Nonprofits employ 10% of the U.S. workforce and generate some $2 trillion in revenue each year and yet, many charitable organizations are still using pen and paper to track their volunteers.
Civic Champs, a startup that presented onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF, has developed a platform that aims to give non-profits the tech tools they need to better manage volunteers.
“The nonprofit market is underserved by technology companies,” co-founder and CTO Mike Jeffery told TechCrunch.
Civic Champs is initially focusing on volunteer management. However, the mobile app, which was built with React Native for Android and iOS, can be broadened over time.
For instance, the company recently launched a micro-donations feature that automatically converts volunteers to donors. The feature will integrate a number of payment options, including Stripe, Apple Pay, and Plaid/Dwolla for ACH donations.
The Civic Champs platform uses geolocation and geofences to automate volunteer-hour tracking. The seemingly simple task of checking volunteers into events and tracking their time can take a small nonprofit 10 hours per month to manage, according to the company. Civic Champs co-founder and CEO Geng Wang says their platform can slash that task down to an hour per month.
Civic Champs designed a mobile-first platform. However, the company’s co-founders say they understood that not all volunteers will have smartphones or want to use the app. So they developed three ways to use the platform.
Volunteers can use the Civic Champs mobile app to check in at events and track their hours. The platform has also been adapted to web-based kiosks, which nonprofits can use to make it easier for tech-averse volunteers to check in. A volunteer’s hours can also be tracked through a nonprofit’s administrative features on both the app and the web. All three tracking methods — mobile, web kiosk, or by administrator — synchronize volunteer tracking across platforms and between users and potentially multiple organizations.
With the launch of Civic Champs, Wang, who co-founded the startup with Jeffery and Ryan Underdahl, is now solidly in serial entrepreneur territory. Wang’s first startup, RentJungle, was an apartment search engine, which was acquired in 2014 by The Rainmaker Group. Wang’s second startup, a social media marketing firm called Community Elf that has since been rebranded as Cosmitto, was acquired in 2017 by private equity firm Topanga Partners.
For his third go around, Wang told TechCrunch he wanted to do something more mission-driven. The original idea was to create a mobile game for volunteering. This “Pokemon Go” of volunteering would let users contribute in small ways — like helping cities collect data on physical assets, such as traffic lights and fire hydrants using GPS and photo uploads.
But that idea quickly morphed into something larger when Geng started talking to volunteer organizations and learned the challenges were far more basic and widespread.
“Essentially, nine out of the 10 organizations we talked to still track their volunteers on pen and paper forms,” Geng said. “As a former consultant, I thought well that’s sort of crazy. That’s a lot of time that you’re spending on paperwork that you could direct back to the community and in certain, more impactful ways.”
The co-founders pivoted away from gamification and started developing a mobile platform that nonprofits can use to track volunteers. The company officially launched in January 2019.
Civic Champs has raised $312,000 in a pre-seed round and also received $29,000 in non-dilutive grants through the Indiana University CLAPP competition and the Indiana Technical Assistance Program.
The company is still figuring out its pricing structure. Civic Champs does have 34 customers, 24 of which are paid clients. The remaining 10 are pilots. The business model, which is set up like a Software-as-a-Service product, charges between $25 a month for its smallest customer up to $450 a month for its largest client.