Bloomerang CEO Ross Hendrickson on software doing more good for nonprofits

For more than 10 years, Bloomerang has been helping nonprofits thrive by providing them with a donor management platform designed to make fundraising easier and to help them foster authentic relationships with their donors.

We spoke with Ross Hendrickson, the company’s CEO, about innovating the fundraising experience, why they partner with Stripe, and how the company is creating stronger connections between donors and nonprofits.

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Could you tell us about Bloomerang’s origin story?

My co-founders and I had been working in the nonprofit tech space for decades. There were online donation capabilities back then, but the user experience was really poor and donor retention rates were low—around 40% and slipping. We recognized there was a significant opportunity to introduce software to the market that truly helped nonprofits. We created Bloomerang to do just that—make it easier for people to support their favorite causes and to help nonprofits strengthen the donor experience and retain more donors.

What are some of the most common pain points for nonprofits and their donors?

To boil it down to one thing, it’s finding ways to give employees more time. This is an industry where nonprofit professionals have the enthusiasm and expertise needed to change the world and, because of this, continuously strive to do more and give more. The challenge is that many nonprofits are understaffed or don’t have tools like Bloomerang or Stripe to do the admin work for them. So, the biggest thing we can do is provide them with tools and resources that are intuitive and easy to use in order to give them back time.

Another challenge nonprofits face is really high turnover. The average tenure of a nonprofit employee is only 16 months. If you’re onboarding someone every 16 months, it’s essential they have consistency in the data they enter and use every day. They need to trust their data so they can get the best insights out of it to move their mission forward—and Bloomerang helps ensure that happens.

How is developing a donor platform different from developing other types of ecommerce platforms?

In ecommerce, it centers on a transaction. You don’t need to provide customers with much more than a receipt. Customers check out, get a confirmation email, receive what they ordered, and the interaction is complete.

In the world of nonprofits, you need to provide donors with much more than that. Donors don’t just give their money to nonprofits, they give their trust. They don’t just need a receipt that shows they made a donation, they also need confirmation that their intention behind the donation will be honored.

To do that, nonprofits need to take the next step and share how those donations help make a real impact on their mission. For example, we make it easy for nonprofits to personalize and automate acknowledgment letters and emails to donors. By helping them save time on this predictable task, they can spend more time telling the story of how those gifts will be used. There’s a big difference between seeing a note that says “Thank you for your $50 gift” and one that says “Your $50 gift provided 12 meals to a family in Ukraine.”

That’s just one example of how we’ve built Bloomerang with fundraising best practices such as reminding donors of the specific impact they’ve made.

How do you create intuitive experiences?

You know how kids always ask, “Why?” We work to channel that same curiosity. We believe in anticipating fundraisers’ questions and answers before customers think to ask them. Sometimes it means integrating with partners like Stripe in order to help us create a donation experience that is really easy. We stay laser-focused on donor acquisition, retention, and engagement, and that’s how we end up creating intuitive experiences that help save time for nonprofits.

You’ve built Bloomerang outside of Silicon Valley, in Indiana. What’s it been like operating a company at scale in the Midwest?

Indianapolis has had a thriving tech community for a long time. In the early ’80s, the state government helped create a fund to fuel the transformation from manufacturing to software. That fund invested in Software Artistry, Indiana’s first software IPO. That paved the way for companies like ExactTarget (now Salesforce Marketing Cloud), Interactive Intelligence (Genesys), Aprimo, and Angie’s List (now Angi). There’s a really strong history and community of people here who are experienced in building great tech and valuable companies.

This infrastructure and support in Indianapolis has been one of many factors that helped Bloomerang succeed. It goes to show that you don’t have to be in Silicon Valley to create great technology and make an impact on the world.

What’s next for Bloomerang?

Today we have the privilege to support more than 14,000 nonprofits as they work to build a world inspired by giving. As we look to the future for Bloomerang, we’re focused on adding features and innovations that save nonprofit professionals even more time so they can further their cause. Our mission says it all—make fundraising easier, foster authentic donor relationships, and create thriving nonprofits.

What are the principles you keep in mind when thinking about innovation?

Innovation is one of our core values at Bloomerang. So, when we think about the future, we think about what we can provide to help nonprofits retain more donors. We know that understanding data is key to understanding donors and tapping into their generosity. Everything we do puts donor retention at the center: help nonprofits keep their data organized, make it easy to measure, and ensure it’s actionable in order to increase donor retention and engagement.

How would you describe your leadership style?

The biggest thing for me is empathy. I know that if I put myself in somebody else’s shoes and understand what they’re experiencing, I can better provide a solution they need.

When I think about how Bloomerang can best serve the market, I also think about the people I’m leading, how I can best support them, and how they can best further our mission. I’m really humbled to have the opportunity to work with passionate and empathetic people at Bloomerang who complement each other really well. I’m truly grateful to work alongside them.

What is the future of online giving?

I believe the future of online giving is all about data and what it can tell both fundraisers and donors about how they’re changing the world. I think we’re also going to see the need for a more unified donor experience and better communication between donors and the nonprofits they support. That’s why we’re so focused on making sure nonprofits have accurate and consistent data. When nonprofits can give donors a better picture of the change they’re making, donors will be even more inspired to give more and give again in the future.

How do you choose technology partners?

First, we look for a history of success and stability. This is important because customers see us as an extension of their team. So if we’re going to recommend a partner’s product or integrate with them, we want to make sure it’s something we’d stand behind.

Transparency is also one of our core values, which is why it’s also important that our partners provide users with straightforward documentation. If fundraisers want to know about APIs or how Bloomerang works with another tool they use, they should be able to find that out easily, and it should be easily understood. I know it sounds a bit techie, but it’s important. Clarity and ease of use is essential for time-constrained nonprofits.

Finally, it goes back to the customer relationship and delivering a consistent experience. We want our partners to also excel at delivering a great support experience. We pride ourselves on offering world-class support and want a consistent experience for our shared customers. When they have questions, they should be able to connect with a real person and get answers quickly.

How are Stripe and Bloomerang aligned in terms of user focus?

We’re both aligned in our goal of providing users with a frictionless, positive online giving experience.

Just like at Bloomerang, the team at Stripe is continually working to make the donation process faster and easier so donors can act on their generosity the moment they feel inspired to give.

How has Stripe helped Bloomerang achieve your goals? How can Stripe continue to help you achieve your goals?

We’ve used Stripe from the very beginning, and we’re excited to continue our partnership with a leader in the payments space. We’re confident that together we’ll continue to provide donors with the best online giving experience and fundraisers with the tools they need to do more good.

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