The Charity Experiment
This is the first installment in a new series of blog posts where I'll be presenting original business ideas. Rather than tucking them away deep in my notes app for nobody but myself and the good folks at the NSA to ever lay eyes on, I'm going to share them with you. I've realized that having an idea is the easy part. Making it a reality and executing your plan is infinitely more difficult.
So go ahead: steal my idea. Become a millionaire. I dare you.
My goal is to hear what you think about these ideas - are they actually viable? What are some of the biggest roadblocks that you might run into should you start executing on the idea? How would you start?
The Charity Experiment [TCE] is a highly efficient subscription-based charitable marketplace empowering you to significantly impact the causes you care about most.
Three key points.
Users choose which organizations to donate to based on what they're passionate about.
TCE presents a limited number of charitable organizations because they are all heavily vetted with philanthropic research.
100% adjustable donation allocation.
First, determine the amount and frequency. Then, give a specific percentage to each cause.
1. Users choose which organizations to donate to based on what you're passionate about.
There's levels to this.
a. General cause (environment) →
b. specific cause (deforestation) →
c. Charitable Organization (coolearth.org)
The sheer number of charitable organizations can be overwhelming, which is why The Charity Experiment offers users the ability to simply choose a general cause (or multiple causes) that they are most passionate about.
The idea is to remove barriers to entry with regard to making donations to highly effective charities by moving user focus from the super-micro organizational level to a more general cause. I believe that this simplifies the process.
That isn't to say that users will not be able to select specific organizations on that same micro level should they want to investigate for themselves or are already well-versed in the space. There will certainly be an option to browse the organizations by category. The aim is not to patronize users but rather cater to those who may not be as involved as others. I know that I certainly fall into that category.
"Choose a cause that you're passionate about and we'll do the rest.
We'll make sure your money is going to top-rated and highly vetted charitable organizations."
So, What are you passionate about?
2. We present a limited number of charitable organizations because they are all heavily vetted with philanthropic research.
Directly corresponding with point #1, The Charity Experiment is designed to keep things simple. We do not want our users swimming through a sea of charitable organizations and losing focus of the greater good. Each general cause (ex. the environment) that users are able to choose will have a limited number of charities available to represent each specific cause (ex. deforestation).
Each TCE-approved charity will have gone through extensive philanthropic research to determine the quality of the organization and to ensure that each donation will do as much real, tangible good as possible.
Finding credible resources for philanthropic research is a key focus. In reading several expert opinions, I discovered GiveWell. In their own words:
"GiveWell is a nonprofit dedicated to finding outstanding giving opportunities and publishing the full details of our analysis to help donors decide where to give. Our goal is to help donors have the greatest impact for every dollar donated."
To their credit, GiveWell is providing the opportunity to donate directly to the charities that they recommend most highly in a very similar fashion to what The Charity Experiment is proposing. However, their recommendations are highly specific and only span a few of the cause categories that TCE would like to present to users.
Charity Navigator bases their research on fiscal responsibility. Fundraising and administrative expenses, tax status, revenues, and more are considered in rating each organization.
Charity Navigator also offers the ability to donate to a number of charities simultaneously and on a recurring basis, but they only include US-registered nonprofits. Unfortunately, the website is not particularly user-friendly or intuitive. There are over 1.57 million registered US nonprofit organizations. Therefore, the problem that I see with Charity Navigator's system is two-fold: too many organizations to sift through while also lacking a global scope.
Presenting users with only high quality opportunities to give is absolutely critical to the integrity and success of The Charity Experiment.
3. 100% adjustable donation allocation. First, determine the amount and frequency. Then, give a specific percentage to each cause.
Give on your terms.
The Charity Experiment allows users to determine exactly how much they can afford to donate and at what frequency. Donate on a weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. TCE goes even further by enabling users to customize each donation. Users will be given the opportunity to allocate a specific percentage of their total donation to each cause or organization that they choose.
70% to Arts & Humanities, 20% to the Against Malaria Foundation, 10% to food & Hunger.
Clearly, The Charity Experiment will adhere to the standards and minimums set by each charitable organization.
The Charity Experiment will also provide users with pre-bundled charity packages based on the causes they're interested in donating to. Users are given a set dollar amount, frequency, and list of charities that will be affected. This feature keeps the goal to simplify the giving process intact.
I've put together a home page mockup for The Charity Experiment.
Please note that not all of the links/buttons/forms on the site are functional. It is meant to be a visual representation of what the home page might be.
The description of each cause is taken verbatim from GlobalCitizen.org. Visit their website to see how you can take social action in support of these causes.
Thinking out loud & questions for you.
If you're anything like me you might have between $10 and $50 per month tied up in subscription entertainment services like Netflix and Spotify. I don't even think about it, the money is automatically subtracted from my checking account. What I get in return is solely entertainment and that's great. Subscription-based services are fast becoming the norm for how we consume entertainment as well as how businesses are selling their products and services. That is why it is so important to frame the Charity Experiment within this familiar context.
- In order to position the Charity Experiment in the same space as Netflix, Spotify, or almost any other subscription-based service, I think that it would be worth exploring how it might be possible to offer a free trial period before being prompted to donate on a regular basis. Seems like a weird idea, I know.
- What features might be available in front of and behind the paywall (or donation-wall)?
- What kind of exclusivity could be offered in exchange for simply creating an account?
- One fear that I have is that there might not be enough incentive to participate. That the feeling a user receives in exchange for their giving to a charitable organization is not valuable enough to warrant the monthly donation. While the target audience quite obviously includes those who are satisfied with giving for the sake of giving, I believe that the audience for this service should also include those who have never considered donating to charity before. I think that's the market that massively scales this business.
So, this goes hand-in-hand with point #1:
- What might be an enticing value proposition for users who are on the fence about donating and feel that they aren't receiving anything tangible in return?
- In writing about how the cost of Netflix and Spotify are totally integrated into my life, I feel as though a partnership with these services could be a potential avenue for collecting donations. The "would you like to donate a dollar to your local food bank?" method employed by supermarkets and fast food restaurants everywhere. Bump the cost of your Netflix subscription from $8 to $12/month and donate $4 to a Charity Experiment cause. By opting in at checkout, you'll be sent a link to the Charity Experiment website included in the Netflix confirmation email so that you can explore further. Something to think about.