Philanthropy gurus like Patrick Rooney from the Center of Philanthropy at Indiana University are saying that things are going to get a bit tight for organizations that have fiscal plans dependent on donations. Rooney puts the economic forecast for these groups in perspective by saying that, “ for many that rely on philanthropy… this is not just a tough year. This is going to be a tough era.”
Many charities have seen their cash flow from donations plateau, and are having to balance broadcasting the urgency of their needs with reported records in donor fatigue (it’s probably fair to say donors are also feeling the squeeze from an economy that appears to be taking its time in rebounding).
These depressing economic figures served as the backdrop for successful serial startup founder Kai Buehler, when he was inspired to rethink the way people give money to worthwhile causes. An idea struck him as he watched his daughter and wife try to sell raffle tickets to their family friends and neighbors, in hopes of raising money for his daughter’s school.
What if there was a social giving platform that could provide individuals with incentive to make donations, while streamlining the process of fundraising? Just think of the volume of donation requests most local businesses get from school plays and softball teams alone. It is hard for businesses to say “no” to cute kids asking for donations to be raffled off, but it’s pretty easy for small businesses to get overwhelmed by these requests. Keeping this in mind, Buehler came up with Causora.com, in hopes of mitigating this common set of conflicting needs and desires. In doing so, he created an entirely new way of thinking about making donations.
No stranger to getting a good idea off the ground, Buehler founded and sold Watchpoints, (the first app that rewarded people for watching TV), for a cool $3 million last year. He again utilized this idea of providing incentives to users when designing Causora as a social giving platform that donors, merchants, and charities can all benefit from.
Causora’s process rethinks donations, by having local merchants and small businesses donate $20 gift cards for their services or products. Charities sign-up for the site too, and are given pointers for how to attract the attention of potential donors. These donors can either search for a charity they connect to, or can be referred by a specific charity’s outreach efforts, and make donations in $20 increments. The donors will receive the amount of money they have donated as Causora credit, and can choose which merchant they would like to redeem their credit with from a list provided on the site.
The genius of Buehler’s concept is that all three parties involved are provided incentives to use the platform.
In addition to having their charitable giving budget streamlined, merchants get to have all of their tax-deductible charitable giving in one place, making tax season a little less stressful. They also get to attract new business by connecting to their customers’ values, which is no small feat considering how jaded and skeptical consumers are getting with mainstream advertising and outreach.
Donors walk away happy knowing that they helped a cause they care about, and get what they donate to spend on products or services from reputable locally conscious businesses (all of Causora’s merchants have a minimum of 4 stars from Yelp).
Whether the cause is aimed at getting new uniforms for the town’s little league players, or a 501(c)3 charity is looking to boost its external funding, organizations are being provided with a novel yet functional way to reach out to potential donors, without being intrusive or overly aggressive.
People like EASY. This is clear when we look at the success achieved by applications that transform mundane tasks into a more streamlined and user-focused process. Streamlining seems to come naturally to Buehler and his team, who have managed to keep their operating costs down in order to ensure that over 90% of the money from donors goes directly to the charities they choose.