Goodworld founder Dale Nirvani Pfeifer. (Photo by Violetta Markelo.)

This week, a D.C. company that has developed a way to donate money across social networks seeks advice on how to extend into new markets. –Dan Beyers

The entrepreneur

Dale Nirvani Pfeifer spends a lot of time thinking about the power of business as a global force for good. She started her career as a researcher, where she looked at the power of networks to bring people together. She continued to study this as she moved into the nonprofit world, working as a consultant.

One project involved work on a documentary about the power of business to solve big global problems. Inspired, she set out to fulfill the film’s hypothesis that business could “save the day” by creating her own company, Goodworld.

“Because I’d been working in the nonprofit world, I quickly realized that the way people were paying for donations was changing from people writing out and sending in checks to going onto websites to donate,” Pfeifer says. “I also knew how much time people were spending on social media. I realized that there was no easy way to make donations on social media.”

Her big idea: Changing the way people make online payments. Pfeifer figured out a way to sort out payments to charity on social media and wants to expand to payments in general on social media. “What if every time you paid for something on social media, as a result of that, something good happened in the world?”

The Case Foundation's Sheila Herrling, GoodWorld's Dale Nirvani Pfeifer, Brigade's James Windon and The Washington Post's Colby Itkowitz discuss how small businesses can do good while still keeping the lights on and the rent paid. (Washington Post Live)

The pitch

Dale Nirvani Pfeifer, founder and chief executive of Goodworld

“Goodworld is the social media payments platform that makes giving simple, secure and viral. We’ve created “#donate,” which is a way for anyone to give money instantly to causes they care about through Facebook and Twitter. Using #donate transforms the hashtag into a way for people to make an instant charitable payment.

“Since launching our technology in May 2015, we now have more than 2,500 nonprofits using our technology. We’ve cemented ourselves as the in-stream payments industry leader on Facebook and Twitter. We’re based at the 1776 start-up incubator in Washington, D.C.

“We’ve had great traction in the charitable giving vertical and figured out that model. One of our big questions right now is how to transfer that technology and that success over to other verticals: Commerce, peer-to-peer payments, political campaigns, etc. How do you transfer your brand to additional areas when you already have a foothold in one space? We need to make sure we remain true to the mission of the company to become the payment hub that is a global force for good. How do we go to market across other verticals while remaining true to our mission, our brand and our current customers?”

The advice

Sara Herald, associate director, social entrepreneurship at the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business

“First, you need to really be clear about why you want to expand into a new business sector at this point. With more than 2,500 nonprofits using your technology you have some great traction, but there is a lot of room for growth in that industry. Companies typically go into new verticals after maximizing their growth potential in their current vertical.

“I’m curious about that potential for growth in the nonprofit space – have you encountered hurdles that make it more difficult to expand in that industry? To help support the success of your model and achieve broader market penetration among nonprofits, you may need to spend resources educating your clients on how to use your #donate software to their greatest advantage.

“As you explore new sectors, you will be running up against different competitors — there are a lot of players in the peer-to-peer payment space and other payment verticals. What is Goodworld’s value proposition in those sectors and how does it relate to your mission? You identify strongly as a social enterprise, so it will need to be clear how processing payments outside of the nonprofit sector will result in something good for the world. Spelling that out will help you avoid mission creep that could concern investors and potential customers.”

The reaction

Pfeifer

“These are some really valuable insights for us to consider as we explore other applications for our technology. We’re creating an entirely new category—social media fundraising or ‘social giving’—so there is certainly a need to educate and encourage adoption of this new fundraising channel. Over the past few years, we’ve expanded a great deal within the nonprofit space and our month-to-month growth is now steady and organic. Exploring new markets is important if we are to grow into our bigger vision and our full potential as a social media payments company.

“I agree that each new product line we launch must be closely tied to our mission to become a global force for good. It is one of the most important parts of our company and a true differentiator. This potential expansion comes as a result of demand – large potential partners asking us to consider how our technology might be applied to fit with their marketplace. However, we recognized the potential mission creep. The advice to closely examine framing will definitely be valuable in shaping our plans and demonstrating how our model (‘business as a force for good’) will continue to drive the company forward.”

Looking for some advice on a new business, or need help fixing an existing one? Capital Business and the experts at the University of Maryland’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the Robert H. Smith School of Business are ready to assist. Contact us at capbiznews@washpost.com.