Calgary’s Next Economy: Shop My Fundraising is connecting community groups and local biz

Shop My Fundraising is a Calgary startup focused on connecting Calgary community groups and local businesses for fundraising opportunities. SCREENSHOT FROM SHOPMYFUNRAISER.COM

If you have children in extracurricular activities, you know that fundraising is an important part of parenting in the organization’s success.

Two Calgary-based founders of Shop My Fundraising built a system to ease the often frustrating quest of raising money for community organizations.

“People are in a lot of pain when they say the word team fundraising,” said Blair Houston, co-founder with Robert Gregoire.

The two met as employees at Sysco Foods. They regularly worked with vendors and developed relationships in and around Calgary. Both collected donations online or through Sysco for their own children.

“It was all cash and trying to collect and manage orders,” Houston said.

“It was very disorganized and chaotic, as you know most fundraising is.”

When they were laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic, the two realized there was reasonable demand and margin in food gathering. That’s when they first started UR fundraising here in Calgary.

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“During Covid, we were crushed,” Houston said.

“There was no access. There was no request for donations. But we had this provider community.”

They thought the team fundraiser would be back soon. Houston and Gregoire took the time to connect with vendors like Calgary’s Spolumbos to talk about integrating an online platform to make it easier for people to fundraise with a local company’s products.

Tailored e-commerce for fundraising

Houston said they are essentially pop-up stores for Calgary businesses. Everything is built through the Shop My Fundraising platform.

“There are so many small businesses in Calgary, in Canada, and across North America that don’t have the funds, cash flow, or staff to get into this fundraiser because of the chaos that’s involved,” Houston said.

“We just did it.”

A community, school or sports group can search the Shop My Fundraising database for companies with which they would like to raise funds. Likewise, newly founded companies can advertise a fundraising portal on their website.

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“We’re trying to build this ownership for small businesses to access these new opportunities,” Houston said.

“If you have kids or are involved in an organization or church or anything, everyone is fundraising and I think people need options other than 50/50 raffles, bottle rides or almond chocolates.”

Houston said once set up, all a company really needs to do is fulfill their orders. While her experience was in food fundraising, any small business can set up a platform.

The company operates with a low transaction fee per sale.

Tapping into the network

Houston said one of the big things they’re getting from the new Alberta Catalyzer – Velocity program is a broader network.

He admitted they’ve had some missteps over the past two years that they might have avoided if they’d competed at an accelerator.

One of the most important things for them to move forward is fine-tuning their message. Fundraising can actually be quite confusing, Houston said.

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“Through this program, it’s helped to have a more clearly defined message and to be able to figure out exactly what the message is that we’re trying to convey to people about what we’re doing,” Houston said.

“We’re still not there as you can see, but we’re getting closer.”

Fine-tuning what they do is a step toward scaling. Houston said they want to tackle the Calgary market first. They want to refine and build a robust fundraising platform used by groups and businesses across the city.

Within a year they hope to have a presence across Canada. Then across North America.

“I know we’re going to saturate the markets in Calgary and give every business owner a chance to be successful and find a way to bring their product to market,” Houston said.

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