Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ linebacker Carl Nassib launched a charity-focused app, Rayze, which has scored its first venture capital funding. The investment comes from Financial Finesse Ventures, a new VC fund from the Liz Davidson-led firm that works with the NFLPA on athlete financial education.
Rayze is a for-profit company, with high ideals. “It’s is a volunteer-based social-media platform that connects the next generation of philanthropists to the nonprofits that meet their interests,” Nassib said during a phone call. The mobile app uses geolocation to highlight nearby volunteer opportunities, offers ways for nonprofits to raise money at low cost, and focuses on providing positive social-media interactions, including letting users upvote things that inspire them.
“We really want to affect change at a major level culturally—everybody’s daily life,” said Nassib. “We want to offer people a chance to view positive news, positive social media, find volunteering opportunities in their neighborhood on their way to and from work.”
The investment by Financial Finesse Ventures is the first from the fund, which was announced last month by Davidson and aims to focus on socially responsible FinTech businesses. “We have talked to hundreds of companies, and continue to talk to companies on a near-daily basis, and I haven’t found one that checks the boxes in this way,” said Davidson during a phone call. “Just looking at the business model, there is this massive unmet need for charities to reach the younger generation.” The size of the investment isn’t being disclosed.
The VC fund is an outgrowth of Financial Finesse, a consumer financial-education business founded by Davidson in 1999. Among its clients is the NFLPA, through which it offers financial coaching to players. Nassib and Davidson first became acquainted when the linebacker took on a three-week NFLPA internship with Financial Finesse a few years ago. “Just so impressed,” said Davidson. “Got to know his character, got to know the way he thinks, got to see his tenacity, determination and passion.”
Nassib said the inspiration for Rayze came from volunteering at a juvenile-detention hall four years ago in Tampa, during his first stint with the Buccaneers. “I spent the day with kids who were as young as 13, in jail cells, a lot of them there just because they’re running away from a violent home environment,” he said. “What moved me the most is that it was half a mile from a team of millionaires and a family of billionaires, and nobody knew these kids were there.” Within a month of that epiphany, Nassib said he trademarked Rayze and got to work building the app, releasing it with little promotion this June.
While Rayze remains in a soft launch phase, it has 5,000 iOS and Android downloads to date, with big spikes coming after Nassib appeared in People and on Anderson Cooper 360. The average giving of users who have donated is $103.48.
“People who volunteer are 65% more likely to donate to that nonprofit,” said Nassib, a seven-year NFL veteran who also sits on the board of the United Way of Southern Nevada. “These younger donors right now might be only giving $10 a month, but the $10,000 donors don’t start out that way, they start out by getting introduced at a very young age.”
Rayze has 43 charities signed up, such as Operation Happy Nurse, a Virginia organization offering free online support to stressed nurses, and Volunteering Untapped, a Philadelphia group that seeks to connect young professionals with area charities. Starting in December, Rayze expects to add about 50 nonprofits a week as it broadens its efforts.
In the competitive world of nonprofit fundraising, Rayze’s immediate advantage is its low cost to charities—it charges 1% of money raised, with a minimum charge of 25 cents. That’s less than other popular, social-focused options: GoFundMe charges 2.9% plus a 30-cent fee while WeFunder collects 7.5%. Nassib and Davidson say the platform has numerous other ways to expand its revenue generation as it develops, including utilizing QR codes for giving outside the app and working closely with corporate giving and mental health organizations. “We feel very confident on the profitability side of the business and the viability of the social-impact side,” said Davidson.
Nassib, who became the first openly gay active NFLer last year, hopes his hands-on work with Rayze will not only inspire more Gen Zs into volunteerism, but also get his fellow football players to pursue passions off the gridiron.
“What athletes usually do is they just put their name on a business instead of creating their own,” said Nassib. “I would just be so excited for another athlete, in any sport really, to become a founder, treat their idea like a baby and bring it up and present it to the world and try and make an impact off the field.”