When you create your own company, you can call yourself whatever you want. Michael Slater has two titles. His official one for GoGiv is chief visionary officer, but in his email signature he prefers “chief smile maker.”
Both titles reflect his commitment to make change and, yes, bring smiles to people’s faces with his business. The vision is to help connect businesses with nonprofits to raise funds for programs that help the community and for nonprofit supporters to make purchases in those businesses—a cycle of happiness where he says everyone wins.
“Everything about GoGiv is happy,” he says. “The idea is that when people see GoGiv, it’s going to put a smile on their face because they’ve done something good.”
Slater is a father of six kids, who were involved in sports and fundraisers for equipment and other needs. Those experiences and his work for 20 years in the information technology field merged as he developed the vision for GoGiv, a social fundraising platform. Slater saw he could help local businesses come alongside nonprofits and vice versa, to bring attention to both.
“Over the years, we had our share of fundraising. It’s always been something inside of me to do something for businesses and to do something with the community,” he says.
His fundraising solution pairs businesses with schools, sports leagues, nonprofits and churches, says Slater. Businesses give money to nonprofits, by registering on the GoGiv platform as a sponsor. Then nonprofits pass along discounts (called sponsorship offers) on goods and services to those who support their cause to use at the sponsoring businesses. For example, one Cape Coral business offers a free drink with a purchase of another one to supporters.
The purpose is threefold: Raise money for nonprofits, drive traffic to businesses and save consumers money.
“He built it with love, with his intention to serve,” says business partner Amy Emme, who has known Slater for about 10 years and worked with him on other projects.
Although Slater came up with the idea in 2012, and even bought domain names, he held off moving forward while still working full time and focusing on his children. In addition to Slater and Emme, GoGiv’s executive team includes chief technical officer Anurag Pal.
“We spent so many years individually building other people’s businesses, dreams and goals. I think we all reached a point in our lives, and it happened to be simultaneously, that we realized it was time to do it for ourselves, and GoGiv was going to be the vehicle to get us there,” Slater says. With the initial launch of the Cape Coral-based company in August 2018, GoGiv is primarily focused on raising funds for Southwest Florida nonprofits, organizations and schools, such as The School District of Lee County, Slater says. The business is self-funded, and it has received guidance from Suzanne Specht with the Small Business Development Center at Florida Gulf Coast University.
It’s free for nonprofits to participate. Sponsoring a nonprofit starts at $10 and increases based on the number of supporters, or the people who give to a certain nonprofit. Sponsorships can be purchased for a set number of months or auto-renewed.
Participating charities include Let Kids Be Kids, The Embrace Girls Foundation, Kindleigh and WuWu Women. Business sponsors include Nevermind Awesome Bar & Eatery, Cape Coral Indoor Athletics, Overtime Pizzeria & Sports Pub and 3 Pepper Burrito Company in Cape Coral.
GoGiv is expanding through independent contractors who will be assigned to territories to manage; coordinators already have been already selected for Orlando and Miami.
One area where GoGiv could be a solution is school funding shortfalls, both Slater and Emme say.
“We want to match up the right nonprofits with the right businesses,” says Emme, the company’s “chief people officer.”
Now that he’s launched GoGiv, he sees an opportunity to build up people to create businesses and provide incomes for their families. Those locally owned businesses in turn would support nonprofits.
“One of our taglines is, ‘Be the reason someone smiles,’” he says.