A dedication to fundraising for nonprofits and experience in the investment industry led to the idea, creation and subsequent launch of innovative lending platform LENDonate. The platform is a philanthropic addition to the P2P lending industry.
San Francisco native Vivienne Hsu spent more than 20 years working in the investment industry and has also dedicated time to nonprofits, particularly within the fundraising arena. The idea for LENDonate came about when it occurred to her to unite the two, and serve both the non-profit sector and peer-to-peer lenders.
LENDonate is a lending and donation platform that connects non-profit organisations with individuals and entities looking to support initiatives.
LENDonate was designed to enable users to invest in a loan, donate to an organisation, or do both, as the name suggests: donate and lend. There were to be two repayment types: fixed, and interest only, and fees would be applied to borrowers, lenders and sponsors.
Pages on the website would allow borrowing non-profit organisations to showcase their programs and encourage users to lend or donate, and the platform as a whole would enable lenders and borrowers to connect, complete agreements and establish repayment processes.
The LENDonate team wanted to create a new ecosystem for non-profit finances, and began by researching buy vs build options, choosing to work with an external provider who could offer knowledge and experience.
“I went to what I knew. I assessed the buy or build decision, looking carefully into both options,” explained Vivienne. “I opted to buy – building something this intricate, and maintaining it going forward, while adjusting to market dynamics, would be a very expensive endeavour, and one that would require specialisation.”
Given the regulatory specifications, high technological requirements, and fast pace of the industry, Vivienne decided to entrust experts with the creation of the site. Following interviews with various platform providers, she decided to work with WLCF.
The LENDonate platform creation process comprised various stages. Tight deadlines, complex requirements and a common quest for perfection made the process challenging, but rewarding. Communication was key throughout; from the initial planning and organisational procedures to the implementation of logic and the final launch stage.
The WLCF team, led by Managing Director, Daniel Rajkumar and Project Manager Evelyn Castro, began by understanding the specifications:
Repayment logic: LENDonate requested fixed and interest only.
Fees: these vary according to the user type. A borrower is charged a loan completion fee of 1% of the loan amount; and a donation processing fee of 2% of the amount. Individual lenders or sponsors pay a $99 annual fee, while institutions are charged 0.85% of the repayment amount.
Bidding: a formula reflecting the Priority Ranking system was created and implemented, meaning that the highest priority ranking bid was accepted, with the lowest then being outbid.
I love how global and flexible the team are. They’re in different parts of the world, and everyone works so hard. I had reservations about the difference in time zones, but that has not been a problem. Everyone is on Skype, on the project tool, on email, and constantly talking, so in fact, perhaps the time zone has even worked to our advantage, in that while I’m sleeping, someone else is working.
Dynamic loans: there is a minimum and maximum rate for each loan, and bids can be placed within that range.
The financial logic, according to Evelyn, was the most straightforward element of the project, as the client had a clear understanding of how they wanted the logic to be implemented. Designing and implementing the user interface, meanwhile, was the most challenging aspect of the project, and involved a lot of collaboration between Vivienne, Evelyn, our developers and our design team.
It was imperative that various American legal constraints be adhered to, and this resulted in adjustments to the project processes and procedures as the project progressed. The registration process, for example, was updated on a few occasions, and an accreditation process was introduced. Additional meetings between the WLCF and LENDonate teams were arranged to discuss the developments, and actions subsequently taken, until the final product was something all parties were happy with.
A unique idea, a great deal of business experience and an exceptional partnership led to the smooth launch of LENDonate in late 2016, just seven months after the project began. The first loan completed in November 2016, and the platform continues to thrive.
Lenders can sign up to the site, complete an accreditation process, digitally sign a document, and answer some straightforward questions to then become an accredited user, able to both lend and donate. They are granted access to their profiles and dashboards, as well as the Marketplace and the loan profile pages, and can add and withdraw funds.
The launch was smooth, with members of WLCF visiting San Francisco to support Vivienne and her team during the process. “I lack the experience of how to launch, from going to zero revenue to having our first customer,” Vivienne said. She appreciated having the support and knowledge offered by Daniel Rajkumar and colleagues, commenting that “All this business experience helped us compress our launch time.”
WLCF doesn’t only bring the technology knowledge; they also bring the business knowledge.
Evelyn and Vivienne continue to be in contact, holding regular conversations to report on progress, discuss new developments and respond accordingly. Vivienne and the team have plans for the future of LENDonate, and both parties are excited to further develop this one-of-a-kind philanthropic donation and lending platform.