Last 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 right on. Today, TechCrunch 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 here 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 well designed and is fun.
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 trade-off - the fact that you're trading in your shopping habits data for corporate donors. That doesn't bother me personally - 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 pay off is for the charity. The number of karma points doesn't necessarily synch up with real world impact.
I just downloaded and got ten karma points and was able to support a classroom without doing anything - not even getting up from computer. I'm off to do some last minute shopping and give it a test drive.
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 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.