Cause Marketing Pennies at a Time

With the 2004 publication of his landmark book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid in 2004, C.K. Prahalad laid out the case for how technology… and new ways of thinking about customers and business models… could enable companies to deliver products and services of value to the four billion people across the globe who live on less than $2 a day.

Companies like Hindustan Unilever are doing just that with great success. But is there a way that technology could do the same for cause marketing and philanthropic giving?

A startup funded on Indigogo called CentUp is trying to do just that with a microgiving approach targeted at content developers and the people who support them. Here’s how it works:

Producers, like me for instance, put the CentUp button in proximity to their content. The button acts as a like button. The user preloads some sum into their CentUp account and each CentUp like is releases a few pennies. Half goes to the provider, half to so-far unnamed charities. This is truly microgiving. 

Needless to say, this flies in the face of conventional wisdom in fundraising which goes something like this: ‘it’s just as much work to ask for a modest donation as a big one, so you might as well ask for a big one.’ In other words, focus on the top of the pyramid.

That’s rational thinking. But it leaves money on the table. That said, can microgiving actually add up for charities?

The short answer is, it has been for decades.

The US Postal Service Breast Cancer Semipostal Stamp raised tens of millions less than a dime at a pop! The BoxTops for Education campaign from General Mills has raised hundreds of millions for schools just 10 cents at a time. Cash register round-up schemes collectively generate millions a few pennies at a time. Most paper icon campaigns, aka pinups, have collectively raised hundreds of millions at a $1 per unit.

CentUp is treading familiar ground only in much shinier shoes.

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