In an economic climate where donors are becoming shrewder with their giving, the founders of Goleta-based Noza Inc. are banking on a search engine that could help nonprofits better target funders.
Noza officially announced its searchable donor record database Oct. 23, although the service has been available to nonprofits and other customers since June. With more than 16 million records available as of Oct. 30—a figure that Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Craig Harris says is ever growing—the nonprofit database could be only the premier product for a company positioning itself to be a leader in compiling unstructured data.
But right now, the burgeoning company’s sole focus is getting the word out about www.nozasearch.com, Harris said. While the company is certainly hoping it can turn a profit, Harris said, Noza will find economic success by making it easier for nonprofit organizations of any size to raise money.
“We hope that 100,000 charities are using Noza inside of a year,” Harris said. Even before the official launch, Harris said that word of mouth was spreading Noza’s name around the nonprofit sector.
“We have new people hearing about us every day,” Harris said. “Peers tell peers.”
Noza uses propriety computer code to mine information about charitable gifts from nonprofit annual reports, newsletters, newspaper society pages or any other unstructured data source on the Internet. The company’s “spiders” crawl through information from PDFs and other files not normally checked by search engines like Google. Although the process is automated, the firm’s 12 employees spend much of their time screening the information to make sure it is accurate and of use to the donor community.
Such unstructured data may often be overlooked, but it can often be a treasure trove of information, particularly for nonprofits who want to insure that they focus their fundraising efforts on the donors most likely to give to their cause.
According to the National Philanthropic Trust, total giving in the United States reached approximately $260 million in 2005, accounting for about 2.1 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. But getting at that money can often be difficult. Nonprofits often rely on blunt—and often expensive—tactics like mass mailings.
While mailers can net some donors, they are inefficient. Fundraisers don’t use them to make money, but as an investment to secure a handful of big donors who will keep giving over time. Noza allows fundraisers to skip that first step and connect directly with those donors who give large sums to specific causes.
Nonprofits sign up and pay for credits to run searches. While free searches will show five to six of 12 total fields, users must expend the credits to view the complete records. Noza also provides hyperlinks to the source documents for fundraisers to check the records’ accuracy. Users pay anywhere between a base rate of $25 for 250 credits and $500 for 10,000 records.
In addition to selling directly to nonprofits and other users, Noza has announced a number of reseller agreements. The most prominent deal was penned with LexisNexis. Offered as part of its donor research offerings and an a la carte service, the online research heavyweight gives Noza worldwide exposure.
The company has also signed deals with prospect research firms including Kintera, Blackbaud, iWave Information Systems and Target America. Funding for Noza came from Harris and his co-founders, whom he required make personal investments to join the company, as well as angel investors.
One co-founder was Dave Ruehlman, Noza’s vice president of operations and Harris’ college roommate at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “The thing about this is you can feel the impact you can make on the community,” Ruehlman said.
Ruehlman and Harris were passionate about their endeavor and had significant experience. Harris served in the Peace Corps and led major fundraising campaigns upon his return to Santa Barbara, including the $50 million St. Vincent’s Affordable Housing Campaign. Ruehlman spent nine years managing international projects for Dako Corp., a Danish cancer diagnostics company with manufacturing operations in Carpinteria.
Even so, Harris said the company also needed a mentor, and it found one in Dennis Cagan, who brought early funding to Noza through the Santa Barbarra Technology Group. Noza’s founders were so impressed with Cagan, Harris said, that he has been invited to serve as chairman of the company.
Noza is focused on connecting charities with donors, Harris said. But with all the time he spent envisioning the company, he said it has had a somewhat accelerated launch. Now it is a challenge to keep the excitement in check and not lose sight of Noza’s core business.
“There’s so much we want to do,” he said. “There’s so much we can do.”