Margaret Murphy was not kidding when she said she wanted to be bold.
A month after publicly announcing the start of her own Minneapolis marketing agency Bold Orange, she bought Great Lakes Scrip Center, the largest gift card fundraising company in the country.
The move is part of Murphy’s plan to help companies reach their business goals while also accomplishing some societal good.
“I don’t think progress in this world can happen unless things come together,” Murphy said in an interview. “Whether it’s brands and their best customers, whether it’s schools and families, whether it’s athletic teams and their athletes … the blend of business and driving community progress is really what we are trying to do.”
With Scrip, those who wish to contribute buy gift cards through a Scrip site and a rebate is provided to the fundraising entity like a school or church group. Average rebates through Great Lakes Scrip Center (GLSC) range from 3 percent for gas gift cards to 10 percent for online shopping cards.
For more than 20 years, GLSC, which is based in Michigan, has helped more than 48,000 organizations and nonprofits such as schools, community groups, and sports teams raise more than $680 million for various causes. Fundraising campaigns have helped pay for computers, tuition, athletic equipment as well as church operations.
While the fundraising raises money, gift card brands such as Target, Buffalo Wild Wings and Starbucks also benefit, earning $9 billion in revenue through GLSC.
Murphy said she hopes to improve the e-commerce platform so that it is easier to enroll and enhance the digital user experience.
GLSC, which has partnered with more than 750 brands, could serve to help Bold Orange build relationships with those companies for loyalty, customer relationship management (CRM) and digital marketing work, Murphy said.
The incorporation of GLSC also helps from a recruiting perspective so Bold Orange staffers can feel good that their firm also works to help the community, Murphy said.
“Building this company over the last 23 years has been an incredibly fulfilling journey for my family and all of our dedicated employees,” said Jack Smith, former GLSC chief executive, in a statement. “We are thrilled to be handing over the leadership at this exciting time in our industry to Margaret Murphy and Bold Orange.”
GLSC has been in operation since 1994. Scrip fundraising started in California in the late 1980s when a parochial school saw an opportunity to partner with businesses for fundraising, said Jill Whalen, vice president of partner relations at GLSC. “Scrip” means substitute money, which in the case of scrip fundraising refers to the gift cards.
“We are going to be able to offer better services to our retail partners, better and different marketing opportunities and then also better experiences for our customers,” Whalen said.
There is also hope that Bold Orange will help get more people acquainted with Scrip.
“Everybody knows about selling candy bars and pizza kits to raise money for a school group or whatever it is, but there’s still a lot of people out there who don’t know what Scrip fundraising is,” Whalen said. “Once they hear it and they understand how it works, it makes a lot of sense.”
GLSC, which employs about 90 people, will keep its offices in Michigan as part of the acquisition. Murphy visited Grand Rapids, Mich., last week as part of the transition and will travel between the two companies.
Murphy’s Bold Orange was able to purchase GLSC with support from financing partner Mountaingate Capital, a private equity firm based in Denver. Terms of the purchase have not been disclosed.
“We are extremely bullish on the prospects for expanding this network under Margaret Murphy’s leadership and will be investing aggressively to support her efforts at Bold Orange to execute our shared vision,” Colton King, managing director at Mountaingate Capital, said in a statement.
Murphy until recently was president and chief operating officer of ICF Olson, the largest ad firm by revenue in the Twin Cities. In late 2016, Murphy left the firm after parent company ICF International consolidated Olson and some of its other agencies.
During the year following her departure from ICF Olson, Murphy decided to go into business for herself. Currently, her agency has 10 people on staff and is housed at the International Market Square in Minneapolis, but the firm has plans to move closer to downtown in the spring.
“I feel incredibly energized and also grateful that I have the opportunity to not only build loyalty for brands but build loyalty for local communities,” Murphy said. “That’s progress.”