David Goldberg Finding Impact

FIP 33: Charity Revenue via Consulting with David Goldberg of Founders Pledge

Founders Pledge asks tech entrepreneurs to make a commitment early on in their journey, that when they come into some liquidity, be that an exit or payout, they will give a portion to their favourite charity. David shares stories of what happens when the charity and tech startup world collide. He’s a charity founder on a mission – striving for the same efficiency and outsized returns of a tech startup, but instead of cash, he’s going for impact. Listen on and be inspired!

On this episode, you’ll learn:

  • David’s early market research with founders was a resounding ‘yes’ – saying that they’ve been too tied up in growing their business that they’d love to think more intentionally about what they will do with their success when it happens, rather than being reactive on not making the impact they would want.
  • In 9 of 10 cases in his first meetings with founders, they were happy to make a legal commitment to donating a portion of their wealth to charity on exit.
  • Founders Pledge is also trying to get people to give more effectively. They do this by injecting rigour into the analysis of causes and interventions, to ensure high cost effectiveness and verifiable outcomes that are rooted in evidence.
  • David and his team have developed a methodology that listens to the stories of the pledgers, links those stories to a cause area, unpacks the cause area and their problems, and some of the proven solutions. This primes the pledgers so they are ready to give effectively when the time comes.
  • They bring members of Founders Pledge together once a quarter to lead them on their journey towards being a more effective philanthropist.
  • For example, they put on an event focusing on economic empowerment and brought in speakers including the chief economist of DFID, Rachel Glennerster from J-PAL, and Michael Faye from Give Directly.
  • Their events follow a similar structure each time, that begins with speaker presentations, and are followed by a panel discussion and engagement with the members.
  • They also send out reading lists weeks before the events that encourage members to engage in a meaningful way at the event.
  • David sees Founders Pledge to be more than moving money to effective charities – the problems of poverty and other causes are so big, that money alone isn’t going to solve them.
    Founders Pledge is targeting entrepreneurs because it is likely that they can also contribute to solving the problems as well, possibly through social enterprise.
  • Founders Pledge is free for its members – they have a core set of donors who fund their core costs. But the service they provide is so valuable to their members, that others organisations have wanted their services too. So they’ve decided to open shop as a consultancy doing research for non-pledgers to bring in revenue to support their core costs and make their model more sustainable.
  • For anyone considering bringing in an extra stream of revenue to their charity or social enterprise, make something people want, which is important both for the supporters of your organisation and for the recipients of your intervention. And if you can’t prove the impact, it’s probably not worth doing – for fear of causing harm to the people you’re trying to serve or being ineffective and wasting valuable resources.


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