With today’s launch of GiveCorps, local philanthropy–like virtually every other aspect of life–finds its place on the internet. GiveCorps is a new kind of business: it helps donors find local causes they really care about and makes it easy to donate online. Or as co-founder Beth Falcone, a former VP at Maryland National Bank, put it, it’s a “for-profit with a heart.” She and co-founder Jamie McDonald, a former managing director at Alex. Brown & Sons, recognized that small, local projects often fail to receive the support they need from a community, not because people aren’t willing to help, but because they don’t realize they can.
“If causes can become authentic institutions of these Networked Neighborhoods,” McDonald wrote in an online post describing the site, “they will find a new group of supporters who will celebrate their successes and tackle their challenges.” GiveCorps aims to make Baltimore one such “Networked Neighborhood.”
The process is relatively simple. An organization contacts GiveCorps with a cause and decides whether the project will be a “big give” feature project or a searchable listed project. GiveCorps charges a campaign development fee of about 1,000 dollars for feature projects and an additional twenty-nine dollars per month for ongoing listings. (Currently there is no development fee until GiveCorps reaches 10,000 subscribers.) The website gives feature projects space on the homepage and markets them through email outreach to other GiveCorps donors. There is no development fee for listed projects, although the site charges 79 dollars per month for listing. The projects do not have homepage space, but they do receive a cause page, as well as separate project pages, and are marketed via GiveCorps social media.
Already, 27 Baltimore non-profits have signed with GiveCorps, among them Living Classrooms, WYPR, and Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. The site will use three main methods of promotion. Each organization featured in a “big give” project will email its subscribers about its partnership with GiveCorps–all have the option of including a GiveCorps widget on their site. Merchants on the GiveCorps site will email subscribers and both non-profits and merchants are encouraged to share their association to the site through Facebook and Twitter. Finally, beginning this week, MissionTix will promote GiveCorps on its website and through e-newsletters. The site’s logo will appear on the back of tickets through the fall.
And then people donate. The suggested donation is 25 dollars, though donors can give any amount over 10 dollars. Ninety percent of each donation goes directly to the cause, three percent covers transaction fees, and the remaining seven percent goes to GiveCorps. The site hopes to attract about 550 donors per day, a goal that if met would mean five million dollars to charity in the first year. GiveCorps launches in Baltimore this month and Philadelphia in the fall, but hopes to be in 12 cities around the country by next year.
This may seem ambitious, but GiveCorps feels confident that the incentive to donate is there. First, they target a demographic of younger adults who care about helping out in their community but don’t always know how. These digital natives are comfortable conducting everyday affairs online. Second, GiveCorps gives back. Each week, the site offers multiple local deals, like 50 dollars off a 100 dollar purchase at Nelson Coleman Jewelers or admission to all four historic ships at the Inner Harbor for the price of one. When a person makes a donation, he or she chooses up to five weekly deals as a reward.
Not only are people rewarded for their contribution, but the site can track exactly how donations are used. Instead of writing a check and mailing it off to some giant, amorphous organization, donors see how each dollar benefits each cause. This type of interest-based charity also affords GiveCorps an opportunity to collect valuable data that could contribute to more productive philanthropy in the future. Most importantly, GiveCorps reestablishes the sense of giving that has faded in the past few decades. It is a new way to give and get back.
Contest: To celebrate the site’s launch this month, GiveCorps is holding a weekly contest to help build a subscriber base. Subscribers simply have to “Like” GiveCorps on Facebook or Tweet a pre-composed message then enter their email address for a chance to win. One winner will be selected every Tuesday and Friday through July 4, and each winner will receive a gift of 100 dollars to a charity of choice, as well as a dinner for two at Woodberry Kitchen, also valued at 100 dollars.