Charity Network founder Todd Wagner breaks new ground in his quest to give back

I was able to connect with Todd Wagner, originally Mark Cubans partner on Broadcast.com. Todd is very focused on the Charity Network he founded. We discuss what motivated him to launch the Charity Network, Forbes Philanthropy Event, Bill Gates Giving Pledge, Philanthropy, Impact Investing, Dan Poletta’s Ted Talk, and what Forbes readers are about. should focus on giving back. Here is our discussion:


Todd Wagner Foundation

Forbes: Tell us what inspired you to start the Charity Network?

Wagner: After selling the start-up Broadcast.com to Yahoo! in 1999 for $ 5.7 billion, I became that “high net worth” donor sought after by so many charities seeking to raise funds for their worthy causes. I quickly learned that the traditional method of fundraising that relies on galas and events is outdated and ineffective, representing an old ‘analog’ mindset and resulting in only 6% of charitable donations coming from donations. line.

Charity Network evolved from this realization that if charities don’t embrace a digital mindset – and I don’t mean just by sending out a few tweets and emails – they’re going to get stuck with it. an aging donor base, and they will fail to develop relationships with the younger generations who will form their donor base in the future.

Charity Network brings together technology, media and philanthropy to provide a more effective way for nonprofits to raise awareness and engage with a broad base of donors, from millennials to baby boomers, through three platforms of digital fundraisers: Charitybuzz, Prizeo and Chideo. Each platform is a leader in its field – Charitybuzz online charity auctions, Price in sweepstakes and online experiences, and Chideo in the cause and entertainment content. Through these platforms, Charity Network has raised over $ 250 million to date for causes around the world.

By providing fans with unique and exclusive experiences with celebrities from music, film, sports, Broadway and business, Charity Network makes philanthropy fun while creating a new complementary ‘income’ stream for organizations. charitable. When people donate $ 10 to Prizeo in exchange for a chance to attend the Emmy® Awards or win a night out with the legendary Dallas Cowboys “Triplets” (Troy Aikman, Emmit Smith and Michael Irvin), we tap into their entertainment dollars, not just charitable funds.

In addition to consumer platforms, Charity Network has a strategic advisory group, CN Solutions, created from our acquisition of Los Angeles-based Global Philanthropy Group in 2017. CN Solutions develops and implements comprehensive philanthropic strategies to maximize the impact of the cause. celebrities, charities and brands through research, strategy, partnerships and advocacy work.

Forbes: What do you think of the Bill Gates / Warren Buffett promise?

Wagner: When the richest people in the world pledge to donate a large percentage of their money to charity, it is a fantastic and noble idea. The Giving Pledge is a great example for other high net worth people who can afford to write big checks, to motivate them to make a difference.

But what about the remaining 99.9% of the world, the millions of people who want to give back but can’t afford to give big? Digital, the great equalizer allows charities to reach this public, some of which may be first-time donors.

Charity Network’s Prizeo platform offers fans the chance to gain unique experiences with their favorite celebrities, with donations starting at just $ 10. In fact, a $ 10 donation was enough for a 28-year-old to win two tickets to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s final. Hamilton performance last year. This campaign raised over $ 2 million for the Hispanic Federation and collected 40,000 individual donations and email addresses for the charity to cultivate for greater awareness.

Charity network

Forbes: How has your view of philanthropy changed or evolved?

Wagner: There are over 1.5 million registered charities, all of which fundraise for worthy causes. But do we really need 1.5 million charities? I think the philanthropic community is in desperate need of a way to properly and independently assess and accurately measure the performance of these charities, so that we know where the dollars should be going.

Potential donors should have access to research, analysis and hard data to determine whether charities are effective and achieving results. I think we need to take a page out of the for-profit world and provide potential donors with a ready “market” where they can learn about a specific industry or charity and make the best decisions. We need to identify several metrics that define the success of nonprofits, instead of just looking at what percentage of donations go to programs versus overhead.

Forbes: What do you think of socially responsible impact investing in the for-profit arena?

Wagner: I totally agree. The Global Health Investment Fund created by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is an excellent business model. I believe that individual and institutional investors are eager to find ways to use private sector finance to address global challenges. Gates has undertaken to partially offset the losses of the Fund, in order to guarantee investors a basic return. The money Gates potentially invests will have an exponential impact on important causes, beyond what could have been achieved through direct donations.

Forbes: What did you think of Dan Poletta’s talk on Ted about how we view charity?

Wagner: Dan started the discussion we need to have in the philanthropic community. He’s right when he says we pay too much attention to overhead as a measure of nonprofit efficiency. However, we need to take the next step and correctly identify the correct measures so that we can determine which charities are in fact the best stewards of our hard-earned money. Reliable and independent analysis – similar to what happens in for-profit capital markets – is needed.

If I want to donate to help solve the homelessness crisis in our country, how do I know where my donation will have the most impact? I want to hear the CEOs of these organizations talk about their vision and how they plan to execute their missions over the next five years. Then I want this information to be correctly and objectively analyzed and measured, so that I can direct the funds appropriately.

Forbes: What would you encourage Forbes readers to focus on when it comes to giving back?

Wagner: First of all, if you are involved with a charity, carefully examine their fundraising methods. Are there things they do because that’s how they’ve always been done? Galas and events often yield less than 50% of what is collected after the expense and time of staff and volunteers. Plus, what is this charity doing to deal with the changing landscape of digital worlds and social media? Technology is not backing down. Charities must now try to harness the power they provide. How do they lower the median age of donors and reach millennials? How do they get their message across in an increasingly confusing information cycle?

Second, before you make your next donation, ask yourself what you are doing before investing in the for-profit world. Apply these same due diligence investing skills to your giving strategies. Demand transparency from the leaders of a charity: Can they clearly communicate their mission and clearly explain how your dollars will be used? If we all start to demand more from nonprofits, we will begin to see increased effectiveness in solving some of the world’s toughest challenges.


Jeanne Marcus


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