The nonprofit sector contributes billions of dollars to communities across Canada and to the country’s economy as a whole. Yet, despite the sector’s size, the donation-driven organizations within it are facing a mammoth problem: harnessing data.
“A nonprofit lives or dies by the story it tells. That’s the fundamental truth of the space.”
Hopeful is looking to help nonprofits do just that. The Toronto-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) startup, which recently raised fresh capital, aims to help nonprofits tell more compelling stories, reach the right people, and drive donations, by helping these organizations make the most of their data.
Founded in 2019 and launched over the summer of 2020, Hopeful’s platform is aimed to allow nonprofit marketing and executive teams to tell more compelling stories and reach the right people, at the right time, using data.
The startup currently targets regionally-based nonprofits, and allows them to quickly see all of their data in one place, providing highlights and action items, and the ability to create reports for the executive directors, board members, stakeholders, etc., on the fundraising performance of their digital strategy.
Hopeful recently raised $400,000 CAD in pre-seed funding to help the startup execute on its growth and partnership strategies. The round was led by UC Berkeley’s SkyDeck Accelerator Program, which Hopeful was accepted into over the fall. Other participants in the round included the Ontario Centre of Innovation (formerly the Ontario Centres of Excellence), United Kingdom-based Vendian Capital, and an independent angel investor.
According to a 2018 study by Nonprofit Hub, only 40 percent of nonprofit professionals said they often use data to make decisions, while 46 percent said they do not consistently use data.
In speaking with Canadian nonprofits, Hopeful founder and CEO, Alex Jivov, noticed a common point of frustration for marketing teams was the lack of visibility into data that can help them drive engagement and donations.
“The technological support is not there,” said Jivov, adding that nonprofits often use for-profit tools that are not oriented towards their models. He noted that unlike businesses, nonprofits need something lightweight and easy to use that is specifically oriented towards fundraising.
Including a friends and family round raised in early 2020, the pre-seed round brings Hopeful’s own fundraising to date to $500,000. A portion of the new funding will go toward growing the team, which currently sits at 11 people.
In the last six months, Hopeful has also launched partnerships with a number of organizations. Jivov called this part of a two-pronged partnership approach: partnering with other software companies to augment the platform’s capabilities and partnering with organizations to drive usage of the platform.
Over the fall, the startup partnered with DonorPerfect, a customer relationship management (CRM) software for nonprofits. Hopeful is now integrated with DonorPerfect’s CRM, which allows nonprofits on the Hopeful platform to see where their supporters are coming from on social media.
More recently, Hopeful partnered with the British Columbia Palliative Care Association, which has 210 members, including 77 nonprofit hospices. The association will pay for its nonprofit members to use Hopeful’s platform for a period of one year.
A DMZ Alumnus, Hopeful was recently accepted into the Blackbaud Social Good Startup Program.
“The rest of the funding is going to be used for aggressive growth, specifically with the partnerships in British Columbia,” said Jivov.
“We want to make sure that we can use this quarter specifically for a lot of learning, and then use the funds to really jumpstart growth in Q2,” he added.
Although the startup has already secured customers with its current insights product, Jivov said an artificial intelligence product currently in development called Storytelling AI is Hopeful’s ultimate vision.
“A nonprofit lives or dies by the story it tells. That’s the fundamental truth of the space because how those stories are told is how donations come in,” said Jivov. “So we took that concept and worked backwards.”
Hopeful’s Storytelling AI product will be aimed to allow nonprofits to create a story to be posted across major social channels. The story will then be sent through Hopeful’s algorithms, which will allow the nonprofit to see what kind of features, such as hashtags, or text and video features are leading people to not only engage with the content but make a donation.
The goal is to help organizations create a scalable, repeatable process within their digital marketing strategy. Jivov said the design process of Storytelling AI is complete, and Hopeful is now looking to bring on its first data science and machine learning engineer to assist in constructing the software. The CEO said he wants to get Storytelling AI up and running by the end of this year.
A DMZ alumnus, Hopeful is currently participating in the SkyDeck Accelerator Program at the University of California Berkeley. Most recently, Hopeful was one of eight startups to be accepted into the one-year Blackbaud Social Good Startup Program. That program offers startups access to Blackbaud resources, marketing opportunities, and non-dilutive grant funding.
Until recently, Hopeful has targeted Canadian nonprofits. Now that the startup has a connection to California through the SkyDeck program, it will also focus on tapping the nonprofit market in that state. Despite these ambitions, Jivov said he still wants to ensure the startup’s commitment to the Canadian market remains strong.
“We do have our sales team [in Canada], but we have engineers in India, California, and Oregon,” he said. “We still want to make sure that we can expand our presence in Toronto and Canada as much as possible.”
Image courtesy Hopeful.