“Many people contribute to charities and nonprofit organizations, but making the connection between donor and an agency of interest to the donor, can be difficult. Making informed giving decisions so contributions benefit both donor and recipient can also be daunting, along with tracking donations for tax purposes. But what if there was a way to use technology to simplify the donation process and make it easy to both give and to get, learn and plan, seek and track? That was the question Brandon Fix was faced with last year as he studied the inter-relationship between technology and charitable giving.Fix had been working for the Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs of Pierce County at the time, raising funds and trying to find a better way to get the organization’s message to potential donors. He had also been learning more about high-tech computing and the Internet, and hit upon a melding of Web-based technology and old fashioned charitable giving. DonationDepot.com was on its way. Based in a storefront office on Pacific Avenue in downtown Tacoma , DonationDepot.com is one of the growing numbers of dotcom businesses sprouting in Tacoma’s fiber optic-rich soil of unlimited and moderately priced bandwidth and low office rents.Besides founder, president and CEO Fix, the two other company principals, Matt Ashworth, vice president of communications, and Dave Goodsell, vice president of marketing, are all alumni of Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. Together they are driving to take DonationDepot.com national sometime this summer after a second round of funding is completed. So far, venture capital has been good to them. Starting the company late last year with an official launch recently on St. Patrick’s Day, the firm has already attracted around $1.5 million in financing. One million dollars of that is coming from Jeff Von Smauder, a Tacoma investor already associated with several Puget Sound area technology companies. We’re very pleased to be working with Jeff, Fix said. This money will help us hire the rest of our executive management team, cover operational costs for the next year, and allow us to continue adding services that will help both charities and donors. I really like the concept behind DonationDepot.com, Von Smauder said. They’ve got a solid business plan and I think this can be a sustainable company with adequate funding. Since I’m personally involved with several nonprofit agencies, investing in a company that’s going to raise funds for charity just made sense. DonationDepot.com serves as a vertical portal for the philanthropy industry. It caters to the needs of both donors and recipients, hoping to prosper by making knowledgeable and secure charitable giving easier for the donor, and increased awareness of and support for nonprofit organizations. The site offers donor education on the financial and tax benefits of charitable giving, as well as hosting a growing database of organizations serving diverse needs and causes from housing the homeless to making the arts accessible. The target audience for the site, are people in the 25 to 45 age range, Internet users, with an income of $50,000+, Goodsell said. There was another group receptive to the concept too, one that hadn’t been targeted by the company, Fix said – seniors new to the Internet. Donors register and can make easy on-line donations to any registered organization. DonationDepot.com tracks donation information and provides donors with IRS acceptable receipts for easy tax preparation, Fix said. Companies of all sizes can utilize the site to assist with corporate and employee giving program management, Fix said. Negotiations are underway, Fix added, with several large Puget Sound area corporations to incorporate the site into giving programs. Nonprofits can participate through a free registration or can become member charities for a $50 annual fee for organizations with under a $1 million annual budget, which provides them with more exposure on the site to potential donors. Currently, DonationDepot.com takes 6 percent of monetary donations to organizations as an administration fee, but hopes to reduce that amount to zero through the use of auctions and charitable shopping opportunities on the site. Additional services being developed for the site include an on-line giving community chat room and message boards to help improve communications between donors and between donors and charities. The shopping service will allow customers to purchase items and be able to write off a portion of each purchase as a charitable gift. Fix said first year revenue figures are looking to hit approximately $1 million, with revenues forecast to double in the second year and rise to as high as $20 million within four years as more revenue stream sources are incorporated into the site. And though there are competing charitable concept sites on the Internet, Fix and the other staff of DonationDepot.com agree – no one else is offering the mix of education, communication, security, ease of use, corporate partnering, record keeping and variety of revenue sources as this Tacoma-based company.”
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