Photos by: Deniece Griffin
When Robinson College of Business alum Brandon Black (B.B.A. Finance ‘15 and M.S. Finance ‘17) took Corporate Finance taught by Genna Brown in undergrad, he didn’t expect for their relationship to go far beyond the classroom. Brandon and his former professor teamed up to co-found a fundraising platform that gives proceeds from product and service sales to other nonprofits, called GIVIN.
How did you and your professor decide to start a business together?
I stopped in to visit her one afternoon. I was telling her about how I disliked the company I was working for at the time. I was essentially working at a call center, and I didn’t get a Finance degree to do that. I told her that I felt like I could be a successful business owner, but that I didn’t have any ideas. She responded with the idea for an online auction site that creates a consistent source of income for nonprofits.
What were your next steps to establishing GIVIN beyond the idea phase?
We had to ask a lot of questions and do a lot of research. We considered what people would want out of our website, how would we make it easy to use, and how would we even build a website. Genna, nor I, knew how to build a website. We had to figure out if we were going to model our business as a for-profit or nonprofit. We started by filing the proper documentation with the state of Georgia to become a 501c3 organization. Then we requested our employer identification number from the IRS, and created by-laws.
What problem does GIVIN solve?
GIVIN is a way to modernize fundraising without having to host a charity event or gala. Those are events that involve frivolous spending on things like fancy venues, expensive catering, and gowns. That’s backward if you ask me. The goal is to raise money for a cause, not to spend money.
How does GIVIN function?
We designed the website to be a bartering program, similar to Poshmark. However, the proceeds don’t go to the seller. Proceeds from purchases go directly to non-profit companies. Users create a GIVIN account, similar to eBay, where you can sell or purchase items. When a seller goes to post an item on our website, they declare which nonprofit they want the proceeds to go to. We have a list of top non-profits that sellers can give proceeds to, but any organization registered as a 501c3 can receive proceeds; that can even include a church.
Who are your competitors?
There’s no other site that competes with us. Amazon Smile is a nonprofit niche within Amazon where you can donate five percent of a transaction to a charity of your choice. With GIVIN, we’re not going to donate anything less than ninety percent. The most we take from a transaction is 10 percent, but that’s just to cover the cost of running the website. Another unique factor about GIVIN is that we don’t just sell products for charity. People can also donate the cost of their services to charity as well. For example, I could rent a room in my house for 80 dollars a night and donate those proceeds to a charity.
Is GIVIN funded or bootstrapped?
We’re a bootstrapped company. Genna and I have supported the company entirely out of our pockets. We’re able to do that because of the lower overhead. The most expensive aspect of our company is our website.
How many employees GIVIN have?
We don’t have any employees. We have contractors. We have a contracted web developer, accountant, and marketing coordinator.
What’s next for GIVIN?
We want to be bigger than eBay. We want those same customers to use GIVIN to shop with purpose and feel good about helping other people.
If you’re interested in shopping or selling for good, head to the GIVIN website!