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Engineering Alums Come Home to Massachusetts for Biennial Conference

Scot Chisholm

Scot Chisholm

Pat Walsh

Pat Walsh

From June 14 to 16, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department alums Scot Chisholm ’04 and Pat Walsh ’03 hosted a biennial three-day conference called “The Collaborative” for nonprofits and businesses doing world-changing socially innovative work. Chisholm and Walsh are the co-founders of Classy, a San Diego company that provides online fundraising technology to nonprofits and other “social enterprises.” The event was held at Cruiseport in the Boston Seaport district. See Boston Globe article.

As the Boston Globe said about the location of “The Collaborative” conference, “Much as we love this city, if we were to do a totally unscientific poll, we’re willing to bet that, given the choice of attending a conference in Boston or San Diego, most would pick that reliably warm, sunny, paradisiacal southern California beach town over The Hub. Not Pat Walsh and Scot Chisholm.”

The Globe added that the two UMass Amherst grads who grew up on the South Shore (Walsh from Weymouth, Chisholm from Hingham) ultimately chose Boston because, as Walsh said, “There’s no place we’ve seen in the country that does a better job of incubating young social entrepreneurs than Boston.”

Classy bills itself as the world’s fastest growing fundraising platform for social impact organizations. Since 2011, Classy has enabled millions of people across 300,000 individual campaigns.

“From cutting-edge health programs to educational advancement, our customers are tackling the world’s greatest challenges with the power of the Classy platform,” according to the organization’s website.

Chisholm and Walsh said they were just “a couple of average guys” when they met as undergraduates in the MIE department.

But ever since they staged a “StayClassy Pubcrawl” in 2005 to raise money for charity, they’ve found themselves as revolutionaries in fundraising for nonprofit organizations. At that time, Chisholm wanted to raise money for cancer research after his mother was diagnosed with the disease. So he and his business partner, Walsh, started a charity pub crawl that raised about $1,000.The original San Diego-based event, which attracted 200 pub crawlers and derived its name from the popular Will Ferrell movie, Anchorman, mushroomed into an online platform and social fundraising service called Classy for nonprofits.

As the Classy website said, “Today, Classy is a staff of 180+ people and serves more than 2,500 nonprofit organizations and social enterprises around the world including Oxfam, The World Food Programme, and National Geographic. Through a combination of online fundraising, mobile and community engagement tools, our platform helps organizations create a better giving experience for their own supporters, so they can spend their time tackling humanity’s greatest challenges.”

In the past Bloomberg Businessweek has listed Chisholm and Walsh on its exclusive list of America's Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs.

According to the Globe, “For the past few years, they’ve hosted a biennial conference in San Diego called The Collaborative for nonprofits and businesses working to change the world. Think drones combatting illegal poaching and 3D printers making prosthetics for people with disabilities.”

But now they’ve moved their conference from San Diego to Beantown. Billed as the country’s “largest social innovation event,” the conference was expected to attract at least 1,000 attendees, and its big-name sponsors include Salesforce, Southwest Airlines, and the United Nations Foundation. This year’s Boston-based speakers include: Susan Musinsky, executive director of the Social Innovation Forum; Ray Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America; and Tracy Palandjian, CEO of Social Finance.

“We’re taking social fundraising to the next level,” as Walsh once explained. “We’re helping nonprofits embrace social media tools to grow their supporter base and drive large numbers of small donations online.” (June 2016)