Rally.org learns from Obama and Romney as it looks for life beyond the elections
How does a startup so closely associated with election cycles stay relevant when the hustings have been put away?
For donations enabler Rally.org, it means a flurry of public relations activities, ranging from a “Dare to Share” charity effort, featuring Reddit heroine Overly Attached Girlfriend, to a campaign to save libraries.
During the 2012 Congressional and Presidential elections, Rally was hardly starved for attention, not least because it powered donations for the Mitt Romney campaign, and its software featured prominently on the websites of candidates across the country, including Democratic National Convention speakers Julian Castro and Elizabeth Warren. It was also the enabler of analytical insights, such as the recognition that candidates who include photos of dogs on their websites are likely to draw more donations.
Now that Obama is secure in the White House, and Romney is shopping at Costco, however, Rally and its politically oriented peers face a challenge in drawing attention to themselves. One way Rally is trying to address that is with a fundraising campaign inspired by Romney and Obama’s efforts during the elections.
Rally has launched a campaign with San Francisco’s nonprofit Glide Church that offers the chance to win face-time with prominent Silicon Valley figures who also happen to be Rally investors. The non-denominational Glide offers support to San Francisco’s Tenderloin community, serving not only as a shelter and soup kitchen, but also as a provider of mental health services.
By starting a Rally-powered personal fundraising effort for the Glide campaign, people can compete to meet Ron Conway, Kevin Rose, Mike Maples, Eric Ries, Tim Ferriss, and John Occhipinti. They all took part in the $7.9 million funding round that Rally raised through AngelList in June. The top fundraiser in the campaign, which has a target of $15,000, gets to watch a San Francisco Giants game with Ron Conway in the SV Angels suite, a lunch with an investor of their choice, and expenses-paid travel to the Bay Area.
Rally spokesman Nick Warshaw says the idea for the Christmas campaign was inspired by the success of similar competitions run by Obama and Romney during the election. In May, Romney offered small donors a chance to win dinner with him and Donald Trump. Obama followed suit and upped the ante, offering a chance to win a dinner with him, Beyonce, and Jay-Z. On a smaller scale, but still proving the concept, our Sarah Lacy took a similar approach to PandoDaily’s recent Charity:water campaign, offering donors of $1,000 or more the chance to sit down with her, Paul Carr, and Zappos founder Tony Hsieh for dinner in Las Vegas. Thirty-two people took up the offer.
Warshaw wouldn’t let on what other data points Rally was leveraging as a result of what it learned during the election campaign, but he did say the startup is adding two more data scientists to its team (it had only one just before), including new recruit Nicholas Switanek at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, who joined within the last two weeks.
Rally’s Glide campaign comes as the startup tries to strengthen its credentials as a service provider for causes that expand beyond the political realm. Rally started life as a political donations platform called Piryx but relaunched in June 2011 to broaden its scope. “Our roots are def in politics, but the Rally relaunch was designed with the long tail of causes in mind,” says Warshaw.
One of the most high-profile fundraising campaigns to launch with Rally recently is Jon Bon Jovi’s Hurricane Sandy Relief effort to rebuild to New Jersey. Warshaw says other high-profile artists are coming on board in January.
Rally claims that it has more than 21,000 campaigns on its platform today and more than 3 million users, encompassing donors, fan-fundraisers, or supporters.
[Photo credit: 401(K)]