A Whole New Approach to School Fundraising from Social Entrepreneur Tania Mulry

EdRover Inc

Tania Mulry is founder, chief executive officer and chairman of EdRover Inc., the nation’s first location-based mobile application for school fundraising. Prior to founding EdRover Inc., she oversaw mobile marketing strategies for several companies, including MasterCard Worldwide where she launched several of the company’s mobile initiatives. Mulry earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics and near eastern languages and literatures from NYU’s College of Arts and Sciences. She grew up on the east coast and has lived in Southern California for the last four years.

What is the name of your Social Enterprise?

EdRover, Inc. (Website: www.edrover.com)

What came about that inspired your social change?
From an early age, I knew I wanted to start a socially conscious business. My family didn’t have much money as I was growing up, yet I would dream of selling lemonade so that I could send donations to starving kids. I spent hours concocting plans to build an organization that would connect kids from America with kids in other countries who endured worse economic conditions.

Now as a mother of three school-age boys, I find myself lamenting the arrival of a fresh crop of school fundraising catalogs and requests every fall. Over the past three years, I’ve watched things get even worse as educational budgets have been slashed. Friends, neighbors and parents are all sympathetic to school fundraising requests, but are financially strapped themselves by the current economy.

When I took an inventory of my passions and problems that needed solutions, I sought a way to help kids across the US gain access to vital educational supplies and experiences, which presently are being cut furiously from state and federal budgets. Combining my experience in mobile marketing, passion for education and determination as a mother, I concocted a whole new approach to fundraising for education. And I knew that my contacts at large retailers would come in handy, too.

What is your product or service?

edRover – A mobile application that allows consumers to direct donations to their favorite school programs as they visit participating businesses within their own communities or throughout the nation.

How does edRover work?

Here’s how the edRover application works from the consumer’s perspective:

  1. A consumer downloads the free edRover application to a mobile phone.
  2. The app user opens the edRover app whenever they are in the mood for shopping, dining or entertainment to identify participating area businesses nearby.
  3. They click on a location in the edRover application to direct a donation from the sponsoring business’ edRover account to the designated school.
  4. While the application is recording the donation, the customer is treated to a family-friendly message or offer from the participating business.
  5. Users can rate, comment, add pictures and share information about the business with all other users of edRover, or via SMS, email, and on popular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to help publicize the business and its support for local schools.
  6. Monthly the user is notified of the balance of funds they’ve collected and is invited to direct them to the school program of their choice.

EdRover Inc. turns school fundraising into an easy treasure hunt that families can enjoy, and businesses can leverage to increase their sales.

When will edRover be available?

edRover is expected to be available in first quarter of 2011.

Who can download edRover?

Initially, edRover will be available for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad through the App Store, but anyone with a smart phone should be able to participate by the end of 2011.

How many people do you expect to help?
While edRover is just getting started, it has the potential to impact some 50 million school children across the US.

What is the cost per person that is being helped? Are you working on decreasing that cost by being more efficient?

Eighty percent of contributions to EdRover Inc. from sponsoring businesses will go to fund school programs and educational charities. As EdRover grows and the social business model matures, we will seek ways to increase that percentage. Even now, we keep operating costs low and lean and do mostly word of mouth branding.

Can others help you? How?
We are actively seeking community-minded business partners that are interested in supporting education while promoting their brands to local consumers. Volunteers anywhere across the US can share this program and help spread the word with businesses and schools in their communities. We plan to launch a student ambassador program that will equip high school students with the necessary materials to promote edRover coupled with accounting outsource services for transparency, which in turn will help schools in their area, and allow the students to earn internship credits and college scholarship funds.

What free online or offline tools do you use?
Social CRM – Batchbook

Social Media – Facebook & Twitter

Blog – WordPress

How many people are currently working, including employees (freelancers or independent contractors for specific projects)?
Executive – 1

Marketing and PR – 3 part-time contractors

Development – approximately 4 FTE contractors

What is the best advice you never got?
Learn to pet people that can help you in the right direction. Steer them to what you really need them to contribute, and avoid their pointy parts!

What is the one thing that you did right?
I organized my finances before jumping in to ensure that I had a long, secure runway to make this successful.

What was the biggest transition you had to make (i.e. new skill set, habits, abilities, focus)?

I had to learn to convince potential team members, investors, contractors, etc. of the vision and negotiate with them to ensure that funds were well conserved.

What can you tell other entrepreneurs who are deciding to make a difference?
There are a lot of resources out there that can help you navigate this strange space between for-profit enterprises and non-profit work. When looking to build your team, don’t settle for working with people who don’t have skill and experience with both perspectives.

What book(s) have you read that others should read?

  • Escape from Corporate America by Pamela Skillings
  • Waiting for Superman – How We Can Save America’s Failing Public Schools – A Participant Guide edited by Karl Weber
  • The Mirror Test by Jeffrey W. Hayzlett

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