How Humanitix found the golden ticket in a not-for-profit model

By Lori Youmshajekian  Wednesday, 28 November 2018  @Business School

A UNSW Business School alumnus and Head of Operations for a philanthropic organisation says a $1m Google grant victory is backed by a “win-win-win” formula.  

Humanitix is the world’s first not-for-profit events ticketing platform, aiming to improve accessibility at events and provide opportunities to the most disadvantaged children around the world.  

Head of Operations James Humpherson said the key difference between Humanitix and other ticketing platforms was the donation of profits from the booking fees to various organisations that clients wanted to support.

The 26-year-old works alongside Humanitix co-founder and UNSW Engineering alumnus Adam McCurdie.  

The three ‘wins’ for Humanitix  

Following the charity’s $1m win at the Google Impact Challenge this month, a Vice-President at Google told Humpherson that successful social enterprises followed a winning formula – creating value for the customer, for society and for the organisation itself.  

“For the customer consuming your service, it has to be at a great price point and be adding a lot of value to them relative to what else is in the market,” Humpherson said.  

Humanitix resonates with customers because of the incidental nature of donating. Event organisers and event-goers are charged a booking fee regardless of the ticketing platform they use. 

However, unlike its competitors, the Sydney-based organisation leverages this to allow customers to create social impact with an expense that would otherwise funnel into a ticketing company’s profits.

“The difference is with the booking fees that are charged, we donate 100 per cent of the profits into one of our charity projects, and we let the event organiser choose from our panel of charity partners,” Humpherson said.  

“Our panel of charities support a number of amazing causes, from Indigenous education, meals for low socio-economic kids and literacy and life-skill programs for young girls in the developing world.”  

The ‘win’ for society is also through Humanitix advocating better accessibility at events.  

Humpherson believes Australians with disabilities face the ongoing issue of being locked out of events because of an indifference to accessibility.  

“Events are the way that we connect with people, the way that we network, find job opportunities and experience community,” the 26-year-old said.  

“As a ticketing platform, we’re actually in the best position to provide accessibility tools to educate organisers and to be able to provide access to people with disabilities at events.”  

The final ‘win’ is about having a sustainable business model, which allows Humanitix to be completely self-funding at scale.

“It has to be sustainable for the model that’s actually orchestrating this entire transaction, because if it’s not sustainable then how are you meant to have wide-scale impact throughout the world?” Humpherson said.  

Operating sustainably as a charity is becoming increasingly difficult, with a recent Roy Morgan report indicating that the proportion of Australians donating to not-for-profits has dropped by almost 10 per cent in the last seven years.  

But the Head of Operations believes operating as a charity purely for the benefit of society adds validity to what Humanitix is aiming to do.  

“When you tell (customers) that there is no equity within the enterprise and no shareholders actually receiving profits, it breaks down barriers and allows them to actually engage with the product and service and what we’re doing,” Humpherson said.   

“I think we’ve been able to rally the community so much more effectively by actually registering as a charity and being transparent about our structure.” 

Pulling the plug on the corporate world 

Humpherson left his job in FX trading to join Humanitix after realising that finance was not the avenue he wanted to pursue.  

“Taking an unconventional path is challenging, especially when a lot of your friends in life are working in top tier management consulting firms or law firms,” Humpherson said.   

He said it was his experience at UNSW, doing courses in entrepreneurship and social impact projects in South-East Asia, that compelled him to explore the opportunities of building businesses for good.  

“One such project was a microfinance program through UNSW in the Philippines … and juxtaposing that experience to Sydney, where people with relatively so much are so dissatisfied with their lives and what they have,” Humpherson said.  

“That’s when I realised maybe I want to dedicate my life to something that’s actually more worthwhile for my time because wealth doesn’t obviously equate to happiness.” 

However, trading-in the enticing prospects of financial certainty and career progression for a life dedicated to social impact was fraught with hardships.   

“The earlier months of the journey were the most stressful and challenging,” Humpherson said.  

“There was a lot of effort on our end, the back end, to make sure it looked like a smooth process for the organiser, which meant a lot of late nights.” 

Humanitix is now one of the most promising organisations in the not-for-profit space, boasting clients such as Westfield, Optus and the Football Federation of Australia.  

It was the only charity named in the Westpac Top 20 Businesses of Tomorrow and counts Atlassian, Jobs for NSW and Google as some of its top supporters.  

For others wanting to take the leap from the corporate world, Humpherson says to take a risk.  

“My number one piece of advice would be to get out there, start exploring the space, go to networking events, add people on LinkedIn that are working in the space that you want to get into and take them out for coffee to learn as much as you can,” Humpherson said.  

“If it’s something that you want to take the leap on, then you’re probably at a point in your life where you can start to make some of those decisions and take a risk and take a chance.

“It’s more exciting now, the opportunities we have are endless and where we can take this thing is amazing.”


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