December 24, 2009

CauseWorld: Support causes on the go

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Beth KanterLast month I made a prediction that we might see fundraisers with Foursquare or some other location-based mobile social network with gaming element. Looks like my observation of fundraising 2.0 trends of 2009 and  my 2010 predictions are on track. TechCrunch just wrote about a new mobile application called CauseWorld.

Here’s how it works:

CauseWorld app users earn “karma points” when they walk into stores and check in with their cell phone. No purchase is required at any store, and karma points can be redeemed nine predefined good causes. Big brands like Kraft Foods and Citi (both are on board) then turn the karmas into real dollar donations to those causes. Food for poor families, water in Sudan, trees in the Amazon, etc. are examples of the causes.

Like foursquare and gowalla, you open the application on your phone and see local businesses (instead of showing everything around you, CauseWorld only shows businesses that you can check into for karmas). Enter the store, check in, and get the karma points offered to you. Once you’ve collected enough karmas you can donate them to a variety of causes. And, of course, you get badges for various activities.

The causes that are supported are listed on CauseWorld — it’s a good mix of wildlife conservation, hunger and others. 

This idea is really cool for a couple of reasons. The user doesn’t have to donate, but they’re leveraging a corporate donation. Sort of like embedded giving that Lucy Bernholz talks about, I think. The application is fun and well designed.

It doesn’t have a social element where you can see how many karma points your friends have within the app itself, although it uses Facebook Connect and you could opt to have your good deeds streamed on your wall. It might get more motivated if it had the leaderboard design that Foursquare has.

And it gets you way from your computer — you can get exercise!

And, of course, there is the tradeoff — the fact that you’re trading in your shopping habits data for corporate donors. That doesn’t bother me — it’s for a good cause. There is a scaling system for karma points — for example, supporting a classroom is five points while sending a book to a library in a developing country is 100. It would be interesting to see the data on who saves up versus who gives away their karma points and what the payoff is for the charity. The number of karma points doesn’t necessarily sync up with real-world impact.

I just downloaded and got 10 karma points and was able to support a classroom without doing anything — not even getting up from computer.  

Update: Some quick testing notes:

  • The design seems to encourage me to translate my karma to donations every time I earn them. This would take some real discipline to save enough karma if I wanted to help some of the other groups. Without a leaderboard, peer pressure or something else in the game design — I’m tempted to donate as much as possible.
  • When you donate, there are cute animations and graphics. It reminds of a pinball machine when you score. Anyway, it might be cool to be able to add on more information about the charity, more ways to engage and educate me.
  • Once you visit a place, it gets checked out — so you’re not being rewarded in karma points for repeat visits. Thus, I’m not building a habit of checking myself into the location. I’m not sure why this is part of the design unless it has something to do with the design of research they’re collecting about me.

All in all, this is a lot of fun — and takes some of the ideas of an app like Foursquare to leverage corporate donations. I wonder, though, how much this could be designed to help the organizations build their network of supporters for longer relationships.

Cross-posted to Beth’s Blog.Beth Kanter is CEO of Zoetica, a consultancy for nonprofits. See her profile, visit her blog, contact Beth or leave a comment.

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  • Joyce

    Nice article! I've found you can check into the same place again the next day :) Also- donating to many different causes and checking into different places allowed me to earn some badges!