Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 59 seconds

One of my favorite things about Boardable is our origin story. It wasn’t a group of software startup gurus sitting around thinking of market needs. It came about organically, from a place of meaning and service. With the United Way of Central Indiana as our flagship customer, we have been able to create a product that speaks directly to nonprofit needs in a way that a more clinical approach couldn’t have. From the very beginning, we took a real organization, with real challenges and people, into consideration as we created tools to help. This is that story.

Getting to Know Nonprofit Challenges

As CEO of SmallBox, a creative agency in Indianapolis, I had a lot of experience working with local nonprofits. Sometimes that meant helping them with defining their culture and reflecting their values as an organization in everything they do. Other projects were more straightforward, such as website and branding redesigns. I had been working closely with the United Way of Central Indiana, an organization that impressed me greatly.  For 100 years, the United Way of Central Indiana has positively impacted the lives of those in six Indiana counties. That includes Marion County, the state’s largest county and home to Indianapolis. Through its volunteer-driven programs in health, education, and financial stability, UWCI lives up to its service-centered mission: “United Way of Central Indiana fights for the education, financial stability, health and basic needs of everyone in our community.”

A Better Solution Presents Itself

Between their 90 board members, hundreds of committee members, volunteers, and employees, they had over 400 people they wanted to communicate with in a more effective way. All those emails, documents, and meetings were becoming a nightmare to manage.

Seeking a remedy to those issues (just shy of its 100-year anniversary, no less), United Way of Central Indiana looked at software solutions on the market, ultimately finding them either too expensive or too underdeveloped.

Not seeing the solution it needed, UWCI reached out to Gravy Lab, the software arm of SmallBox. Along with the other leaders at SmallBox and Gravy Lab, I quickly saw the value of creating a board portal for community-based organizations.

Boardable Is Born

Thanks to input from some tech-savvy board members, UWCI shied away from pursuing a custom-built board portal. Custom software, after all, is expensive and time-consuming to build, let alone update. Not to mention, it lacks the support typically built into commercial enterprise software. For UWCI, though, Boardable ended up feeling like a custom product.

“We had the opportunity to assist during the development of Boardable,” said my friend Ann Murtlow, CEO of the United Way of Central Indiana. “Now, all our directors can easily access what they need.”

What Helped UWCI Helps Other Nonprofits

With continued input from UWCI and our later customers, we have developed features over our company’s history that speak to the challenges we hear from nonprofits. By working closely with nonprofits (I eventually joined UWCI’s board, as well as founding two nonprofits myself), we are in a unique position to understand what our customers need most. I am confident that we would not have this culture of supporting organizations and understanding their pain points if we hadn’t started out with United Way of Central Indiana as our first customer.

Jeb is the founder and CEO of Boardable, a nonprofit board management software provider. He is also the founder of two nonprofits, The Speak Easy and Musical Family Tree, as well as a board member of United Way of Central Indiana and ProAct. Jeb is based in Indianapolis, Indiana.


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