The £95m sale of UK peer-to-peer fundraising pioneer JustGiving to new US owners “is just the beginning” of more work to help good causes, the co-founder of the UK giving platform insisted last week, as the charity software firm buying the for-good business looked to enhance its UK fundraising capabilities. Julian Blake reports.
The acquisition of JustGiving by US charity software house Blackbaud was confirmed last week in an announcement from the American firm’s HQ in Charleston, South Carolina. Blackbaud, “the world’s largest cloud software company powering nonprofits and other social good organisations”, said the purchase was subject to a customary regulatory review in the UK.
JustGiving was co-founded by Zarine Kharas and ex-Medicins Sans Frontier UK director Anne-Marie Huby (pictured) in 2001, digitally disrupting fundraising and becoming a pioneer of crowdfunding before the term was even used.
Though “for profit and for good” and not a charity itself, JustGiving has helped over 26,000 charities raise more than £3bn in donations across 164 countries. It is best known in the UK as a platform for more than 22m personal fundraising challenges like marathons and causes like 2014’s Ice Bucket challenge (pictured below).
JustGiving’s biggest successes and challenges alike have come with the rise of the mega social platforms.
The company invested heavily in its platform in an effort to stay ahead of corporate-backed competitors like Virgin Money Giving and BT MyDonate. In 2013 it launched local crowdfunding platform Yimby.com, which later rebranded as JustGiving Crowdfunding.
In a 2015 interview, Huby explained how JustGiving had moved from being a simple fundraising tool to a data-driven service, with an open platform allowing charities to build their own applications.
Pressure grew when Facebook entered the non-profit giving market with its Fundraising Tools to allow direct donations from individual user pages and charities alike. UK purpose-driven crowd ventures also emerged to compete, including Spacehive and Neighbourly.
JustGiving turned over £24.9m in 2016, making a profit of £821,000 after tax. The year before, though, it had made a loss of £3.7m against a turnover of £21.6m.
It said acquiring JustGiving would enhance its capabilities to “serve both individual donors and non-profits” and add a new “personal crowdfunding capability that can be rolled out in the US and elsewhere”, including allowing Blackbaud to serve the UK market better.
Blackbaud’s Jerry Needel said: “Today, people are willing to do more than ever before to support causes they care about, but they want to do it on their own terms. To put their passion into action, they need technology that gives them the power to connect with other change agents and organisations.”
In JustGiving’s statement, Huby said: “We are proud to have helped raise over £3bn for good causes since we launched, but there is so much more to do. This is just the beginning. By working with Blackbaud, we will be able to fulfil our mission of growing the world of giving on an even greater scale and to ensure that no good causes go unfunded.”
Blackbaud said it expects to complete the deal this year, at which point the two companies would “determine their full integration strategy”. JustGiving’s staff are set to become part of Blackbaud’s London-based International Markets Group once the deal is complete.
Blackbaud saw overall revenues of £574m in the 2016 calendar year, and reported gross profits of £308m.
Earlier this month, JustGiving was criticised in the UK press for taking £390,000 in platform fees from the London and Manchester attacks, and the Grenfell fire.
JustGiving says its payment processing fees of 1.25-1.45% compared favourably to the 20p charities need on average to raise each pound – particularly when 25% GiftAid is applied.