Update: Internet startup with ties to Olympia raises $700,000

Staff writerJune 17, 2014 

CommitChange, an Internet company that began life in Olympia, has raised $700,000, including from Dallas Mavericks’ owner and Shark Tank personality Mark Cuban.

The seed round investment was led by Cuban and Tim Draper, co-founder of the venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson in Menlo Park, Calif. Another Silicon Valley company, 500 Startups, also invested in the business.

“A nonprofit without CommitChange risks becoming a dinosaur,” said Draper in a prepared statement.

CommitChange is a web-based company that helps nonprofits with their fundraising. Co-founder and Chief Executive Roderick Campbell, who also graduated from The Evergreen State College, said the investment will be used to grow its five-person staff and to invest in new web-based features for its nonprofit customers. The company currently is working with 60 nonprofts throughout the country, both large and small, Campbell, 26, said.

CommitChange co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Jay Bolton, also graduated from Evergreen.

In addition to raising money from investors, CommitChange also announced this week that it has acquired New Orleans-based Connect for a Cause, also a nonprofit fundraising business. The founder of Connect for a Cause will join CommitChange as its chief marketing officer and open regional offices in New Orleans. Although CommitChange got its start in Olympia, it’s main office today is in downtown San Francisco, Campbell said.

Campbell added that CommitChange is quite a bit different from the fledgling business that once occupied space on the top floor of the Evergreen Plaza Building in downtown Olympia. The business was relaunched last summer, he said, and one of its key changes was to get away from “donation skimming” as a way for CommitChange to make money.

Instead of taking a percentage of a donation, CommitChange now offers its services as a monthly subscription, charging a fee based on the size of the nonprofit, he said.

To use the site, a nonprofit logs on, creates a profile and then can select the kind of tools it wants to use, such as donation processing. How donation processing is handled at CommitChange is what sets the business apart from its competitors, Campbell said, the company wanting to avoid the experience of clicking on a donate button that likely results in a long form that needs to be completed and submitted.

It is that old process that “gets between you and your passion,” Campbell said.

CommitChange has compiled some statistics about users of its service, and those were shared as part of the investment announcement. The average donation is $165, 11.2 percent of all donations are recurring -- and though this might not sound like a high percentage, it is very high for the nonprofit industry, Campbell said -- and the average recurring gift is $42.

CommitChange is the latest in a series of technology companies in or from the Olympia area that have made a splash.

Here are the others:

-Cell Focus LLC of Olympia, which has developed technology to turn a smart phone into a microscope, raised more than $110,000 in its most recent Kickstarter campaign in April.

-Project Wedge of Olympia, which has created hardware to turn a tablet computer into a projector, took home $7,500 after it won Pacific Lutheran University’s business plan competition.

-MerchantOS, which develops point-of-sale software for small retailers and that used to be based in Olympia, was acquired last year by a company called LightSpeed in Montreal. LightSpeed operates an office in Olympia.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 rboone@theolympian.com @rolf_boone

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