When we launched GiveForward in 2008, we were innovating a brand new concept. The term crowdfunding hadn’t been popularized yet, Kickstarter was still months away from launching, and the idea that one could simply set up a site on the Internet and ask friends and family to contribute to a medical fund was completely novel.
Today, we are in a different world. It’s hard to imagine someone who hasn’t contributed to a medical crowdfunding campaign either for a friend, a family member, or for someone they read about in the news.
To date, millions of people have visited GiveForward and raised over $170 million for out-of-pocket medical expenses and life-saving treatments. We boast a net promoter score higher than Apple or Zappos and our office walls are filled with handwritten cards from users (we call them “hugs”) exclaiming how GiveForward has changed their lives. It’s been easy to feel good about what we are doing.
But the reality is we grew complacent.
Simply put, we stopped innovating. Until one day last year we finally woke up and realized that the industry we had helped pioneer had become commoditized — a giant indistinguishable mass of crowdfunding platforms all offering a nearly identical feature set. Even more remarkable than this convergence towards the norm was the realization that every platform, including GiveForward, looked and functioned almost exactly as it did five years ago. Complacency had steamrolled innovation.
So late last year we decided it was time to take a step back and reexamine EVERYTHING. We asked ourselves a single question:
Are we really solving the problems of our users?
When we opened up a dialogue with our community the answer we got back was a resounding no. We were only solving a tiny portion of the challenges our community faced. It turns out crowdfunding just isn’t enough. So we set out to build a better solution.
Evolving Beyond Crowdfunding
Someone going through an illness or a challenging life event needs much more than financial support. They also need meals coordinated and delivered, extra help with childcare, transportation to and from treatment, and a way to communicate updates with friends and family. Most importantly, they need a community to rally behind them and let them know that they’re not alone. Until now, people would have had to navigate four or five different sites to tackle all these needs.
Starting today, they will need just one: GiveForward.
This morning, we announced the launch of the new GiveForward, a centralized place where friends go to help the people they care about in many different ways — everything from sharing photos and “thinking of yous” to coordinating meals, sending needed wishlist items and raising money for out-of-pocket expenses. We want GiveForward to be the first place people turn when someone they know is going through a major life event. But just as importantly, we want it to be the place they come back to again and again to support their friend throughout their journey.
What’s really exciting for us is that we’re already seeing this happen. During our beta period of 1650 new GiveForward pages, we saw a 322% increase in returning users as compared to our legacy fundraising pages. People are coming back, sharing and giving in new and different ways. We see this as a beacon of promise.
Looking Towards The Future
Our new vision has made 2015 our most transformative year yet. This evolution beyond crowdfunding helped us attract a new CEO and some of Chicago’s best executive and product talent to our team. It also helped earn us our biggest partnership to date. This month marks the beginning of our partnership with Nationwide Insurance, a company whose mission aligns so much with our own. When we told them about our vision for the new GiveForward, we couldn’t believe how quickly they embraced it and moved to help make it a reality. Nationwide is a Fortune 100 company, but we’re lucky that they also happen to be one of the most innovative companies in the world. We believe that the new GiveForward will be built on partnerships like this one with companies that share our values and care deeply about making people’s lives easier when they need it the most.
For GiveForward, 2015 is going to be a year of taking what we started to the next level. In 2008 we pioneered the world of medical crowdfunding, but we didn’t go nearly far enough. Today we’re evolving the world of crowdfunding into something that truly solves the needs of people going through life’s biggest challenges. It’s exciting to be innovating again. Suffice to say, we’re through being complacent.