Andrew Forman, Founder Of Charitable Giving App Givz, Shares His Story And Actionable Advice For Success
The venerable Rick Ross said it best: “Everyday I’m hustlin (hustlin, hustlin, hustlin …).”
Believe it or not, not every bro fires up the Sebring, puts his khakis on one leg at a time and slogs into an office just hoping that management plans an impromptu happy hour (hint: they won’t). And, unsurprisingly not everyone is putting radio on the internet a la Russ Hanneman on their way to the 3 comma club.
There are plenty of bros, just like you and me who are on the grind. Every. Single. Day. So we’re diving into the trenches with these hustlers to get the real, raw, hard to swallow truth about being an entrepreneur. It ain’t all bean bag chairs stocks options in Menlo Park.
Today we’re bro-filing Andrew Forman, co-founder and CEO of Givz, an app that removes the friction from charitable giving.
But don’t take our word for it, we sat down to chat with Andrew …
Andrew is the Co-Founder and CEO of Givz. On a mission to remove the friction from charitable giving, Givz is the leading digital service for making online donations to over 1.6 million U.S. charities from one, secure place. Prior to Givz, Andrew spent 6 years in investment banking and was the treasurer of a nonprofit organization. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA in Mathematics and Economics from Hamilton College. He lives in New York with his wife and loves playing any sport/game on the face of the Earth whenever he has the chance.
If you’re interested in scratching your philanthropic itch, Andrew is offering a donation match (up to $5) for BroBible readers. Use this link to sign up or simply put ‘Andrew’ in the referral code space when you sign up and Givz will add $5 to your donation of $5 or more!
And now onto the interview …
The Water Coolest: Can you tell us about your background (education, where you grew up, what type of upbringing did you have, prior career if any)?
Andrew Forman: I grew up in the good old suburbs of Northern New Jersey and spent much of my youth juggling academics, sports practices (often 3+ teams per season … a lot of yellow Gatorade was involved), and music lessons. Mom & dad were incredible chauffeurs and even better parents – I was super lucky in that respect, and still am. I ended up going to Hamilton College, where I teetered the line between football goon and orchestra-dork as a bassoon-playing wide receiver. After graduating from Hamilton in 2009 I did investment banking for a year at Bank of America Merrill Lynch and then joined an awesome boutique shop called Portico Capital where I spent 5 years. I went back to get my MBA at Harvard Business School in 2015 and launched Givz immediately upon graduation.
TWC: Tell us how you first got into charity finance/tech and why you founded Givz.
AF: My first foray into the charity space was during my time at Hamilton, when I helped launch a nonprofit promoting literacy in Africa. I served as Treasurer for the nonprofit for nearly 5 years with the sole job of raising money and keeping the books in order. I learned over that time that, “I’ll definitely donate when I get home,” rarely meant that people were going to follow through. It wasn’t that the intent wasn’t there, it was that the technology wasn’t there. Twenty-five-year-olds attending charity happy hours didn’t carry checkbooks or cash … shocking, I know.
The tech side of things didn’t start to come into play until I began working at Portico where we sold fast-growing tech companies to private equity firms and larger corporations (primarily in the data, risk, and analytics space). My inspiration largely came from a mentor of mine whose company I sold while at Portico. He had created a tech company running background screenings in the Middle East to help ensure that engineers, doctors, pilots – you name it – actually had the credentials they touted. Sounds crazy, but this was a huge problem before their company began … with buildings/bridges falling down from some 30,000 fake engineers in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. “Find a problem and fix it!” he would say as we worked together over many months to sell his company.
My mind kept going back to the massive problems I’d experienced both as a fundraiser and as a donor. In a time when marketplaces and one-click transactions were becoming the norm, why was the giving experience still so time-consuming and antiquated for both sides? Over $400B annually is donated in the United States alone, which sounds like, and is, a massive number. Not surprisingly, the fastest growing component of that number is online donations. The problem is that 60%+ of people who get to the donation landing page, end up leaving that page. That is ~$45B left on the table due to bad technology, not bad intentions.
I assumed over ten years somebody would solve this problem, but nobody did – I couldn’t believe it – and I thought, “Someone needs to fix this. Why not me?” After researching and finding over $30B is donated online via this antiquated process (and still growing 8-10% year over year) and speaking with 300 potential donors and 25 different charities, the straw that broke the camel’s back was after a dinner in Boston.
I was out to dinner with a friend who had run a fundraiser I donated to for the past 7 years straight. He mentioned, “I notice you haven’t donated to my fundraiser this year yet. What happened? You got into school and became too broke or too cool or what?” I said, “honestly, I just forgot. I’ll do it right now.” I took out my phone but there were a ton of fields to fill out, so I promised him I’d do it when I got home. And I meant it. I went home, and the first thing pulled out my laptop to click his link and start filling out the forms. In the midst of filling out the forms I received a Venmo request (with a hamburger and a few beer emojis) from my friend for an eerily similar amount to the amount I was donating as he had picked up the bill for dinner. I completed the Venmo request in the middle of filling out my forms, and then finally completed the donation. Why should it take exponentially longer to donate $25 than to send $25 to my friend for a burger? It shouldn’t.
TWC: What has been the biggest reason for your success?
AF: Being absolutely, truly, die-hard passionate about what I’m starting. There’s just no way to fake that, and there’s definitely no way to stay as motivated as you need to do this job well without it. Whether it’s a potential client, investor, or partner, after spending just a few minutes together the passion becomes contagious, and I think it’s a big reason why people have been excited to get involved. My team and I truly believe that we are going to revolutionize the way people give for the better, getting more money to amazing causes and creating a viable business as we go.
In a few years (sooner if I can help it), Givz will be the primary way that people donate to charitable organizations. I fully believe that to be true and that motivates me through the intense highs & lows of starting a company.
TWC: What has been the biggest barrier to your success?
AF: Perfect is the opposite of moving forward. As a founder, you have a good amount of your identity wrapped up in your company. As a result, it can be difficult to say okay to “good enough” versus “absolutely perfect,” but to learn quickly, we need to. It’s a constant work in progress, and something I have to actively work on overcoming. A mentor once said to me, “Let’s get caught doing something,” and he didn’t mean it in a breaking the rules type of a way – just go execute to the best of your ability.
TWC: What is the most actionable piece of advice you would give someone trying to get into this business or any entrepreneurial endeavor?
AF: Find as many knowledgeable people in your space as you can (dozens, at least), and tell them about your idea. For me it was other D2C fintech founders, CEOs, investors, and executives at charities. Ask them if they were to start this company exactly where you are now, what would they focus on first? Do not worry about people stealing your ideas – the upside of feedback and further ideation with smart people is much higher than the downside, one in a million case, where someone has the passion, time, money, and energy to truly steal your idea and execute on it faster and better than you can.
TWC: What is the biggest mistake that you made that you would warn others about?
AF: Missing Giving Tuesday (the Tuesday after Thanksgiving) last year. It was a big milestone that I wanted to have ‘everything perfect’ for. And looking back if I could have had the foresight to see that what seemed like the biggest deal in the world would actually be coming around next year … I could have used that as a learning experience day and be armed with even better ideas for this upcoming Giving Tuesday. Instead, I fretted over this day and when it came and went without our site being live, it was a tough night, to say the least.
I now break things up into daily, weekly, and monthly tasks to make sure that we can at least recognize when we are falling too far behind and either ruthlessly prioritize to eliminate some of the not as important work, get more hands-on-deck, or attack a problem from a different angle to make things move faster.
TWC: What is the best tool you’ve found to help you in your day to day?
AF: Our tech advisor demanded we use Trello (and that good old AGILE framework) from the beginning, and every day we kickoff with a daily standup meeting that revolves around our Trello board. The free version seems to work just fine on our end, and we now even have a non-technical Trello board that helps us communicate and stay organized.
My other favorite tool is Gusto which we use for payroll – while I didn’t put it as the primary answer here because I don’t use it day to day … it’s fantastic for a startup founder juggling 1 million things as it’s one less thing to worry about. And I’ve only heard great things from my employees (who I guess love getting paid … who knew?).
TWC: How important have other people (cofounders, S.Os, investors etc.) been to your success?
AF: There is zero chance I would succeed without other people to support/help/guide. I’ve heard every single one of these sentences:
“Your advisory board is perhaps the best thing you have going for you right now – what an amazing collection of people” – Investor
“I would bet on you and Jay to do anything – the fact that it’s you two working together, count me in” – Investor
“Your real secret weapon is your wife, that’s your unfair advantage.” – Lead investor
“I like to think of Givz as my pro-bono marketing client.” – My wife
Customer Testimonial: “It’s never been so easy to donate … my excuses are gone. I love looking at my history page & seeing how much I’ve donated this year and exactly to who.”
Charity Executive Testimonial: “We are so thankful for the team at Givz. We love the app, love the people, and so do our donors! Since using Givz, we’ve seen an increase in donor engagement and donations – meaning more kids served and greater impact on their health and wellbeing!”
My team at Givz keeps me sane and nothing is better than getting all of us together for some drinks after work that starts off not talking about work but somehow always ends up leading to some awesome (sometimes crazy) ideas for Givz. My family has always been extremely supportive, and the fact that I can turn to my wife and parents (even at 31) to vent and know they’ll be problem solvers as opposed to agitators is a huge competitive advantage for me. And I couldn’t have drawn up a more passionate, intelligent, helpful advisor/investor base. There are many folks involved on a daily/weekly basis with no egos and just a ‘What can I do to help?’ attitude.
TWC: How much luck do you think you can attribute to your success? OR right time, right place?
AF: I’m in the ‘create your own luck’ camp. I think luck plays a large role in any successful venture, but it’s not blind luck – I like to think of it as putting yourself in a position to get lucky. Try to make all the right plays and say yes to as many things as possible and put yourself in a position to get lucky.
For example, saying “yes” to every introduction, a 10-15-minute call with someone never hurts. And oftentimes, it’s not even that person that makes the difference, but someone they think to introduce you to.
TWC: What are you doing today to take Givz to the moon?
AF: We are working on a referral program that will encourage people to share Givz with their friends to earn dollars they can give away to any charity of their choice (yes, including their alma mater). We feel there is a great opportunity for us to fuel giving using marketing dollars.
Virality is extremely important in D2C fintech apps, so I’m obsessed with trying to figure out what will drive that for Givz. Right now we are implementing a Givz $1 / Get $1 program where people can share their specific Givz link and for everyone who signs up and donates at least $1, both parties will get $1 from Givz loaded into their Givz account (yes, if someone gets 250 people to donate at least a buck, they will have $250 to give away to their favorite charities on Givz).
We have a public PR launch strategy ahead of Giving Tuesday this year, and are working with charities, corporations, and influencers to drive 50,000+ new users and donations in the next 6 months.
We are going to stay focused on Givz-originated ideas while finding inspiration from what others do great. For example:
theSkimm – fostering community and developing content
Uber / Lyft / Via – great referral programs
Gusto – user experience and customer service
TWC: How far do you look down the road when thinking about Givz?
AF: I schedule a half hour a day to look and plan 6 months out: it’s a great forcing mechanism to make sure each of our small day-to-day tasks align towards a larger vision. Sticking our heads up out of the weeds occasionally to make sure we see upcoming obstacles in time to get a real head-start on them is important.
Six months from now we are aiming to have 50,000+ users on Givz, and marquee partnerships with various charities, corporates, and influencers. We are currently working directly with a number of charities here in NYC including Ronald McDonald House, Yellow Feather Fund (yes, Sesame Street has a charity!), and Tuesday’s Children. We are actively seeking partnership opportunities with the likes of the NFL / NFLPA, large consulting companies, big box retailers, and online retailers.
TWC: Do you think ANYONE can be successful at being an entrepreneur or does it take a certain “type?”
AF: I certainly don’t think there is only one “type” that can be successful at being an entrepreneur. I think you need to be able to ride the proverbial roller coaster without getting sick to your stomach. There are so many different problems out in the world that are worth solving, and each problem likely has a different “type” of person that would be perfect for solving it. The most important thing a founder can have is passion for what they are doing. People show passion in different ways, but if the underlying fire isn’t burning, people will be able to tell.
If there was one “type” that is needed it would be the type that can self-start. As a founder you need to be self-motivated and hold yourself accountable to intense goals in an intense environment. There is no boss to hold your feet to the fire and say, “did you put that cover on the TPS report?” If the goal is to build a big business with a team around you, I feel it’s important to be a team player who loves building and coaching all-star teams.
TWC: Final question: how will you know when you’ve “made it?”
AF: Option A: When Givz becomes a household name (and perhaps even a verb) that is synonymous with intuitive, smart giving. I want people to be able to buy Givz Cards for their children to teach them about the importance of charitable giving, and for friends to be able to see what each other really care about. I want to be able to knock down those 60%+ bounce rates from long forms donors are used to filling out, and be held accountable for tens of billions of dollars that otherwise should be going to amazing causes to make sure it actually gets there.
Option B: When I open my text thread from my football buddies complaining “OK, we get it, you’re a good person and donated $5 to 187 different causes. You don’t need to tell everyone about it. Forman, you’re great but I can’t stand all the notifications I’m receiving about people donating to awesome causes they care about because Givz makes it so easy.”
Option C: When Givz has doubled the online giving market from $30B to $60B.
TWC: Thanks for your time, Andrew!
Inspired to give? Use this link to sign up or simply put ‘Andrew’ in the referral code space when you sign up and Givz will add $5 to your donation of $5 or more!