Social enterprises are organizations that put their social mission first, ahead of making profit, but at the same time earn revenue. This can be a challenge - it can be hard to stay focused on building appropriate technology for doing good while at the same time trying to keep the lights on. Over our nine years, we have covered our overhead from two streams: earned revenue from the sale of services (such as our cloud hosted platform or our Solutions customization team) on top of our open source products, and grants from foundations. Unlike most non profits, we have never run a fundraising campaign, hosted a gala, or asked our users to contribute anything monetarily for the code or our help - today we will change that. This was not because we didn’t believe in grassroots fundraising, but because our goal is to create something of such value that our users will happily pay for one of the paid-tiers of Ushahidi, such as Surveyor or Responder. Those software products we pay for, like Github or Intercom, make our work and our products so much better and effective we are more than happy to write that check. That’s what we want to create, we want to make something so great our users are happy to pay for it. We continue to do that, and if you are a user of the Ushahidi platform, we hope it continues to solve your needs and you would consider signing up for our Surveyor or Responder plans.

At Ushahidi we make open source software for the humanitarian, advocacy, and development worlds. We believe in open source software, and as such we make all the code open and free, so that organizations like the United Nations Peacekeepers can use it to prevent violence. We purposefully focus on developing tools that help give marginalized people a voice, save lives during a crisis, and bring transparency and accountability to power-holders. Many of the organizations that do this great work are not wealthy and don’t usually have budgets for tools that would make their work more effective and efficient such as appropriate technology and software. Ushahidi’s users with the biggest impact are often grassroots organizers, local activists, and small non-profits. We also have purposefully never used advertising to earn revenue, because that would require selling user’s data  to advertisers, and we don’t believe in that, not to mention that it could put our users at risk. Most importantly, we first and foremost strive to make a positive impact in the world, and hold ourselves to that high bar. This is why Ushahidi is registered in the United States  as a 501c3 non-profit. This means Ushahidi has been approved by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a tax exempt, charitable organization. There are several strict IRS tests we have to pass in order to keep our status.

The reality is, due to the sectors we focus on, that many of our users don’t have funds to pay for software. Over the past six months we have given away our Responder plan, built for teams that need to respond to urgent issues and quickly make critical, time-sensitive decisions, to over 50 applicants who meet our guidelines of being mission driven and having a small budget. Such as I am Nirbhaya, who are raising awareness about violence against women and children in India, or Theo Dõi Môi Trường, who are mapping environmental disasters and heavy-metal poisoning in Vietnam.

This is equivalent to donating $300,000 of value each year, and constantly growing as we approve new grassroots applicants every week.

As such, today we have made it possible for our community to directly donate to Ushahidi via Utilizing Facebook’s new non profit tools, anyone can donate or fundraise for Ushahidi. We receive 95% of that money (5% is paid in processing fees).

We envision Ushahidi as an impact-creating mission-driven tech company, that covers it’s costs from those it directly serves, our community, in part by earned revenue from our services, and part in part from donations. We believe that we can grow that earned revenue part of our business to a point where it can cover the majority of our costs. That is our goal, to be a sustainable social enterprise. But to do that, we need charitable donations, big and small, to get us there. We currently cover 30% of our overhead with earned revenue. Our goal is to get to 85% by the end of 2018. To do that we need $4 million in grant funding, $1.5 million of which we have raised from USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures.

We want our community to help us do this. We want to keep supporting open source software, supporting grassroots organizations, and serving underserved sectors like crisis response, transparency, and human rights. If you have ever used Ushahidi for free, benefited from our work in the East African tech ecosystem, been helped by an Ushahidi deployment, or are simply inspired by our work, please consider either donating or running your own fundraising campaign to raise money for us.

For our first fundraising campaign ever, our goal is to reach $200,000 in user donated funds by the end of the year, we would love your support!