Benojo is making it easier to give.


This is a transcript of the podcast interview. Listen to the episode here.


PREMA MENON (HOST)

Over 500 million Australian dollars were raised for the cause of the Australian bushfires. A large percentage through online donations, the most well known being Celeste Barber's Facebook fundraiser. It's been around 22 years since the first DONATE NOW button appeared on the World Wide Web. It took a while to gain traction, but today, online fundraising is growing. There are private fundraisers, where people raise money for unexpected medical bills, crowdfunding campaigns for launching a product, service or maybe a film and there are volunteer organisations, charities, and not for profits, which get a portion of their donations from online fundraising. In recent years, concerns have been raised about how charities in particular spend the money they raise through donations. Will it reach the people or cause as advertised? Will it reach them quickly? A few organisations have been discovered to have high administrative costs which eat away at the donated money. This episode's guest is leading an organisation that's trying to solve this problem in the world of giving.


PASCAL ADOLPHE

My name is Pascal Adolphe, I'm the CEO of Benojo. Benojo has effectively built a fundraising platform that it's looking to give away for free to all charities, all non for profit. We're experts in technology and we're looking to provide a way that small organisations and charities can access huge amounts of technology, We're effectively looking to bring some administrative costs in an industry that's criticised for that down to zero.


INTRO

What Can We Do? In this podcast I speak with those who are putting their ideas into action, focusing on the good they can do for their neighbours, communities, citizens and the world.


PREMA

Pascal Adolphe will explain the function of Benojo's platform, why its work is important and the challenges the organisation faces. Pascal is relatively new to the not for profit sector. He followed his father's footsteps into a finance career on what he calls a traditional path. Pascal made the transition from the finance to the not for profit sector, after witnessing how his corporation reacted to a staff member's death.


PASCAL

People in the organisation didn't really react in the way that I thought they should have. And I and I looked at myself in the mirror, I thought what am I doing? There's a lot of pain in the world. There isn't many things in life that's real. I've been a victim of that when we get tied to consumerism, and you're buying things to think well, if I buy a barbecue, maybe I'll have that picturesque, friends around and, or if I buy a car or watch or something, I'm going to be within a group of you know, people and I'm going to enjoy society in a certain way, but it's all fake. The real thing that we do is we support someone.


PREMA

Pascal came to realise that many of us are bound to jobs that we don't want to do, because of fear.


PASCAL

I think fear brings us into parts of the world. I was working because I got a mortgage. I increased my debt. And you've got this fear of saying, Well, if I can't service my debt, I'm going to be out in the street or, you know, whatever nightmare that people envision.


PREMA

Pascal had to break out of this fear and help people. He quickly understood what he could do.


PASCAL

So my move across wasn't saying I want to leave corporate. It's more about I want to use my skill sets, the stuff that I'm really really good at, you know, for good. Well, I'm a fantastic negotiator. I love negotiating. I'd rather negotiate things for charities and non for profits rather than do it for a billion dollar company. So it's more about understanding where are you good, what value can you add to an organisation and then pushing that agenda in order to support a system.


PREMA

So what exactly is Benojo? And why is the work they do important?


PASCAL

The work that Benojo does is incredibly important because we're trying to support a part of an industry that's often left out. So a lot of people talk about the administrative costs of charity. First thing is we're bringing individuals together in one place. You've got a profile right now for your Facebook, that's all about your social, you've got a profile right now for your LinkedIn, which is all about your, you know, your commercial role. And then you're gonna have a Benojo profile for your good. So we want to bring people together and make it easier for people to support. You jump on your Benojo profile, find a charity in one place, transact very, very quickly and then get on with your day. It's really, really easy. There's a report for tax time. The second thing is all about cost. So right now Benojo charges zero to be on the platform, but the financial cost for other platforms are almost sometimes are up to 9%. So we charge zero for the platform for the technology. In the past, the fees are hopefully going to be down to 1%. So that means that when you provide $100 via your credit card to a charity $99 of it gets there. So this is, we're trying to solve an efficiency problem, in the effect of, you know, one person doesn't just donate to one charity you know. We like to get involved in most and how do you follow it? How do you stay in touch? You can do that via Benojo all in one area. And the second part is, you know, how do we reduce fees.


PREMA

Benojo isn't just intended for individuals.


PASCAL

One of the ways we try to raise funds is we've also built a workplace giving platform where we charge corporates, a cup of coffee a day per employee, for the year. It's extremely cheap, it's about $6 a year, and they get full functionality. So that's everything between dollar matching, donations, workplace volunteering, grants management, you name it, payroll giving, and you can automate it, you can do things manually. And we've got organisations from huge sort of billion dollar banks, using us all the way through to, you know, small law firms. And it's really quite exciting. And that's one of the ways that we try to raise some revenue, the platform as a whole is effectively trying to build capacity and reduce costs giving waste.


PREMA

Benojo has a laser focus on ensuring that no money gets diverted from doing good.


PASCAL

At Benojo, we're trying, we're not trying to be right. We're trying to be effective. We're really trying to be efficient and valuable because when people donate their time, when charities are operating, we know that there isn't a lot of time there isn't a lot of money, and we don't want to be wasteful with those resources.


PREMA

They also go one step further and educate organisations and donors on how to make the most significant impact.


PASCAL

In our organisation, we have, you know, an impact specialist, and it talks about how to go beyond the dollar. I spoke to a gentleman the other day, he makes a lot of money. And he said to me, "Look, I've got 300,000 I want to give away". He called a few charities and he was annoyed because he realised the administrative fee is 12% or 20% or and he was like, "No, I want my 300 grand to go directly to the people that's needing it." Well, it costs money, someone has to take your money and do something with it, because he said they should be doing it for free. But a volunteering based, it doesn't work. You need to have a consistency in your staffing in order to be efficient. And I had to explain to him about "Well, if you really want your 300 grand, you can often find some equipment that they need, and they can go and purchase the equipment and donate the equipment rather than giving the money but if you want someone else to go and purchase it, there's gonna be a cost." This is like, you know, 101. He would have been better off talking to someone like us where we could have explained the impact between different charities. So he he saw oh my god this 12% worth of administrative costs. What he doesn't realise is $300,000 could have advanced cancer research by 1% or $300,000 could clothed and supported, you know, God knows, you know, 20,000 homes. If he understands what his money is doing from an impact perspective, he'll be less concerned about the percentage. You know, there are a lot of people that are trying to do good. And we're trying to harness that into into a marketplace where we capture people wanting to do good.


PREMA

There are people who might say, there should be more funding and government support, so that charities don't have to turn to fundraising platforms. Pascal believes that the commercial market should step up.


PASCAL

And I think it's a bit of a cop out because there is support that needs to be done. But also I think the commercial market needs to step up and support as well. So we've effectively taken a lot of money in millions and millions and millions of dollars and we built a digital platform to ultimately do things. One to build capacity, the non for profit and two to reduce the cost. Now, should the government be doing that? I believe they should be investing in organisations like ourselves, to truly support the ongoing the long term of the market,


PREMA

However, getting investment to allow them to scale the operations and services isn't easy for a company like Benojo, based in Australia. Compared to the US, Australia is pretty small. So attracting support or funds like the companies in Silicon Valley will be extremely difficult. Pascal believes that investment would pay off in a huge way, not for the company, but for the charities and not for profits on the platform.


PASCAL

A very good example of Benojo and what we're trying to do in terms of change. We're Australia's only cheapest end to end foundational platform. So the example is that someone came from a very similar sort of ticketing or volunteering system where they were raising money and they were taking around 10%. Now they build housing in Cambodia. So what they do is they go around, this gentleman flies around the world. He goes to different corporates and says, "Look, I need USD 3000 and then once you raise it, I need you guys to jump on a plane and come and build it." He came across to us. And he said, you've reduced my fees by almost 10%, which is USD 300 and we thought, that's great. We're really happy. And then he came in and he told us, it's really moving. He said,"But the thing is, I support people on on $1 a day." So he does 40 houses a year. And you can imagine 300 per house, it's 300 additional people he can support. So when you hear that, you think, wow, that's the impact that Benojo has.


PREMA

As the CEO, Pascal has his fair share of challenges.


PASCAL

So some of the common challenges that Benojo faces is a few things. Because we're not taking lots of money from charity, we have very, very small budgets, which means that advertising is really expensive. So we don't have the ability to reach people. We're doing really, really, really good things, but we just don't have the ability to reach the market in a way that we want. So we've got to effectively build a company on the organic growth. The second is, is obviously cash flow. I mean this, this platform costs almost $2 million a year to keep alive. We're really, really lucky that we have supporters that help us keep the lights on. We've got 195 corporates paying a small fee and collectively. By providing technology... the problem with all of this is that there's an easy way to make money using technology and we're not going down that path. We're going down the right path, the difficult path to provide technology for people looking to do the right things. That's ... towards zero. Looking to get a zero cost with sponsorship effectively is people love the idea, but it's the application of it. So once we get to a certain size, I can then hire a very strong labour force to go out and tell the story.


PREMA

Still, Pascal is convinced that Benojo is where he's meant to be.


PASCAL

When Benojo goes to market, they love us. We've got a very dynamic staffing, where we're all crazy, effectively. I mean, we wake up in the morning and I look at the people we all work with, and we're all crazy because we wake up in the morning and we decide to change the world and how are we going to how we're going to get there God knows. And, and people love that. We go to corporates, they think we're nuts. And and they love the energy they love the the, the, you know, the audacity to succeed and hope in an area of good.


PREMA

Pascal has big plans for Benojo.


PASCAL

Again, we've got 800 charities on there. We've got 18,000 registered. if you're a corporate and you want to, you know sort of do offline donations, etc you can. We have 35,000 people and we're growing by about 14 charities a month. What does that all mean? It means that we're growing but we're not growing fast enough and, or to my liking anyway. And and I think that the future of Benojo is one where we make the world a better place. I know it's probably a throwaway line. People think it's a lot of BS, but we really think that. The more we grow, the more influence we have in the market, the better this world is going to be. All right, because we're going to be wasting less and we'll be building better capacity in the non for profit. I think the non for profits is amazing space full of all different types of people wanting to do good. And we are just catalysts, right? We are literally putting fire, you know, or petrol to the fire of good it's really really exciting. So the future for us is to obviously have a have a larger presence in the Australian market. We want to expand to New Zealand and and overseas, the US and the sort of UK, we've already got people knocking on our door saying, Please, please come across. But we're just trying to finish off our effectively our Australian market, make sure all of our T's across all our i's are dotted. And then we're going to we're going to try to scale.


PREMA

Pascal is committed to his journey with Benojo. He believes society needs it.


PASCAL

For me, I just think I'm very lucky to be where I am. What happens if places were traded? So if I was that person on the street, who would help me get better? And I often think, well, I want to be part of that change. I want to be part of the reason why people pull themselves up. Because as humans, we're all flawed. Everyone knows that. We've all made mistakes I'm sure you have. But the mistakes that you've made hasn't ended up on the street. Think about it for people listening anyway, if you've got a car now and you've got a mortgage and life is pretty good. What are the moves to make between today and being out in the street? Not much right? One slip, one slip. There should be not necessarily quality but there should be every single human on this planet should have the ability to enjoy it. And and the minimum fundamentals of food, shelter, happiness and social and I mean that that should be around for everyone. So you've got this army of people trying to do good in the non for profit space and and I think the rest of us who are privileged, you know need to support. And if you're not supporting start somewhere. So give $5 a month away. You won't feel that for some people. Give 1%, 10% I don't know just start somewhere because remember, if 10 people are giving $10 away that's better than one person having to find a lot of more money.


PREMA

For the people out there who might be considering a move similar to Pascal's, this is what he has to say.


PASCAL

Leaving a really good job well paid job, moving to a non for profit where there's a lot of unknowns is was was scary. And there are people in nonprofits that earn really nice money because they're doing really good things. So it's not a financial decision. It's one that represents change. If you're at work collecting a paycheck, you've got to reconsider what you're doing. My whole mantra is "What mark, what difference have I made on this planet?" The non for profit space doesn't owe you anything. So you've got to come with an idea practical idea of what value you're going to add.


PREMA

Thank you for listening. If you liked what you heard, please rate or follow this series on whichever podcast service you're on. Another great way to support this series is to follow it on Facebook or Instagram. Just search for What Can We Do Podcast? You can visit whatcanwedopodcast.com where you can learn more about each episode's guest check out previous episodes. or get in touch with me. What Can We Do is an independent podcast series produced and edited by me Prema Menon. The script editor of this series is Liza Nadolski and the audio you hear has been sweetened by Nicholas Allaire.


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