Business Spotlight: Civic Champs
Geng Wang, CEO & Co-founder of Civic Champs, started the business in April 2019. Civic Champs was created to change how nonprofits operate and engage with their supporters. Their web and mobile platforms automate volunteer management and help nonprofit organizations convert their volunteers to donors. The technology eliminates manual data entry and other time-intensive tasks so nonprofits can focus on doing what matters most. Civic Champs is one of the Chamber’s Asian-Pacific Islander-owned business members.
Geng grew up in Vermillion, South Dakota. He attended Michigan State University where he got a dual degree in Supply Chain Management and International Relations (where he met his wife, Stephanie). He then continued that education further when he got my Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. Professionally, Geng started his career in consulting at McKinsey & Company, and has founded two startups in addition to Civic Champs (Rent Jungle and Community Elf).
He and his family moved to Bloomington 7 years ago when Stephanie accepted a position at IU’s Kelley School of Business as a professor. Both of their boys, aged 3 and 7, were born here in town and he says it’s been a fantastic place to raise a family. They have found the community to be incredibly welcoming, and are excited to see the growing support ecosystem for startups, such as the Dimension Mill.
Questions & Answers
What motivated you to start your own business? How did you develop the skills to start your own business?
I have wanted to build businesses since I was in college. Civic Champs is actually my third startup company. I previously co-founded Rent Jungle and Community Elf, both of which were later acquired. The inspiration for Civic Champs specifically, though, was a bit different from my previous ventures. I wanted to create a company centered around social impact and social good, so helping nonprofits naturally came to mind. Further, the nonprofit sector is a large but underserved industry, so it was the ideal customer base. Originally, I had planned to create a mobile game for doing good, a Pokemon Go for volunteering. However, as I began connecting with nonprofit executives and volunteer managers, I noticed a very common pain point - reliance on outdated and often onerous methods of managing volunteers. This realization inspired me to create Civic Champs, a system designed specifically for nonprofits to simplify tracking, management, and engagement of their volunteers.
As an entrepreneur, you have to be able to effectively communicate your vision, to construct a strong plan for seeing it through, and to convince others to join you. I was fortunate to learn some of these skills during my time in consulting and later with my other two startups. That said, this is the first time I have taken the role of CEO and there have been plenty of new learning opportunities from the past three years. One of our core values at Civic Champs is Embrace Curiosity and I am a strong believer that if you are curious, there is always room to grow. My aspiration is to be the best CEO I can be for the company, our employees, stakeholders, and customers.
What inspires your work and what sets you apart from everyone else?
Our vision at Civic Champs is to ignite volunteer service, strengthen nonprofits, and improve lives and communities. What motivates me to do this work personally and professionally is the incredible effects of volunteerism. Volunteerism brings people together, reaching beyond societal barriers to create unity. Furthermore, volunteers help those around them meet their needs and reach their potential. They restitch the social fabric of our communities around shared values of love and compassion. Civic Champs is meant to encourage and simplify volunteerism, so that the great impact volunteers have is amplified. We are helping the helpers, so to speak. Knowing that the difference Civic Champs makes in the volunteer space impacts the change nonprofits make in their communities has been great motivation.
Outside of our vision and motivation, what makes Civic Champs different from other volunteer management software companies comes from two things. The first is our intuitive mobile app. Our volunteering platform is accessible and increases nonprofit capacity by automating volunteer tracking and management. Our second differentiating feature is our volunteer engagement tools, including feedback and micro-donations. After a volunteer’s experience, we ask them about it; if the response is positive, we prompt them to provide a small donation to that organization. This opens up a micro-donation revenue stream for nonprofits.
What makes your business stand out from other businesses in Bloomington?
This is not exclusive to Bloomington, but Civic Champs is a certified Benefit Corporation, or a B Corp, which means that we have a social mission to reach or exceed high standards of social and environmental responsibility, transparency, and performance. Each year, we publish an annual Benefit Report detailing our practices and our B Impact Scores. We also have a publicly available profile on the website of B Lab Global, which is the certifying organization for B Corps.
In addition to that, while we have our homebase here, we stand out as we are and always have been a remote-friendly company. We have employees outside of Bloomington, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and in Ukraine. As an aside, as the war in Ukraine has escalated terribly, we have been raising money to support Ukraine. I would like to encourage those who can to donate to the care.org fundraise here or to a team member’s town’s GoFundMe here.
Have you won any awards or had any special recognition or acknowledgement of your business? If so, name them!
What has been your biggest success to date?
We are proud to work with over 60 nonprofits across the country, from Rhode Island to California. We support a wide variety of causes, including Habitats for Humanity, animal shelters, food pantries, thrift stores, museums, and more. To date, we have helped to track and manage over 8,800 volunteers, with over 210,000 hours logged on our platform. I am very proud of what we have accomplished since launch.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Like most other organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic was certainly our biggest challenge. As you can imagine, volunteering really slowed down in 2020. The pandemic was still very new, and vaccines were not available. At the same time, people needed help perhaps more than ever. We noticed that and launched Helping Hands as an addition to our flagship platform. Helping Hands facilitates mutual aid; volunteers complete small tasks for their community members in need, completely free of charge. The program is still ongoing in Bloomington. We have helped more than 3,200 individuals since launch.
What are your plans for the future of your business?
We want to serve all nonprofits with volunteer programs. To do that, we need to continue building our platform. We intend to expand our available features while ensuring that the platform stays as helpful and intuitive as possible. We also want to ensure that our pricing is not only fair but increasingly valuable for our nonprofit partners. Ultimately, we see ourselves as a platform for good, and our desired future is one where we continue to do good and help cultivate volunteerism across communities.
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