2020 has been a peculiar year for everyone—to put it mildly. Businesses in many industries have seen profit levels sink. The common theme among the ones who have survived (or even thrived) during the pandemic: They pivoted. Fast.
Few industries were hit as hard as the fundraising industry. Fundraising during the pandemic seems next to impossible,
especially “traditional” fundraising that involves going door-to-door or hosting events.
Yet, there are nonprofits, and companies that support them, that have managed to stay afloat during the pandemic. We’re proud to say that one of them is our client.
Leading Edge Fundraising is a company that helps school sports teams all over the country raise funds by selling discount cards, cookie dough, tumblers, and multiple
other options. With schools closed or abiding by social distancing rules, and in-person fundraising impossible or frowned upon, fundraising wouldn’t have been an option for many schools this year—save for Leading Edge’s out-of-the-box
The Power of Forethought
Back in 2018, Leading Edge Fundraising worked with Far Reach to build Launch, a platform that added online fundraising to their services. Obviously, that was long before the pandemic, so this is not what they were preparing for.
Instead, Leading Edge Fundraising noticed something interesting: Even though most of the people involved in team fundraising activities were high school or even younger kids—all of them digital natives—their fundraising was stuck in the stone
age. Leading Edge Fundraising, and companies like them, previously helped schools fundraise using paper forms and spreadsheets to collect every order, track payments, and coordinate delivery. It was a naturally slow process.
Long before COVID, Leading Edge Fundraising saw a better way to do fundraising for schools—digitally, using technology the kids were already accustomed to. Through the online portal that we developed together, the students and the coaches are now
able to track orders, process payments, and monitor their results accurately and in real-time.
Why did Leading Edge Fundraising make the digital transformation back in 2018?
“We like to be at the forefront of tech in our business. We try to push the envelope on what we’re doing, not wait for others to do it so we can follow. And we always knew our investment would pay off”, says Todd Gladson, fundraising
trainer/coach at Leading Edge Fundraising.
Back then, the decision to invest in a digital fundraising platform brought Leading Edge new clients and won them the loyalty of the existing ones.
Little did they know how much that digital-forward decision would help them nearly three years later.
Pivoting During the Pandemic
While their competitors scrambled to go digital when the pandemic put a lock on most schools, Leading Edge Fundraising was already there. They had a fully functional platform for raising funds and helping schools and teams make sales from a distance.
Still, they too had to pivot—and were able to do so with speed.
Before the pandemic, technology was a supplement, but they have now become more and more reliant on it. Every state has different rules surrounding COVID and Leading Edge operates all over the country, so they had to adapt to differing needs. The fundraising
portal allowed them to quickly adapt to these state-by-state differences.
It was very important to Leading Edge Fundraising to be able to support their clients in a risk-free (or as low-risk as possible) manner. Other fundraising options like dinners, galas, car washes, and golf outings were no longer possible, but Leading Edge
Fundraising’s technology options helped schools and teams continue fundraising by selling via the phone or online. And technology offers just that—the opportunity to stay together and work toward common goals even from a distance.
Athletes and their coaches could focus on something important during lockdowns and, more importantly, continue to function as teams.
Thanks to the existing technology platform, when COVID hit, Leading Edge Fundraising was able to make strategic business decisions instead of scrambling. For example, they made fundraiser links shareable and integrated credit card processing. They even
made adjustments to introduce a direct shipping option for products (instead of hand-delivery or pickup) to cut down on the interactions between the athletes and those who donated.
What would have happened if they hadn’t invested in a digital platform three years ago?
“We probably would have had to make a hard choice: Go out of business or take on debt to be able to keep the same business model,” said Gladson.
Since they did have a fully functional platform in place, Leading Edge Fundraising was able to survive and continue helping customers in new ways. For instance, they added a new revenue source that had been on their radar for a while—leasing
the platform technology to other fundraising companies for a fee. The pandemic sped things up in this new business direction, and it turned out to be a real success. One not possible without the decision to go digital in 2018.
Leading Edge Fundraising is now leasing the technology Far Reach built for them to other fundraising companies in different parts of the country and to companies that work with different types of schools or groups on fundraising. By leasing to similar
companies that aren’t competitors, they get a new revenue stream without negatively impacting their own sales.
The COVID-19 pandemic shed new light on something we already knew: You can thrive even in adverse times when you allow for a flexible business model that empowers you to pivot quickly, no matter what. Leading Edge Fundraising did just that.
More importantly, the platform Far Reach built for them is fully functional but still a work in progress. Why does that matter? Because they can always add new features and functionality as their business changes and grows.
While neither of us could see the pandemic coming, we made the decision to allow for an agile development process that always keeps their options open.
Ready to start that digital transformation you’ve been pushing off? Reach out.