“It is a scientific fact that giving makes you feel good—it literally raises the endorphins, just like games do,” says Lesley Mansford, a video-game marketing vet who is using her tech savvy to her philanthropic advantage. “If you can mix gaming mechanics with giving, that’s a very powerful elixir,” she says.
As CEO of six-year-old D.C. startup Razoo, which opened its second headquarters in San Francisco this summer, Mansford is looking to help charitable ventures cash in with “crowdfunding,” that buzzword made popular by Kickstarter. And in a town where numerous entrepreneurs have benefited from communal cash, it’s little surprise that Razoo—kind of like Kickstarter for charities—would put down roots here.
From its temporary home in RocketSpace’s SoMa offices, Razoo encourages people to engage in their communities by supporting causes with the click of a button. And thanks to its intuitive site design, collaborative tools, and an industry-low 2.9 percent transaction fee, it appears to be working: Razoo recently surpassed $105 million raised for more than 14,000 nonprofits nationwide, including SF-based Hispanics in Philanthropy, Summer Search, and Rebuilding Together San Francisco.
In keeping with the momentum of her first year at the helm, Mansford, a 20-year veteran of gaming behemoth Electronic Arts, is on the hunt for permanent SF offices and is scooping up tech talent from the likes of Microsoft, Zynga, and Amazon. She is also putting her experience to work by further developing 24-hour giving days: Razoo’s online version of old-fashioned telethons, where hourly objectives and prizes motivate fundraisers to engage new donors through social networking.
“Razoo has a solid footing in both the giving and the technology centers of our nation,” says the Occidental resident. “Our technological leadership furthers our mission to make it easier for everyone to give to each other.” Mansford is planning a Bay Area giving day in 2013. Game on.
This article was published in 7x7's December/January issue. Click here to subscribe.