Specificity, Moves Management and the Future of Fundraising

Mike Haughton
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You can’t get behind something without seeing and understanding it first.

That’s the principle that’s driven our team to facilitate millions of dollars being raised for specific, illness-related research projects conducted at the most respected labs around the world.

It seems simple, but it’s actually not for everyone. Giving a few hundred dollars to – insert name brand charity here – and trusting you’ve made an incremental change regarding – insert cause here – is common, and totally justifiable.

It’s just not for me.

I founded Kernls because I knew there were people out there (people like me) compelled to support something, but in a way they could get their hands on. Something they could point to. Something they could, honestly and candidly, describe in a sentence or two.

To quote GoFundMe co-founder Andy Ballester from one of our recent product sessions, "Get real specific real quick.” Andy has seen first hand the difference specificity can make. As have we.

On top of specificity, I (and many like me) want to support something with a clear and transparent outcome. On Kernls, that something is medical research projects.

"Get real specific real quick." Andy has seen first hand the difference specificity can make. As have we.

In trailblazing digital research engagement and offering donors ways to see, share and fund the research that matters to them, our relationships and integrations with a variety of stakeholders is ever evolving. Here’s a snapshot –

Generation 1: Kernls supports researchers by activating a few key people that were already close-to-the-action.

This was great, but relatively isolated, and mainly ad hoc. Enter gen-2.

Generation 2: Kernls partners with nonprofit organizations committed to funding research, opening up:

  1. 1. Sustained impact for research centers through established channels, and
  2. 2. More people being able to see and interact with innovative research projects for the first time.
  1. This created significant increases to traffic, engagement and dollars raised – all things we’re after in making sure the most promising research gets funded. But after working with multiple charity partners of varying sizes, we noticed a gap that Kernls could help fill.
  2. And it came down to the same principle. You can’t get behind something without seeing and understanding it first.

Generation 3: Kernls continues to support nonprofit organizations by building pathways to find difference-makers.

By supporting our partners in the full donor lifecycle we can enable them in connecting donors with the specific projects they care about. It looks a little something like this:

Build a number of project previews meant simply to gauge community interest

  • Build outreach materials for each project
  • Build a pathway for interested supporters to get plugged in
  • One by one, open projects for fundraising with teams of Champions ready to make an immediate impact.

Funny thing – these are all things that basically happened anyway. But not in sequence, not directly through our product and certainly not at scale.

The changes may be subtle, but the notion that Kernls is now enabling profoundly relevant institutions to help their supporters take the driver’s seat with the stuff that matters to them is nothing short of a new and hopeful frontier.

From the nonprofit side, I’m told it’s called moves management.

Helping a “sure, here’s fifty bucks” supporter discover the thing that makes them go “whoa, I’m going to make sure this thing happens.” Turning a one-time gift into a multi-year commitment. Finding the thing that makes the major donor cut a leadership-level check.

Actually, this is one of the most costly and time-consuming endeavors for development offices.

But the return can be significant! A transition to a major gift commitment means, on average, an increase of $60,000 to lifetime impact. It makes sense – when folks become more invested, they give more and for longer.

Flipping the switch for the right person can make a material difference not just for fundraising top lines, but for real, observable impact. What Kernls is doing – at the enterprise level – is supplying the table stakes mantra we’ve had since the beginning to help navigate the sophisticated world of donor stewardship.

Because, donors and charities will both agree: you can’t get behind something without seeing and understanding it first.

To me, it’s about empowering the people who care the most. We give donors the power to make an impact on their own terms. And we give charities the tools to build relationships with donors ready to drive tangible change.

I can’t wait to see what Generation 4 will do for the future of medical research.


Mike is the founder and CEO at Kernls.

Got questions? Reach out anytime at mike@kernls.com

Here it is in action! We're increasing the surface area of projects, tailoring the way you can interact with them and making sure the people who care the most can easily get involved.