate came by. I reached for my wallet, there was maybe $3 in there. I knew I wanted to give way more than $3. I sheepishly put the $3 and I passed the plate to the next person,” says Mafolasire.
He tried to go to the Church’s website but found it difficult to find on Google. When he found the correct Faith Apostolic Church listing, he navigated to the donation page, which turned out to be a long and complicated form not suitable for use on his mobile phone. He found that his inclination to give during these moments of inspiration were challenged by the technology at the time.
“I remember the point where I felt like I needed to do something about this. One of my friends who volunteered for this organization invited me to their fundraising gala. Somewhere in the event, I start hearing about the mission of the organisation and I’m feeling myself inspired and compelled to want to support this organisation,” says Mafolasire. Yet even though the organisation had a mobile device with a Square reader to take credit cards, the line for giving was long. He decided to leave and fill out a pledge card when he had time.
After several of these incidents, he then vowed to do something about it. “Man, I see these commercials. There’s an app for this, and there’s an app for that. There’s got to be an app for silly people like me, who if we don’t act in the moment of inspiration, we lose that moment. I went to the App Store and didn’t find any. I’m like, ‘You know what? I’m a computer science guy, I could probably figure out how to do this.’ And so, I decided to go ahead and build this thing out,” says Mafolasire.
He and some college friends from Indianapolis did just that. Today, Givelify is a platform that has helped more than one million people go from moment of inspiration to actual giving donations to support their favourite churches, places of worship, non-profits and causes with nearly $3 billion in donations across more than 55,000 organizations. And while there are now many giving apps to choose from, Givelify leads all giving apps on the App Store and Google Play Store with more than 90,000 verified authentic reviews with an average 4.9 out of 5-star rating.
Yet the road to building a business was more challenging than just having the technical know-how to build an app. He had to find a way to work around the Apple Stores’ 30% take, which he did, and then he needed to convince charitable organisations to accept his app for their charitable donations. While he convinced his church’s pastor to accept it and it began to grow through word-of-mouth, convincing others who didn’t know Mafolasire was more challenging.
“How do you help them realize that yes, you’re a young company and yes, the founder has the Nigerian prince’s name, but it’s a reputable company and you can trust this? And it was a very fun, interesting time of trying to figure out how to balance the complexity of a new brand handling donations and the trust that was required to make that happen,” says Mafolasire.
To scale and build the business required funding that he initially had hoped would come from venture capital funds, yet those efforts failed. “I started pitching investors and I remember I’d pitch investors in Indianapolis, and they said no. So, I’m like, “You know what? Forget Indianapolis, I’m going to go try Austin. I hear investors there are more progressive. And then I would go there and all of them said no. I went to San Francisco. I hear they write checks for anything as long as you’ve got an idea. Went there, pitched to a few people, they said no.”
Without traditional means for funding, the ever-positive and persistant Mafolasire turned to friends and members of his church community, who used their credit cards, savings and 401k investments to get Givelify off the ground because they believed in its mission. “They’re the other heroes of this story. Definitely, the giving community is the hero but there’s a group of people who could get behind the idea of putting more good into the world that also deserve to be recognized in that story,” says Mafolasire. Many of his early investors also came to work at Givelify along the way.
Givelify’s platform has not only helped increase charitable giving, but also sheds light on the giving community. According to company statistics, out of the 25 million donations, the average donor gives $8,000 per year, which is eight times the US average for charitable donations, with the majority of donors coming from the Black and Brown communities. In the spirit of wanting to know more about how and why people donate to charity, Givelify has formed a partnership with the University of Indiana School of Philanthropy.
As for the future, Mafolasire hopes to expand the platform’s utility to include the opportunity for volunteer work, so that people can donate their time and effort in addition to monetary donations. “We define doing good as yes, sometimes the money all goes a long way as well, but sometimes it’s the time and your talent. And how do you use that to put more good into the world? And directionally, that’s where Givelify is going. And this new brand is all about, how do we show that to the world,” concludes Mafolasire.