Non-profits across Indianapolis and perhaps the country could find new life in recruiting volunteers and raising support for their causes through a new online application being launched soon with the help of a Kelley Indianapolis student.
Gagan Dhillon, a finance and marketing student, is spearheading the innovation and mobile engagement efforts for new technology startup Cause.it (www.cause.it). With experience consulting companies on mobile commerce applications, Dhillon brings an expertise for targeting millennials through smartphone technology.
“Non-profits typically have been very slow adopting innovation, but this application will help them take it to another level,” said Dhillon, also a member of the 2012 NFL Super Bowl Committee.
Indianapolis and Mayor Greg Ballard already have signed on to support Cause.it as part of the city’s Engage Indy campaign, designed to connect community volunteers to non-profit organizations across the city.
Discussions have been underway for months leading up to the planned launch in just a few weeks. Meanwhile, company officials have been hard at work pitching the concept to cities like New York, Chicago and Austin, Texas, with signs indicating strong interest in other cities adopting the technology.
“It’s been completely unreal to be a part of this startup that is really growing fast and to be able to see all the interest associated with it,” Dhillon said, adding Austin appears to be the likely next launch city.
Cause.it essentially functions as a central hub for non-profits, their causes, supporters and volunteers and the public. It offers two primary vehicles: the Prospect Intelligence Campaign and the Cause.it smartphone application.
The campaign provides an online service that identifies a person’s unique interest in the programs of a non-profit, its services or missions. The program helps non-profits build email or other messaging strategies by using personalized content to reach supporters and ultimately their personal network of prospects.
The smartphone application connects volunteers or supporters of a non-profit event or cause with the products and services of primary sponsors.
For example, a non-profit could list a need (volunteers) for an event, and a local business would then pair a specific offer for people who respond to that need. An individual would search for specific causes that interest him, fill that need and check in on site through the application and access the special offer.
This would create win-win for all parties involved, Dhillon said. Non-profits get personalized information for what supporters look for when they volunteer or participate. Individuals can redeem good deals on products or services, and local businesses can better understand what social causes are most likely to increase sales.
“We are looking to really engage the younger generation with the Cause.it application, those who are more inclined to make a difference in their communities and who have the time to do it,” he added.
Sarah Taylor, director of Constituent Services with the City of Indianapolis, said the city hopes Cause.it will help residents connect with area organizations in meaningful ways.
“This will be a great tool to help people connect with the community, buy local and support local, worthy causes,” Taylor said.
In October, Cause.it representatives met with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his staff to discuss preliminary launch plans in the country’s biggest city. Similar discussions are underway with Chicago and other midwestern cities are in the company’s sights.
Founder Brian Lauterbach, who has an extensive history in fundraising for non-profits, developed the concept for Cause.it after a career of successful marketing integrations for non-profit and political campaigns. He also founded local startup MindFrame, a digital marketing and development company in Indianapolis.
Dhillon, meanwhile, has consulted local startups on mobile applications and has been involved with several application launches. He said he considers himself a lifelong entrepreneur. He hopes to graduate from Kelley in 2013.