Jul 30, 2014

Alameda Business Spotlight: Givegoods.org

A different way to donate to your favorite local charity.

Alameda Business Spotlight: Givegoods.org Alameda Business Spotlight: Givegoods.org

The whole community wins: charities win, donors win and businesses win.That’s the concept behind Givegoods.org, a new website launched on May 18, 2012, by social entrepreneurs Christopher Grant Ward and Jim Kaufman.

Two years ago, while Ward and Kaufman were using their skills in new media and nonprofit marketing in the Proposition 21 campaign to save California state parks, they began to talk about how to apply these skills to help nonprofits raise money more efficiently. Said Ward, “It became really clear to me as I traveled up and down the state there was a need to help charities figure out how to go to the web to raise money with less time and effort.”

Kaufman added, “There are lots of companies that help charities raise money. There are lots of companies that help merchants get new business. The hole, we felt, was how to create something that was really reinforcing the community — that would help charities, help companies and help residents all at the same time.”

After many efforts to craft win-win situations, Ward and Kaufman created  Givegoods, an on-line donation site where people can give to the charity of their choice and, in return, receive a reward. For example, if you want to donate $20 to the Alameda Boys and Girls Club through Givegoods, you would go to the Givegoods page for the Alameda Boys and Girls Club, choose a reward from a contributing merchant such as a coupon for $20 off dinner when you spend $40 or more, and pay with your credit card. The Alameda Boys and Girls Club gets the donation and you get a 50 percent discount for dinner at .

Patch sat down with Ward and Kaufman to learn more about how Givegoods works.

Why would people want to donate through the Givegoods site rather than giving directly to the charity? 

Kaufman: When I donate, I get to support the organizations I really care about. It’s costing me less to support them and they’re rewarding me every time I do.

Ward: So if a donor were going to donate $20, he might give $40 or $60 because he’s getting the value of the reward.

How do charities benefit? Ward: For charities, it’s incredibly expensive to raise money. It takes time. It takes money. There are costs for not following the mission at hand, especially for a small organization like FAAS [Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter] that has a huge mandate. For charities, we’re hoping to create a platform that provides consistent cash flow and revenue.

How many charities are you working with? Ward: We are supporting the, ,  and .

Does it have to be a 501(c)3 [nonprofit organization]? Ward: We can work with any organization that wants to raise money, such as the Rotary Club or PTA.

Kaufman: We think this is a great platform for helping the schools, which are at the heart of a community.

How do merchants benefit? Ward: The rewards are created by local Alameda businesses. Anybody in the community who has something to offer can create a reward — whether it’s somebody in a storefront or somebody who offers services such as housecleaning.

Kaufman: In talking with merchants, we’ve really worked with them to design our product. We don’t want it to be about making sacrifices for a charity. It should be seen as a cost-effective marketing channel. From the first transaction, we want the merchant to break even. We don’t want them to be in a position of losing money. As long as they structure the deal right, they should not lose money.

For a merchant, how is Givegoods different than a deal site such as Groupon or Living Social? Ward: In a couple of ways. Groupon almost forces merchants to a 50 percent discount and it takes almost 25 percent of the rest.  So for $100 coupon, the merchant gets $25 and is on the hook for the next six to nine months to offer free services in a way they cannot control or estimate, since they do not know when people will come in. It doesn’t work well for everyone.

Kaufman: With Groupon, the merchant gets 25 percent. With Givegoods, the merchant gets 50 to 75 percent.

Ward: The other difference with Givegoods is that we take 8 percent of the donation. The other 92 percent goes to the charity and stays in the community. To redeem the reward, you actually have to go spend money with the merchant. That also stays in the community.

Kaufman: The deal sites have constructed their business around deals. The people who use those sites are bargain hunters. They are looking for a good deal. They are transactional.

The people we’re working with are predisposed to loyalty. They’re donating to a charity. It’s our hypothesis that the customers we’re going to introduce to business will tend to be more loyal. The value proposition to the merchant is that it doesn’t cost you more and you will attract more loyal customers.

Ward: There is something appealing about the person who wants to invest in the community.

How many merchants have signed on? Ward: Twenty-nine, with some more in the works.

Givegoods is currently working with Abigail, Inc., Alameda Advertising and Recognition, Alameda Eyes Optometry, Angela's Bistro and Bar, BladiumSports Club, Bowser's Pizza, C'era Una Volta, Cafe Q, Core Cat Pilates, Dog Bone Alley, Dragon Rouge, Garden Cleaners, Heather's Home Cleaning, Island Pets, Lanvie, Little Old Fashioned Candie and Soda Shop, M Zoe Couture, Mercy Wines, New Image Beauty Salon, Poppy Red, Rise To Health, Seelenbacher Jewelers, Silk Road, Skinglow, Studio Alchemy, The Clothes Line, The Pantry by Alameda Natural Grocery, Under One Woof, and Whales and Friends.

What are your plans for expanding?

Kaufman: We don’t have any targets. We’re conscious that we don’ t want to expand too rapidly.

Ward: The number one goal is to make the idea work well — to see what creative ways people use it. We’re in test mode. We want to do as much as we can to help the community. Then, in the future, we can grow to different communities.

Why did you start in Alameda?

Ward: We both live here. We love it here.

Kaufman: Alameda helped inspire Givegoods. Alamedans are invested in and loyal to the community, and strengthening community is what Givegoods is about.

Givegoods is located at 1516 Oak St., #102. Telephone: 510-227-5127.

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