Pond is a marketplace that pays nonprofits to find software they need. Software vendors pay the nonprofit for their time to explain their product and help determine if it's what the nonprofit needs. It's a great application of using a two sided marketplace to make nonprofits more impactful.
We sat down with Mitch Stein, co-founder and CEO of Pond, a marketplace for nonprofits and tech vendors to find each other in a way that perfectly aligns the goals of nonprofits looking to grow and vendors looking for new enthusiastic customers. Here’s what we learned about Pond, and how it can help teams selling to nonprofits and nonprofits looking to grow.
What is Pond?
“Pond is where nonprofit organizations can find and fund the tools they need to power their mission most effectively.” We flipped the market so that the nonprofits get paid to take meetings with vendors that are trying to sell to the nonprofits, but where the nonprofits have control over who they meet with, ensuring that the nonprofits are actually interested and that the vendors get to talk to clearly interested nonprofits. It’s a dual opt-in system: both the nonprofit and the vendor have to want to meet, ensuring the meetings are high quality. Pond had around 600 nonprofits on board in its first 6 months, and has helped those nonprofits receive over $50,000 for their use of Pond.
What led you to create Pond? What’s your background?
Prior to founding Pond, I was a tech banker covering the software and internet space, specifically a lot of SaaS products. At the same time I was a board member and fundraiser for nonprofits and I felt that there was a gap between the for-profit SaaS companies I covered and the services offered to the nonprofit worlds. My banking background trained me to look for market-creating opportunities; that’s where a lot of the value can be created for nonprofits, so I began iterating on possible ways to connect nonprofits with better SaaS tools. I began to zero in on the opportunity to help nonprofits find tools to help them, and for the SaaS companies to reach out to nonprofits as potential customers.
Where did the name Pond come from?
We actually worked through a lot of options and took a look at what we thought would resonate with the people we serve. We noticed that the industry uses a lot of water metaphors - people are “drowning” in options, or there’s a “waterfall” of companies. We initially thought we’d go with something ocean themed, but settled on the pond because it’s trusted, comfortable, and feels smaller. In a pond you can see all of the edges easily and it feels like home.
What was Pond’s MVP, and how did you iterate?
We started by looking for models for the kind of market we were in: consumers attempting to make big purchases in need of quality information about their options. Similar markets include shopping for hings like homes and cars, so we took some inspiration to how successful matching companies worked in those spaces. We built out a large catalog of vendors and services and asked nonprofits to select the ones they liked and helped them choose a vendor. This approach didn’t see serious traction - we knew we could make it easier for the nonprofits but this approach just wasn’t quite right.
Our pivot began with a vendor that paid us and didn’t see the result they wanted. They wanted Pond to work, so they helped us brainstorm and face some hard truths. We had a eureka, lightbulb moment when someone mentioned charging for time. Software vendors wanted to pay per lead, and nonprofits wanted to be paid for their time. It was a hit - nonprofits get paid to find new tools, vendors get the opportunity to pitch their offering to nonprofits for a fair fee. This approach aligns everyone’s interests so well.
What kind of companies use Pond? Who will like it the most?
Nonprofits are the core customer. We help nonprofits find the software they need. Nonprofits can join and browse the offerings without making contact with anyone. Any nonprofit that’s in growth mode, or the teams responsible for growing the nonprofit in a cost-effective manner will love Pond.
What are some products or services on Pond that you think nonprofits and charities would be excited to hear about?
There are so many new tools launching each week, it’s an exciting time. We already have over 150 services and providers, and we are in the early days. I’d point nonprofits to the new breed of donor engagement and stewardship tools for nonprofits. Personalizing interactions with donors; things like personalized mass video platforms have shown huge gains in conversion rates, which means more donations from financial donors. We’ve seen personalized handwritten note services; they’re more affordable than you think. There are also a lot of apps and services related to AI; services that analyze your donor list, find new donors, that sort of thing. Finally, there are services that make it easy for nonprofits to accept new donation types, like cryptocurrencies that we think nonprofits should check out.
Checkout Pond at http://www.joinpond.com.
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