BoostMySchool: A Fundraising App for Schools and Clubs
Holman Gao '08 has developed a webapp to help schools and clubs fundraise called BoostMySchool.com. The Magnet Foundation is now using BoostMySchool as its primary fundraising tool for online donations. He answered a few questions about his app:
Tell us about what you have been doing since graduating from Blair. Where did you go to school, and where have you been working?
I studied computer engineering and mathematics at University of Maryland, and have worked as a software engineer at various startups. Currently, I am taking on freelance software projects, which gives me the flexibility to work on my own projects, like BoostMySchool.
How did you first get the idea to make a fundraising application?
It was my friend's idea! She made a point that she would definitely donate to her high school's Model UN program, which got us thinking into why the program hadn’t yet reached out to her. Our hypothesis was that school programs often don’t have the time or resources to fundraise, and that an easy-to-use tech solution could simplify the fundraising process for them.
How did you get in touch with the Magnet Foundation?
I had actually reached out to the Foundation a few months before starting the app, to ask about how I could donate in support of the ARML math team. It just so happened that a good friend’s parent who is on the Foundation board was the one who responded to me! When I thought of the idea for the app, I reached out to her to see if the Foundation was interested in working together to build it. She told me that my request came at a perfect time because the Foundation wanted to focus more efforts on fundraising.
Who have you been working with to develop the app?
I have been working mainly by myself on the app, but have received a good amount of help and feedback from friends and the Foundation. During the initial development, I was in constant contact with the Foundation to ensure that I was building a product that met their needs.
I am also fortunate to be advised by a former colleague who is a fundraising professional – she has been raising money for non-profits for over 20 years! Her experience has given her valuable insights into factors that can significantly impact the success of fundraising campaigns.
How have you been testing the app?
Christine Gao '16 and Holman Gao '08 at Blair graduation in May
Once a basic version of the app was complete, I sent personal emails to friends from my class and asked them to support the Magnet. This first round of testing led to a 50% donation rate — a strong result. Afterwards, with help from the 2016 class marshals, we raised $626.44 from an end-of-year graduation campaign. The next step will be to promote awareness among all of the alumni classes.How much money have you raised for the Foundation so far? In the past month or so, BoostMySchool has brought in $874.74 from 26 donors. How did you come up with the name BoostMySchool? Again, this was a combination of ideas from friends! It was important to me to have “School” in the brand name, as it creates an explicit commitment to building a product for schools. “Boost” also felt appropriate, not only because of a similarity to “booster club”, but also because the main mission for BoostMySchool is to empower schools to provide a stronger education through fundraising.What makes BoostMySchool different from other fundraising platforms that are available for schools and non-profits? Currently, there are two main types of fundraising platforms: one-time campaign platforms (e.g. DonorsChoose, GoFundMe, Razoo), and corporate solution platforms (e.g. Network For Good, CrowdEngine). While one-time campaign platforms are great for personal fundraising, they aren’t optimal for school programs like the Magnet, which need to raise money on a consistent basis. Important donor data, like donor retention and affiliation, is not readily available on one-time campaign platforms. On the other hand, corporate solution platforms have a strong feature set for entities that raise money on a recurring basis, but come with a high set-up cost. Because of this, many non-profits dedicate a staff member to learn the software. Unfortunately for school programs, they normally don’t have the ability to hire such a person.BoostMySchool focuses on the most important donor tracking and engagement tools for schools while keeping the interface simplistic and easy to use. School programs can easily recognize donors who have given the most, and donors can provide feedback on what they feel the money should be spent on. In addition, by focusing on schools rather than non-profits as a whole, BoostMySchool tracks data relevant only to schools like alumni class year and parent/student relationships.
What are your goals for BoostMySchool?
My main goal for BoostMySchool is for it to become a successful fundraising platform for K-12 schools nationwide. To start, I plan on reaching out to other schools (public and private) in the area, and gauge their interest in the platform.
A more personal goal of mine is to help in the Magnet’s efforts to continue to provide the amazing education that I was fortunate enough to experience. I’m thrilled that the Foundation is using BoostMySchool for this cause!