Stuart Finlayson’s parents started three nonprofits, and Stuart had noble ambitions to be a doctor, flying to countries in need. After university, however, Stuart Finlayson went down the marketing and advertising route before creating his own web businesses. While in London, he saw what was happening with Just Giving, the UK e-commerce company that processes the collection of charitable donations, and thought that he could improve on their model. So he started GoFundraise in 2007.
At the time, Stuart was running another business and wanted to find someone else to run this new venture. But things came full circle when he fell in love with the new organization. He particularly enjoyed returning to the community-centered values with which his parents raised him.
GoFundraise provides innovative software solutions to reduce the costs of fundraising, and empowers charities to raise even more money for their causes. In fact, for every $100 someone raises for a charity, typically only about $60-$70 of it goes to the group in need. The rest is eaten up by inefficiency and middleman fees. With GoFundraise, about 93 percent goes to the charity. That’s a staggering increase of efficiency by up to 50 percent!
GoFundraise employs sixteen people who are passionate and motivated in their mission, and very committed to maintaining the company values and culture. Another huge strategic asset is the company’s intellectual property. Stuart connects deeply with the emotional value of helping non-profits to raise money, but he also has a great track record in business. His commitment to innovating in the industry has resulted in robust technology that has helped many people and organizations. Their brand is well known in the nonprofit circles of Australia and has won many fans.
After five years at GoFundraise and more years at other startups, Stuart shared the following business insights.
Hire Someone With the Values That Matter Most
Stuart told me a favorite quote: “If you want a culture of smiley people, then hire smiley people.” They vet every prospective employee against the company’s culture and values. Even if the candidate possesses a strong skillset, if there isn’t a culture fit, they’ll pass on hiring the person. Everyone who is hired signs a values document which has been carefully crafted and reflects who Stuart is and how he wants his team to treat customers and each other.
I love Stuart’s folksy advice during our interview. It doesn’t get much simpler than hiring smiley people if you want your employees to smile. In the past, all things being equal, I would choose skill over fit. But today, there’s no question that I would choose fit over skill. I know that if there’s a strong cultural fit, I’m going to be more excited to come into work and interact with them, which I hope spills over to everyone else.
Of course, the world is never so black and white. But I’m siding with the smiley, fit people.
— David Niu
Conduct Daily Performance Reviews
GoFundraise conducts daily performance reviews. Everything is centered on their values. If behavior doesn’t align with the company’s values, Stuart will bring it up to get the team member back on track.
Get Everyone Caught-up in Weekly Meetings
Stuart Finlayson realized that the team was getting a bit disjointed. They implemented a company-wide Friday 3:30 meeting. Team members take turns updating everyone else for one to two minutes on what they’re working on and what’s forthcoming next week. This has increased communication within GoFundraise, giving everyone a taste of what is happening in departments with which they don’t usually have much contact.
Give Away Monthly Prizes for Embodying Culture
To further reinforce their culture, Stuart gives out a monthly prize (an iPad or something similar) to whoever best embodies their culture. This fun technique keeps their values front and center and top of mind.
Let Employees Set and Drive Goals
Moving forward, Stuart wants individuals to present their own goals for the month and quarter. These goals need to align with GoFundraise’s vision. And if the entire team hits their self-set goals, Stuart wants to reward the entire team. GoFundraise is just starting this, so I’ll be interested to follow up and see how it went and what they learned.
Give Recognition Instantly
Stuart emphasized that he always provides instant recognition. He encourages managers to never be afraid to give out positive feedback to individuals, especially in front of their peers.
It’s important to get the culture and values of a company right. It cascades through every activity that the company does.
At GoFundraise, not only is Stuart weaving a great feel-good story, but he also obsesseses over building up his company’s culture. His nonprofit endeavor remains true to the noble values his parents raised him with. But the good intentions he puts into keeping his employees engaged and happy inspired me as much as anything else.