Amicus, a startup looking to use social connections to make nonprofit fundraising and outreach easier, has raised a seed round of $580,000.
You can see Amicus’ founders demonstrate the product in the video below, but the basic idea is that fundraising phone calls and emails are a lot more effective when they come from someone you know. If you’ve ever been contacted by some random person asking you to donate to a good cause, you can probably relate. Doubly so if you’ve been the random person.
Other companies like Causes and Fundly have been built around similar ideas, but they’re mostly limited to Facebook, while Amicus supports more old-school forms of communication.
So when a volunteer (or whoever) comes in to help with fundraising or outreach, they don’t just get a random list of numbers to call — instead, their social network connections are checked against the group that the fundraiser is targeting (say, young women in San Francisco), and they’re given separate lists of their friends, their friends of friends, and people with whom they have something in common, who are in the target group. That makes it more likely that their calls, emails, or even old-fashioned letters will be successful — co-founder and CEO Seth Bannon says that during the beta test, having a friend contact a friend doubled the likelihood that the person being contacted would take action on behalf of the cause.
PennEnvironment, an environmental advocacy group, has already used Amicus to build support for its successful campaign to defend clean air protections in Pennsylvania, Bannon says.
The funding comes from RRE (Jim Robinson IV), NYCSeed, Esther Dyson, David Rose (chairman emeritus, NY Angels), Quotidian Ventures, Tabreez Verjee (who led Kiva.org’s first funding round), and other angel investors. Amicus plans to use the money to expand its development and design teams. Bannon also says that for every new hire, Amicus will donate a cow to a family in need in the third world.