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Buffalo startup IfThen connects nonprofits to young donors via web

Health & Tech is a regular feature highlighting life sciences and high-tech companies throughout the region.

Company name: IfThen

Address: 729 Main St., Buffalo

Website: www.ifthen.org

Founded: May 2016

Founders: Margaret Finan, Nicholas Barone and Jonathan Gorczyca

Industry: Information technology

Description: The company helps nonprofits reach millennial donors, who may not give money in traditional ways. IfThen sets up a system of automatic donations that can be triggered when the organization is in a moment of need or marking a success.

Number of employees: Four

Financing raised to date: IfThen hasn’t begun raising money from investors.

Lowdown: Millennials can be generous, and willing to respond after national or international tragedies. But they don’t donate to causes in the same way as their parents or grandparents and it can be hard for nonprofits to build ongoing relationships with them.

IfThen, a Buffalo-based startup, says it has a solution.

The company has developed an internet-based service to better connect young donors with organizations that serve the community, to make sure the groups can count on receiving their financial support when it’s needed most. The idea grew out of Block Club Labs, the incubator for the Block Club branding and strategy agency.

IfThen co-founder Margaret Finan is one of three entrepreneurial siblings but, unlike her brothers, she initially envisioned a career in medicine.

A serious illness derailed those plans. It gave Finan perspective on how abruptly people’s lives can be upended, and on the vital role nonprofits play.

“That’s really at the crux of IfThen, is that the work done by these nonprofits really matters. I know that firsthand,” said Finan, now 26.

The East Aurora native was in college when she was struck by a mysterious syndrome that caused her blood pressure to plummet, and her heart rate to soar, whenever she sat up or tried to stand up. It left her feeling like she couldn’t catch her breath, and with debilitating fatigue, for most of the next three years because doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

“It was horrible. It was devastating,” Finan said. Finally, she went to the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn., where they diagnosed her with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, which is caused by a malfunction of the automatic nervous system. Apparently, she developed it after catching the flu. Now, with the right medication and exercise, her health is restored.

Finan was living in out of town when she moved back to Buffalo in 2014 to take a position with Block Club at her brother Patrick’s invitation. Patrick is the co-founder of Block Club and her other brother, Robert, is a partner in Tommyrotter Distillery.

Margaret Finan now is project manager for the Block Club Labs incubator, where she worked with nonprofits. Finan knew organizations, big and small, were scrambling to connect with millennials, and she had experience marketing to millennials through Block Club.

She and the other IfThen co-founders decided they could leverage millennials’ natural instinct to support causes, while reaching them ahead of time and collecting their credit card or debit card information to enable ongoing, automatic giving at times when it’s most helpful to the nonprofit organization.

This is different than Kickstarter, or other crowdfunding, “finish-line fundraising,” Finan said, where you raise money for a project and then it’s over.

For example, she said, the International Institute can request donations at points of the year when it is helping to resettle a certain number of refugees. Or the Buffalo Zoo can request a donation each time a baby animal is born.

“Giving fundamentally makes you feel good,” she said.

The nonprofits have to think carefully about how to structure their campaigns, she said.

They initially would reach out to people who have given previously to the organization. Data on which type of outreach generated success – and to what degree – will be collected by IfThen as part of the suite of analytics services it provides its nonprofit clients.

IfThen will launch a beta version of the site with eight local nonprofits, including Catholic Charities and Meals on Wheels, by the end of July followed by a broader launch by year’s end, Finan said.

“I’m excited to find out who we can reach,” she said.

She is joined by co-founders Nicholas Barone and Jonathan Gorczyca and product developer Mark Taylor, all of whom have ownership stakes in IfThen, along with Block Club.

The company earns a share of every donation made by someone using its service. Eventually, it may roll out a subscription-based model.

IfThen – the name is a reference to, If something happens, Then donors want to give – hasn’t started raising money itself from investors, Finan said.

– Stephen Watson

email: swatson@buffnews.com