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Wednesday, Aug 10, 2022

Omaze’s Online Model Helps Charities Fundraise During Pandemic

Since its inception in 2012, Culver City-based Omaze Inc. has grown rapidly, most recently jumping 19 spots on the Business Journal’s annual Fastest Growing Private Companies list to No. 15.

The company, founded by Matt Pohlson and Ryan Cummins, raises money for charity through sweepstakes that include everything from high-end homes and cars to experiences with celebrities. The company is moving to a spot in Marina del Rey in May.

“We raise money and awareness for charity by offering a chance to win once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” said Pohlson, who serves as chief executive of the company.
Pohlson said he came up with the idea years ago at an auction to win dinner with National Basketball Association legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson and courtside seats to see a Los Angeles Lakers game. He and Cummins were outbid, but it left a lasting impression.

Pohlson began thinking of a way to raise money for charity without people needing to be wealthy to participate and win a prize.
As an added bonus, since the sweepstakes are available for everyone and held online instead of at expensive galas or events that only a fixed number of people can attend, there is a greater pool of people from whom to raise money.

Pohlson said more people have been participating than in previous years.
He said the company has a team securing prizes. As of Dec. 2, some of the biggest items available were a $4.3 million home in Los Angeles County, a multimillion-dollar home in Miami, a $40,000 trip to Japan and a Tesla Model S.
There are also sweepstakes involving celebrities.

“With the talent, we’ve worked with a lot of talent many times, and they continue to come back to us as a source of fundraising. We’ve had a lot of relationships we’ve built up over the years,” Pohlson said.

When Omaze works with celebrities, the celebrity selects the charity that will benefit from the sweepstakes. For prize sweepstakes, Omaze works with an array of potential charity partners.

The company has already raised more than $150 million for more than 400 charities including Sawtelle-based Kind Campaign, GivePower Foundation and W.E. Can Lead.

The exact percentage that goes to the charity itself may vary, but generally with celebrity prizes, 60% of the donations go to Charities Aid Foundation America, which then grants the donations to the nonprofit beneficiary, and 25% of the donation pays for costs.

For noncelebrity prizes, 15% of the donation is guaranteed to go to the nonprofit through CAF America, and 65% to 75% pays for costs.
Omaze, meanwhile, generally nets 12% to 20%.

The company has had a massive growth spurt, partially driven by its shift in prizes.
“We’ve shifted our strategy over the last couple of years to focus on prizes and celebrities and things like travel, and that has unlocked a big opportunity for growth,” Pohlson said.

Last year, the company launched in the United Kingdom as well, expanding its reach.
“We’re continuing to build up in the U.K. We want to expand into new countries and continue to offer houses through the U.S. and in different places,” Pohlson said.
He said Omaze’s unique fundraising model has become even more desirable during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s made it more difficult for charities to fundraise — they didn’t have the galas and things they used to have — but the getting people interested and getting people online and to engage in prizes had been better as a result because people have been on their phones,” he said.

Hannah Madans Welk
Hannah Madans Welk
Hannah Madans covers real estate for the Los Angeles Business Journal. A USC grad, Madans has done work with publications including The Orange County Register, The Real Deal and doityourself.com.

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