Skip to content

Free Coffee and the Kindness of Strangers

August 10, 2011

Many of you have probably already heard about Jonathan’s Card, the social experiment currently flying around the Internet as people question whether Jonathan Starks is crazy, philanthropic, shilling for Starbucks or just a dude who stumbled upon a great social experiment. (If you don’t know about the card and the controversy around it, Mashable has a great explanation.)

Basically, Jonathan loaded up a card with $300 and put it on the Internet. He then told people to go buy themselves a coffee. We do love our free stuff, so as you might imagine, the American public quickly took Jonathan up on his offer and started drinking their free lattes. We’ve all been to Starbucks, and $300 isn’t going to last too long if you’re slurping venti Frappucinos, so Jonathan also offered people the opportunity to fill the card coffers. And then he put the balance on Facebook and Twitter. And within a couple of days, Jonathan had accumulated thousands of followers, all of whom are just interested in how much cash is on this card. The amount put on the card is pushing $9,000 as of this writing and according to Mashable, cash has been added to the card more than 500 times.

So what of all of this, aside from the fact that I figured I’d let everyone know there’s caffeine to be had even if you left your wallet at home today. Well, to be honest, at first I just thought it was a refreshing story with a refreshing lesson: Even when no one is looking, people do the right thing. Maybe not even the right thing in this case, because let’s be honest, not being able to get at your free Starbucks because Jonathan’s card is low isn’t exactly the worst problem in the world. But the fact of the matter is that when people took something, in this case a coffee, a lot of them felt like they should give something back. They wanted to give someone else a coffee. They got something of value and they wanted to pass it along. As a human, it’s nice to be reminded that people are inherently responsible if you give them the chance.

But there’s more to this story, because as they say, “With great power comes great responsibility.” The way that Jonathan’s Card burst onto the scene should also be a lesson for all of us in both how to get an audience and what to do with them once we’ve got ’em.

Jonathan didn’t really take a huge risk with this experiment. He loaded up $300. When’s the last time you could get 10,000 Twitter followers for $300? Jonathan’s card got picked up by the online press because, quite frankly, we’re all so darned shocked when people just give us stuff. (Not companies. People. Who are giving us cash out of their hard-earned paychecks.) And when they just give us stuff without getting credit or even knowing who they’re giving it to, well, that hits a nerve. Get a little crazy. Next time one of the interns tells you about a nutty idea they have for a promotion, listen. Don’t blow up your brand or violate your base, but ask yourself what the cost of getting a little crazy is, and then, just maybe, go for it.

It’s not just about how Jonathan got those followers, though, it’s the fact that now that he’s got them, he’s providing them with relevant information they care about–namely, the amount of money on the card and whether they can get a free caramel macchiato. Jonathan’s an app developer and now he has a huge platform, but he’s not promoting his app development skills to his audience. He’s just talking about the balance on his Starbucks card because, frankly, that is all they care about. As long as the Starbucks card is active, Jonathan will have engaged Twitter followers who trust the info that he’s giving them. Pretty amazing.

I’m sure I missed something. What do you think of this whole Starbucks experiment? How would you use the platform Jonathan Stark just magically built? And, if you grabbed your free coffee, let us know what you got.

Politics and Deals? A Cool New Way to Use GoodTwo

July 28, 2011

A few weeks ago, we read about a Massachusetts politician who was thinking about running a Groupon for one of his fundraisers. Dan Winslow is a Massachusetts State Representative who’s a little bit different than most state reps you might know. Dan is Tweeting. He’s Facebooking. He has mobile giving set up. We met with Dan when we saw he was interested in doing the Groupon, and we were impressed. He’s an energetic guy who’s passionate about his campaign and interested in trying new things. As a startup, we love hearing that enthusiasm–as a startup that focuses on helping anyone raise money for anyTHING, we thought that there might be a way that we could all work together.

And so GoodTwo’s first political fundraiser was born. This isn’t just new for us or for Dan–this is new for the country. Dan’s campaign team filed a request for a ruling with Massachusett’s campaign finance office to ensure that they’d be able to do an online deal. This week, the state handed down the ruling: online deals for politicians are a go. This is especially cool for us because it’s in our home state and because we love to pioneer. So here we are! Dan will have his own GoodTwo page, just like all of our other fundraisers, but instead of cool deals from restaurants and spas, Dan’s deal will be a discount on a cocktail party fundraiser he’s putting on this fall for Boston’s young professionals.

If you’re curious about the details and how this will all work, you can check out this article in The Boston Globe. We can’t wait to start working with politicians from every party and state to help them raise money while reaching the population of supporters that loves to get a deal and share with their friends! And, of course, we’d love to hear what you think of all this, so leave us some feedback in the comments.


Ways to Donate From The Bottom of Your Empty Pockets

June 28, 2011

In a perfect world, we’d all be able to write out big checks to every charity, drop change in every cup, or say “Yes” every time we’re asked for a dollar at the checkout stand. But the reality is, many of us have had to cut back in recent years, and that includes our charitable donations. Luckily for those of us pinching pennies, some smart companies have come up with amazing ways for us to donate money to worthy causes without actually putting out a dime of our own money. The money has to come from somewhere, of course, and in the case of each of these programs, we can thank the charitable-minded execs at some big companies who can spare a little cash for a great cause. But you need to do  your part to get the bucks from the company to the charity! Check out some of these amazing cause marketing programs that don’t cost you a cent.

It just takes a couple of minutes–or in some cases, seconds–of your time as you go about your daily tasks to make a difference in the lives of people all over the world. Also, check out Free Charity Donations for updates on great ways to make a difference for FREE!
There are so many great ways to donate thanks to generous companies. What did we miss?

The Most Rocking Races We’ve Seen

June 23, 2011

For some of us, running a marathon and raising money for a cause is a huge achievement. (Heck, for some of us, running a 5K and raising money for a cause is a huge achievement.) Working the fundraising circuit for the last six months, helping various run walk ride participants raise cash for their cause, we’ve seen it all. So we thought we’d take a couple of minutes to tell you about some of the coolest athletic events you can participate in, all while fundraising for a cause you believe in.

  • The Muddy Buddy: If dirt’s your thing, this is the event for you. Pair up with a friend (hence the buddy piece) and traverse a six or seven mile course on foot and bike. Along the way, you’ll be taking on five different obstacles, finishing by crawling through a mud pit to the finish. Getting down in the dirt means that all the money raised goes to The Challenged Athletes Foundation.
  • SSRunners: You may know it as the Santa Speedo Run. You don’t need to have speed for this one, you just have to have a sense of humor. Throw on your speedo (no thongs, please!) or other holiday gear for a 1-mile jaunt through Boston. Participants have to raise $300 for a charity that’s announced each year. That’s one way to get into the spirit.
  • Fight For Air Climb: We can’t think of an event that better makes you appreciate the cause you’re working so hard for. Fight for Air Climbs happen all over the US and benefit The American Lung Cancer  Association. Some people call these events “vertical road races,” but whatever your perspective on them, they mean the chance to climb the stairwells of some of the country’s coolest (and tallest) buildings, like The Presidential Towers in Chicago (climb 1, 2, 3 or ALL 4 towers if you’re completely nuts and have really well-developed quads!) or the Renaissance Tower in Dallas.
  • Stiletto Race for Kids’ Sake!: Benefitting Big Brothers Big Sisters, this Seacoast New Hampshire race has everyone sprinting in stilettos down the streets of Portsmouth. Training for this one: nights out breaking in your big girl shoes! We picked the Portsmouth one, coming up in August, but we’ve seen ’em across the country, including Run a Mile in Her Shoes, a men’s only race in North Carolina.
What races are you doing to raise money? And which ones did we miss?

Insights from the Giving USA 2010 Study

June 22, 2011

Earlier this week, Giving USA released its 2010 study, which not only tracked the charitable giving habits of Americans last year, but also adjusted the estimates for previous years to reality: in fact, giving was less than they originally believed. While giving last year was up about 2% from 2009, the overall drop from 2008 is still around 11%. That’s a tough pill to swallow for many nonprofit organizations and a reality they live every day. Still, the authors of the study said it best when they wrote:

“Despite personal and economic hardships, Americans remain steadfastly committed to each other and their communities.”

As a fundraising platform that takes a different tact than most nonprofits we know, we are heartened by this quote. The entire point of GoodTwo is to making giving a little more fun, to motivate people to engage, and to reward people for doing good. We know that most people have a hard time turning down a chance to both give and receive at the same time, and that’s why we’ll be making an impact within charitable giving.

In the meantime, there have been some great posts and articles written on the Giving USA stats in the last couple of days, so we thought we’d provide you with a little round-up. Let us know if you’ve seen other great insights, and we’ll add them to the post!

SmartMoney: The Important Charities You’re Ignoring 
Kelli B. Grant talks about what the trends say about our giving habits, and why places like homeless shelters are seeing a dip.

Marketing for Nonprofits: Is This The New Normal?
Joceyln Harmon takes a look at the stats and asks what’s next for nonprofit giving.

Huffington Post: Making a Difference
Lisa M. Dietlin talks about how consumers can combat the lapse in donations by planning ahead.

Nonprofit Quarterly: What Giving USA Numbers Reveal in 2011
This editorial from NPQ takes a good, hard look at the data and breaks down the reality.

What about you? What are your thoughts on the stats, and who do you think has been writing some good analysis of the study?



Making the Ask

June 1, 2011

This morning, leaving my house and climbing into my car, I spotted movement in the fence next to my car door. Upon closer examination, I found a small sparrow, fluttering its wings as hard as it could. I remembered my husband mentioning that birds had built a nest in the fence last night, but quickly realized that what he’d mistaken as a nest was actually a tangle of weeds and string that this tiny bird had been caught in. My stomach sank as I realized that if I got in the car and left, there would be a dead bird when I came home. I didn’t know what the state of its foot was inside the string, but I did know that injured animals freak me out. I didn’t have any idea how to free it. I stood there like an idiot in my driveway, on my cell phone first with my husband, then my father, both of whom were sympathetic but who kindly told me they were not planning to leave work to come rescue the bird.

I had a couple of choices. I could leave the bird, go to work, and try to pretend like it wouldn’t die in the six or seven hours til my husband got home. I’d be an unproductive wreck all day worrying about the stupid sparrow stuck in the fence, so I nixed that. Or, I could figure it out myself, and since I wasn’t going to be able to stomach getting the bird out of the gate, that meant finding help.

To put this in perspective, I live in the city. I believe in the best in people, but I once locked myself out of my house in socks in the rain, and when I went next door to use my neighbor’s phone, she told me no, clearly hesitant to let me (at the time a 25-year-old woman with no more lethal weapon than wet feet on her floor) in. So it’s no wonder that relying on the kindness of strangers wasn’t my first thought. But I had seen a crew of workers doing construction two doors down. I figured these were the least fraidy-cat people I was going to find at 10 am on a weekday morning, so with the bird’s life hanging in the balance, I marched over.

“Hello,” I said, somewhat embarrassed to play the damsel in distress but willing to do it for the sparrow. “There is a bird stuck in my fence. I am afraid of animals and I don’t really know how to get it out. Can one of you help me?” Within thirty seconds, I had a co-liberator. Within five minutes, he had gotten the bird away from the fence and we worked together for ten more, using scissors to remove every last bit of string from its foot. Its leg was badly injured, but the second my buddy released him, the bird flew off. By the way, the sparrow’s savior didn’t even speak English, so more than likely he had no idea what he was getting into when the crazy lady stomped onto his construction site waving her arms around. He just came and helped anyways.

Working with nonprofits and reading all the appropriate nonprofit blogs, I see posts about “making the ask” all the time. It’s a tough thing to do, asking someone to support you, to support your cause, to open their wallet or take precious hours of their time to do a necessary job. When our fundraisers set up a GoodTwo campaign, we admittedly make the ask just a little bit softer thanks to the fact donors are getting a great deal along with their donation. But my sparrow experience this morning taught me a few valuable lessons about the ask–whether you’re asking people to support your GoodTwo campaign, to donate money, or to give you a few hours on a Saturday morning–I thought I’d share with you:

  • It’s easy to ask someone for something when there’s no other option. Your organization needs money to operate. You need to meet your fundraising goal for your marathon or you’ll have a hefty charge on your credit card. You can’t stomach the idea of a bird dying a slow death while you order an iced coffee at Starbucks on your way to the office. Whatever the reason, don’t think of the ask as an option–recognize that it’s necessary.
  • People want to help. The more cynical of us may believe that there aren’t a lot of good people left in the world, but the fact of the matter is that our jobs, our missions and our successes often depend on not just the kindness of others, but the kindness of strangers. My co-liberator may have gotten roped into one tough task today, but he left my driveway with a huge smile on his face.
  • Your message doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be clear. When I asked for help today, I didn’t realize that the person I was asking didn’t even speak the same language I did. But the fact I needed assistance was written all over my face. No one wants to fundraise based on desperation, but it’s worth telling your donors how important their contributions are to you–and how much you NEED them to function, fulfill your mission, and thrive as an organization.
Whether you’re running a GoodTwo campaign, organizing a gala or recruiting donors, you’re asking people to support you, your organization, or your mission. Remember why it’s so important to ask them, and make your message strong enough that those who are naturally inclined to help will understand that you need them.

Rising to the (Mass)Challenge!

May 26, 2011

In the six months since GoodTwo launched, our team has been working diligently to create a platform that makes sense for fundraisers, to bring some awesome causes aboard, and to get some great deals for them to run as fundraisers. We feel like we’ve been succeeding, but it’s always great to hear someone else agree. This week, we found out that we’ve been named finalists in MassChallenge. Touted as the world’s largest startup competition, MassChallenge provides finalists with summer office space (overlooking the water, we might add), mentoring, startup bootcamps, networking, and more. It’s a huge honor to be one of the 125 companies chosen out of the original 733 that applied this year.

We also have you to thank. Our supporters voted for and endorsed us, which helped us in the push to the finish. More than that, those of you who are fundraising with us are proving every day that the whole “daily deal” trend can, in fact, be used for great things. The businesses who’ve partnered with us are showing people that businesses aren’t just about bottom line, but they’re also about helping great causes out. In the end, it’s an affordable thing for everyone: great causes are raising money for free, donors are getting great deals made even better by the fact that part of their donation is going to the cause, and businesses are getting to pair up with these great causes and welcome some of the cause’s supporters through their doors, where they’ll surely become loyal customers.

We love this win-win-win ecosystem and we are pretty sure it’s why we’re entering the finals of MassChallenge. We’re excited about the collaboration and mentorship throughout the summer, and we hope you are too. It’s this type of interaction that will bring us great ideas for making GoodTwo an increasingly better way to fundraise.

And of course, we always want to hear from you. If you have ideas, questions or comments, email us at This is an exciting time for us all, and we are looking forward to bringing more fundraisers onto our platform, raising money with great deals for their donors!