CONCORD, CA, APRIL 2, 2012: Americans donate more than $290 billion dollars a year to charities, and while that number is slightly off the record amounts donated prior to the economic recession, Americans nevertheless remain the most charitable people on earth. And while cause giving has slowed in a difficult economic climate, that same climate has fueled an explosive growth in the use of prepaid coupon web sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial. Such is the growth that Groupon reportedly turned down an offer from Google in the neighborhood of $6 billion, which is a pretty rich address by any measure.
Enter into the picture Concord, California based GotCause, which today launched the beta / controlled release phase of its unique blend of prepaid shopping, in the form of vouchers, and charitable giving. Via the GotCause.org website, customers can print a pre-paid voucher from a wide variety of local merchants with a portion of each sale going to a charitable cause listed on the company’s website that the customer selects. By pairing restaurants, stores and services with charities that many of them support in other ways, GotCause hopes to streamline donations to local causes, and encourage local shopping.
GotCause is the germination of an idea that took hold when a local soccer team needed to raise money in order to attend a tournament, explains company founder Tom Hogan. “About five years ago my son was playing on a soccer team and they wanted to do a fundraiser” he says. “We had a client that was a winemaker, and the winery said that they’d donate three dollars for every bottle that the kids sold. It was a great idea, offering something that people want to buy, but thirteen year old kids obviously can’t sell wine. So the winery offered to handle all of the transactions through his website. All the kids had to do was to tell their relatives and friends to go to the website and buy the wine, and every time a bottle was sold, if they mentioned the soccer club, they’d donate three dollars toward the fundraiser.”
“Well, they sold almost a hundred cases” Tom says, “and raised $3,300. It was the biggest fundraiser they’d ever had. So that planted the seed and the idea of pairing local causes, and a customer’s network of contacts, to drive sales for a merchant and raise money for the cause.”
“Remember, this was before Facebook or Twitter or anything like that. All anyone could do was email to friends” Tom continues. “Now of course with social media, where everyone’s got a long list of contacts and friends, all they have to do is to tell their list of friends to go to GotCause and buy a coupon to donate to my soccer team, or whatever the charity is.”
The company’s website functionality on the surface is very simple. The customer selects from the list of offers, picks the charity of their choice, purchases the voucher via a secure transaction, then prints the voucher to present to the merchant / business owner. There are no up-front costs for the merchants or charities—and therefore little risk in participating—
It’s taken GotCause’s development team a few years to design and test the product, and during that time several factors have combined to make the idea even more viable. First, the public’s perception of the use of vouchers to buy products has changed, beginning with the wide acceptance of pre-paid gift cards, which are now prominently displayed and sold everywhere, from supermarkets to high end retailers. That public acceptance, of presenting what is in essence, a printable self-use voucher instead of a gift card, paved the way for the current wave of prepaid voucher sites that have sprung up on the internet in the last five years. “First I guess it was Fandango,” says Hogan, “that made it okay to purchase movie tickets on line, print the tickets at home and then take it to the theater. No waiting in line and customers are willing to pay a premium for that convenience. That paved the way for Groupon to offer online discount vouchers, for people to take those pre-paid vouchers into almost any type of business and say: here’s my purchase.”
While GotCause’s beta test / controlled release is limited to a select number of businesses in the company’s immediate test area, there are plans to take the product statewide and eventually nationwide, potentially changing local buying habits that will affect fundraising on a nationwide level. Certainly not Inconceivable, in today’s wild, wild west of the internet. Who would have dreamed that Pinterest would attract 11 million users after just a year after into their beta phase of development?”
“Our vision is that your uncle Joe in New Jersey could buy a voucher for his chiropractic exam” Hogan says, “and donate a portion of that purchase to his niece, Lauren and her Girl Scout troop in Walnut Creek. How cool is that? It sure beats having her go door to door to sell candy or wrapping paper.”
GotCause: How it works
Hogan Marketing and Media
930 Detroit Ave.,
Concord, CA 94520
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