After 15 years working both in-house and as a consultant for nonprofits, Brian Lauterbach knew that fundraising isn’t quite as simple as getting from Point A to Point B. That’s why he started what he calls the “Uber for nonprofits,” connecting fundraising experts across the country with nonprofits for virtual coaching and consulting.
DonorPath began two years ago in Lauterbach’s Bucktown loft and has since grown to nine full-time staff and three rooms inside Level Office’s 73 W. Monroe building in Chicago’s Loop. The company trains and certifies its Fundraising Experts™ from a pool of four to five professional associations containing 30,000 nonprofit consultants.
DonorPath then matches clients with one of these experts for a year-long virtual partnership to set goals, make plans, and execute a fundraising strategy. The company counts as its clients such well-known nonprofits as Rock For Kids and the Carnegie Arts Center, and Lauterbach expects to add an additional two to four employees to his full-time staff in 2015.
He moved DonorPath’s base to the Monroe office in March of 2013, after the operation grew too large for his apartment. In his search for a coworking office, he turned up “a lot of cavernous spaces where everyone piles in. But working in a gym with a hundred other people wasn’t a good fit for us.” The company needed privacy and a central location where it could host clients while also being cost-effective.
“We were in this middle ground of being not large enough to have a whole floor in the Loop but still needing our own space,” Lauterbach says.
The company started with one room at Level Office before moving to two rooms and then three. According to Lauterbach, coworking was a no-brainer for his team since he didn’t want to deal with the operational needs that demand the daily attention of a small business.
“Internet and heat are a time suck when you’re building a business,” he says. “Here at Monroe we don’t have to worry about anything other than doing our work.”
Coworking has also led to serendipitous introductions to nonprofits within the office. The Fulcrum Point New Music Project, an arts organization that commissions and presents new works of classical music, began working with DonorPath after bumping into them in the elevator.
For Lauterbach, who has worked in offices ranging from a card table in a spare bedroom to a high-rise complex, coworking offers opportunities for collaboration. Although DonorPath isn’t directly doing business with all of its neighbors, he says that they learn from one another through everything from on-site info sessions to borrowing a quarterly report template for investors.
“This is an exceptionally creative group of businesses that all understand the challenges of building and scaling,” he says. “There is a real sense of community.”