What if giving to a charity was as easy as checking in on Facebook? Now it is.
Matt Sharp had a problem: he and his business partner were having trouble growing the number of people that came to their gym.
Even though their current customers loved the gym, traditional marketing and word-of-mouth to get new people just wasn’t working. So they came up with an idea to grow membership by finding a way to increase the number of check-ins the gym got on Facebook.
“We knew that people loved us. We just didn’t have a way to incentivize them to tell their friends about us on social media,” Sharp, the President of Causely, told A Plus. “So that was the original idea: let’s tie a social gift to every Facebook check in.”
The idea for a “social gift” came from their experience in social gaming, where they helped create Sojo Studios, the gaming platform early iteration of Causely. Through their games, users earn points to donate to a certain cause or charity. One game he helped create with Sojo Studios was WeTopia, which became outrageously popular, and was eventually promoted by Ellen Degeneres and Justin Bieber.
But during his experience in social gaming, Sharp figured out that users were less engaged by projects that took a long time, like building a house or a school. By creating a “social gift,” they gave gamers a chance to simplify that giving: buy something in a game, and then something good will happen in real life.
This kind of social giving, Sharp realized, performed quite well.
So they decided to try it to help increase check-ins and referrals at his gym. At the time, they were averaging 33 check-ins on Facebook a month over the course of three years.
“We basically told the staff and the clients every time you check in on Facebook, we’re going to donate a meal to a kid through one of our non-profit partners,” Sharp said. “We launched that program and we had almost 1,600 Facebook check-ins the first month, and we got several hundred thousand impressions on our Facebook page.”
Within two or three weeks, other businesses started reaching out to Sharp’s team and asking how he was getting all these people to not only check in at his gym, but to post with happy, brand-positive messages.
After seeing all the feedback, Sharp realized the idea could be something other businesses benefitted from: it doesn’t just make people feel good about where they are spending their money, it helps companies give back and promote their brand all at the same time. Best of all, the non-profits would get extra funding from partnering with companies.
They ended up testing the idea with 30 other businesses at the end of the year, and saw it perform really well. That was in 2014. Today, Causely is working with 3,200 businesses and just passed $2 million in donations to non-profits, charities and causes.
When Causely partners with a business, they connect their Facebook and Instagram accounts so they can track the number of check-ins. Causely also provides the business with such marketing materials as digital displays or table tents that advertise what cause they are supporting. Then, when a customer walks into that business, they’ll hear about the cause through Causely’s marketing or a staffer that works at the company. If they pull out their phone and check-in, the phone will geo-locate where the person is, send it to Causely’s system, which will add up all the check-ins at the end of the month and send a corresponding check to whatever organization the business is affiliated with. Each month, Causely gets a check from the business partner for their services that includes the monthly donation.
Today, Causely partners with Toys For Tots, Save The Children, Soles 4 Soles, Compassion International and American Red Cross, among others. Because 92 percent of customers trust referrals from friends over all forms of marketing, and most people prefer companies that give back, Causely has had a lot of success helping promote people’s brands and giving to a cause all at once.
“Businesses or organizations that do well with us tend to have some sort of community or community feel,” Sharp said. “A salon would do really well because they sit down with their stylist for 45 minutes and talk about, ‘hey what’s this cause you’re supporting this month?’”
But any business that thrives off referrals, even things like gas stations or chiropractors, have a lot of success using the Causely platform.
The numbers speak for themselves: through Soles 4 Soles, they’ve donated more than 21,000 coats. Through Watsi they’ve helped provide 245 sight-restoring surgeries, Through feedONE, they’ve given more than 60,000 meals to children.
“We just want to make giving an awesome experience,” Sharp says. “We’re really making doing good good for business.”
By A Plus’ ISAAC SAUL