This month, the Boston Foundation and TUGG (Technology Underwriting Greater Good) are wrapping up our drive to get 60 companies signed on to Pledge 1% Boston.
THE BIG NEWS? WE MADE IT!
More than 60 founders, business leaders, and companies have signed a pledge to donate 1 percent of their time, equity and/or profits to support community organizations. But we have no intention of stopping now. We're building a community of members that recognize the power of giving back to the communities that help make their success possible - a community of people like Adam Martel and Rich Palmer of Gravyty, who are reflecting on a year of growth and commitment to Pledge 1%. We caught up with Adam and Rich to talk about the past year and the impact Pledge 1% has had on their business and their personal approach to philanthropy.
1. Can you tell me about yourselves and what brought about the founding of Gravyty?
We started the company based on what we call “yin and yang” factors. We were both at Babson College, Adam as a frontline fundraiser for the development office, getting his MBA part-time, and Rich as an MBA candidate with a technology background. Every day, Adam and his colleagues needed to manage a portfolio of hundreds donors and prospects to support the school - but did so using sticky notes, spreadsheets, and luck. Having built predictive analytics products and companies in the fintech, consumer, and healthcare sectors, Rich recognized the opportunity to apply that technology to this problem as well.
When most people think about nonprofits, they don't think about artificial intelligence (AI), big data, or machine learning. However, nonprofits have access to a wealth of data beyond the reach of many for-profit companies. For instance, your alma mater knows your shoe size and food preferences from when you used your campus card to shop. Cause organizations and hospitals know about your volunteer habits, your philanthropic affinity, and more. It is often data that even Google doesn't have and it is growing exponentially.
However, just like with the infinite power of Google, if you don't know what to search for - the system is essentially useless. It is a problem that nonprofits face when they have ten or tens of thousands of current or prospective supporters, have historically been slow to adopt new technologies, and are often unable to attract data science talent.
Software, and more specifically AI, can replicate the cognitive functions of fundraisers at scale. At its very best, AI doesn’t replace nonprofit jobs but rather frees people up to do things that are entirely human. It can analyze data sets, prioritize which donors to talk to, prescribe action such as how to craft communications - taking on 99% of the repetitive / data work and allowing fundraisers to go out and build relationships. Software that combines CRM data with public and behavioral data can supercharge this and drastically improve fundraising outcomes by retaining donors.
2. As 1-year+ Pledge 1% Boston members, what about Gravyty and your mission prompted you initially taking the pledge? What made you personally interested in the pledge? What affirms your continued commitment?
Signing the pledge signified several important things for us. First, it was vocal, public support for entrepreneur-based philanthropy - and more specifically, support for Boston. Any success we have achieved is a result of having a wonderful local support system - customers, investors, advisors, and friends. We are grateful for what the community has provided us and are determined to give back in kind.
Second, both of us are starting families in the Boston area and want to do our best to maintain Boston’s exceptional opportunities and support areas that need an extra hand, to ensure a sustained, bright future.
Lastly, from a personal perspective, prior to business school Rich survived a brain aneurysm and is dedicated to supporting philanthropic causes and giving others a second chance as well.
3. Why is it important for other companies to build giving into their models? Why should other companies and founders take the pledge?
We often think back to the article, “I, Pencil
” which talks about the number of stakeholders involved in building a 'simple' pencil and how no one person can realistically achieve this on their own. This is true of startups as well. You are supported by stakeholders - including the community, government, advisors, customers, and many more. Building giving into your model is a direct line of resources back to the supporters who made your success possible.
From an ROI standpoint, there is a shifting mindset where “socially conscious” companies are outperforming those who disregard this element of business. Socially conscious businesses can hire better more inclusive talent, they are aware of their stakeholders and can sense their needs in strategic ways, and they are building for “tomorrow” rather than just “today” which is important to assured success. You can take a closer look at this by reading "Conscious Capitalism" by Whole Foods founder John Mackey and professor Raj Sisodia.
4. Can you tell me about the growth of your company over the last year? Can you tell me anything exciting that is on the horizon for Gravyty?
The past year was very exciting for us. We leveraged our artificial intelligence to create three wonderful products. ‘First Draft’ is self-writing, AI-powered email drafts that have seen tremendous results for our customers. ‘Gravyty Guide’ and ‘Gravyty Go!’ supercharge travel and weekly planning respectively to allow fundraisers to focus on the right people, at the right times. We have helped nonprofits from K-12 to colleges to hospitals to causes raise between 15% to 68% more revenue which surpassed even our expectations!
Looking forward, we have several big partnerships that we will be announcing in the coming months and have some exciting, cutting edge AI/ML technology that we will be deploying for the benefit of our clients.
5. Any fun facts about either of you, your team, or about Gravyty.
Adam used to be a professional magician, and one of Rich's top bucket list items is to bungee-jump out of a helicopter into a volcano - which you can do in Chile.
Interested in being a part of Pledge 1% Boston? Learn more about the initiative and our great cohort of members at http://pledge1boston.org.