Founded by two college soccer players and an artist, Cogeo has raised more than $1 billion for more than 100 nonprofits globally. CEO Patrick Sampson, a registered investment advisor; managing director of consulting services Rob Kusel, a former director of development at Stanford University; and director of culture Alan Chin, an artist with a studio in Downey, Calif., are the foundation of Cogeo and its distributed team. Together, they partner with nonprofits to help accomplish their fundraising goals.
Getting to know Cogeo
Meet the founders
Patrick Sampson, Alan Chin and Rob Kusel founded Cogostar in 2012 as a crowdfunding and social media platform that grew into Cogeo. In 2013, Cogostar pivoted into a more comprehensive consulting company and was rebranded Cogeo.
Tell us about your business. What do you do?
Cogeo is a nonprofit consultancy. We partner with nonprofit organizations to help them accomplish their fundraising goals through self-actualization, into their own self-sustaining success story.
We exist to enable and empower agencies to achieve the positive impact they seek to see in their respective communities.
Traditionally, consulting firms have brought in direction and relied on clients to perform all of the tasks of the provided direction. While Cogeo provides strategic direction, it is only part of the story. The Cogeo hub in Portland, Ore., fills in the gaps of execution resources for nonprofits that are necessary to optimize the growth potential of its client partners, no matter where they are on their growth trajectory.
Sample execution services include database management, digital outreach and management, prospect wealth screening, foundation proposal writing, corporate sponsorships, establishing and sustaining comprehensive planned giving programs, strategic retreats, as well as executive searches.
Why did you start your business?
We started Cogeo to be an effective agent of ensuring that our clients are maximizing their organizational potential. Those who work for the company develop, contribute to, and align with this focus of maximizing clients’ opportunities across their current strategic imperatives.
How did you get started? What were your first steps?
Cogeo started as a technical product called Cogostar. This platform was an online social media and crowdfunding transaction engine, as well as a collaboration platform for individuals, companies, foundations and nonprofits. In 2013, Cogostar developed its Cogeo brand and comprehensive consulting company to best serve the needs of the marketplace.
What resources have helped you on your journey?
Our commodity is people. Whether internally through the development and implementation of our unique culture, or externally through the relationships around our client partners, Cogeo knows how to effectively engage people.
What challenges have you overcome so far? Any big milestones or achievements?
In communicating what we do, often times it is a scenario of “they don’t know what they don’t know,” so it is a challenge to explain to people why they should hire us or why they will achieve greater success with us.
The state of the marketplace: The opportunity for formalized development (fundraising) education is still in a nascent stage, unlike in communications, business or marketing. Those who have gained skill in development have either learned through osmosis by seasoned pros or have been thrusted into these positions for the first time with little to no experience or guidance.
Physical location: While its HQ is in Portland, Ore., Cogeo team members are located all around the United States. Our internal communication and culture, through our own everyday practices, enable us to continue to thrive through that challenge.
Investment resources expedite growth; however, we have positioned ourselves into profitability and success through the success of our clients.
Since its founding, the company has attracted individuals collectively with more than 60 years of development industry experience who collectively have raised over $1 billion for more than 100 nonprofits globally.
What external pressures are you up against?
The greatest external pressure Cogeo faces is from its own current and potential client partners.
Cogeo’s personnel are true experts in guiding its partner clients through many phases of uncertainty to arrive at breakthroughs.
How are things today? What are you focusing on?
Unfortunately, the need for our services has never been greater.
Sources of public funding continue to decline while the demand for more resources from the nonprofit industry is constantly on the rise.
The only practical solution, given the realities of the culture in the United States, is the expansion of funding from privatized origins (individuals, corporations and grantmaking foundations).
An increase in funding from private sources will only occur with more professionalized solicitation engagement practices of these private sources of capital. For this to occur, the industry first needs to better prepare its people for this important task.
Approach and advice
What’s your day-to-day routine like? How do you work?
Cogeo takes a customized approach to understand the current realities of our partner organizations, understand where they want to go, and apply the necessary tools and advice to help them get to that place over time.
This translates into mandatory standing weekly conference calls with all of our partner clients and the execution between the weekly calls, both by Cogeo and our partner clients, of the immediate imperatives facing the organization.
Where do you see yourself, and the business, in five years?
Cogeo strives to be the largest enabler of the flow of philanthropic capital in the world. In five years, Cogeo will continue to meet this mission through its operations and do so on an even larger scale.
Any advice or recommendations for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
The entrepreneur experience consistently presents an amplitude of emotion much higher in wavelength than the standard employee job experience. It requires a fearless conviction, belief and dedication to the pursuit of actualizing the dream.
As a test, think about your dream and working to achieve that dream on nights and weekends for the next five years, unpaid.
Does the vision of this in your head excite you? If not, don’t do it.
Find the right people — the journey is best enjoyed with those you can trust and admire. Ignore the competition and stay the course.