Before even officially joining the Marketing Team here at Boost, I was drawn to Boost My School by its founder, Holman Gao’s, unique story and mission to bring impact-based giving to K-12 schools. So I sat down with him to learn how he grew Boost from a custom made program for his alma mater to a comprehensive giving, events, and commerce software that processes millions in donations every year.
As it turns out, Holman had never asked anyone for a donation before. He just wanted to help out his alma mater.
If you ask Holman (and I did), he was lucky. He was lucky enough to be able to attend a high school that prioritized STEM, lucky that they had a math team, and lucky to be able to find something he loved. From there, he was named a world programming finalist in college and began his career as a software engineer. But he always remembered how much that opportunity he was given meant for his future success.
So, when asked to write a paper check to ensure his alma mater’s math team continued to survive, he knew he could do more. He wanted to help them raise more than just what he could give, so he built Boost and became its first user.
But Holman didn’t just want to build them a tool. He wanted to help find people to use it. So, he called up some fellow alums and asked if they would be willing to give – and they were. It was when they inquired why no one had called them to ask for a donation in this way before that Holman came to his first realization:
Schools should fundraise fearlessly.
I asked him what that meant and he told me that people want to give, it feels good to give, and schools shouldn’t feel like their asks are unreasonable – because they aren’t.
Unfortunately, it became clear that it was impossible to call every potential donor and explain how and why they should give. That’s when Holman realized that he didn’t just want to build a platform to transact donations, he wanted to build a platform that helped schools tell a story. He wanted to create a platform that gave potential donors the feeling of a 1:1 phone call where the school could say, without hesitation, why that gift matters.
However, asking him today, he readily told me that he didn’t immediately understand the realities of K-12 advancement. He didn’t know the budgetary constraints, time limitations, and small team sizes that define many K-12 schools’ advancement teams. That’s what brought Holman to his third realization:
K-12 Schools deserve a giving platform that meets their unique needs
To Holman’s frustration, despite being the backbone of education, K-12 schools are constantly forced to fight for their share of available resources. A fight made even harder when the tools that K-12 schools are forced to use are optimized for higher education. So, not only are prices significantly higher than most K-12 schools can reasonably afford, but these platforms take far too long to understand and utilize fully.
I asked Holman how this guided the early development of the Boost platform and he outlined how he ensured Boost would be designed for a streamlined user experience. He made sure that transactions were made to meet constituents where they were. Allowing users to use modern payment methods like Venmo, Apple Pay, or donor advised funds. Then he moved his focus to fully customizable giving pages. With Boost, Holman wanted to ensure that you could build your first giving page in minutes and spend the rest of your day crafting your giving story – the most impactful and important part of the giving process.
Of course, streamlined features mean nothing if schools are unable to afford them. So, Holman made the decision to fundamentally commit Boost to being priced within a range that is affordable by most K-12 schools.
However, As Boost grew, first to 10 customers, then to 50, then to more than 100, Holman and his growing team realized that giving was just the start. they realized that:
It’s not just giving that needs to be reimagined.
As Boost grew, Holman spoke to more and more advancement professionals about what they needed to help them reach their goals, and the answer was always the same: an update to how they manage events. While major events, like Reunions, Annual Galas, and Golf Outings, are an important part of any fundraiser’s annual strategy, they were largely ignored by the majority of school-centric giving platforms. Leaving fundraisers to deal with confused constituents, low event attendance, and tedious follow-up. Not only that, but they were often forced to pay a premium for a separate events platform.
So, Holman and the team built Boost’s events platform from the ground up. They brought the storytelling and user-friendliness of Boost’s giving platform and reimagined it through the lens of events. Now, when an attendee registers for an event, their name is displayed prominently for their classmates and friends to see, leading to a 43% increase in event attendance.
As Boost grew, so too did its capabilities, but despite achieving many of the goals that Holman set out to achieve, he came to a final realization:
This mission is stronger than ever.
Boost’s mission is a shared one. With an ever expanding team (that I am now a part of!) and hundreds of schools using the platform, the goal of building a tool that allows K-12 schools to fundraise fearlessly is closer than ever before. And the team at Boost is more motivated than ever to achieve it. Whether that means adding new capabilities, continuing to streamline and simplify use of the platform, or remaining committed to providing giving, events, and commerce solutions with one single affordable tool, the future of fearless fundraising lives here.
Hudson is the Marketing Manager at Boost My School. He is a graduate of Fordham University and the Albany Academies. Hudson is dedicated to the growth and support of K-12 education and is an active member of his local school community. In his free time, Hudson enjoys playing soccer, hiking, and cooking.