Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Even further "embedded" giving

I was hoping I could come up with a term for "deeper than embedded" before writing this post, but my mind failed me. Since I am on vacation this is probably a good sign. So we'll open this up to you, dear readers - what term would you use to describe business models in which the giving element is so thoroughly integrated into the product and its marketing that it is a fundamental piece of the puzzle - even if the giving itself is not the core revenue driver, purpose of the product, or outcome of the service?

Here are some examples:

Contribune provides donor analytic software that allows an organization to track the news that its potential donors read. Users enter the URL of a news story that they care about, and Contribune facilitates donations to related nonprofits, tracks those donations, and elevates the story to the "front page" depending on the actions taken by readers. This seems similar to the services offered by Good2gether.

The Contribune site and blog include a movie that explains the process, but information on who is behind this site and what the revenue model is is somewhat vague (there are photos of the founder, but no last names listed). I presume that revenue (or predicted revenue) will come from selling data (donor analytics) to fundraisers (political and nonprofit) and from news sources. I suppose there could also be a token fee taken off of donations, but my guess is this won't be significant.

Giving is part of this model - but its really just the action that triggers the ratings that trigger the revenue. Sort of the way Nielsen ratings have been used to set broadcast advertising rates.

Contribune also launched a "charity focused URL shorteners - a technology that Twitter has made requisite. This URL shorteners allow you to clip a URL of any length into a shorter one, saving space in twitter and even allowing for some "built in" advertising. This is particularly true with the shortener, as the clip will now look like "" or "" These URL shorteners are loved for the brevity and vanity - they also provide great metrics as you can track who clicked through on the URL and what actions they took. Again, great data of potentially great value.

Last year we saw the development of search engines that enabled giving. Now we've got news sites and URL shorteners. What do you think will be the next technology action to integrate charitable giving? And what should we call this kind of embedded giving?


Unknown said...

Hi Lucy,

Thanks so much for mentioning Contribune. We're really excited about the project. You're correct that we're hoping to generate some interesting data on the kinds of stories, videos, and narratives that best engage users. We hope this data will be helpful and valuable to an organization - in the same way Nielsen ratings are for other media, as you mention. We don't currently plan to charge any fee on the transactions themselves.

We're particularly excited about the role can play in mapping these connections. We have a few interesting features planned for, including the ability to have a donation form for a given cause appear in a top bar after clicking through to a story related to that cause's issue. In this way, embedded giving can really connect the media items we read and watch everyday with the tools to make an impact on the world.


Michael (Twitter: @mmayernick)

Mike said...

I personally like the TOMS shoes model. I buy a great pair of shoes, and then they give a pair to a needy child.

It would be great if more companies took this approach, and then someone had the ability to create an for embedded giving that compiles every company doing this into one place. I know I'd shop there.

Kevin Johnson said...

A key part of the giving conversation is the validation or vetting of giving choices. For many years such validation was the byproduct of the work of reporters and media distribution channels. With decline in reporting particularly at the regional and local levels, there is a fast growing gap. I just wrote a longer piece about this at

Best regards,

Kevin Johnson

Unknown said...

Such businesses might be said to have a "philanthropic kernel" analogous to the OS kernel, defined as "the part of the operating system that is mandatory and common to all other software." See:

Lucy Bernholz said...

Thanks Everyone for writing in. Mike - not sure if this is exactly what you are describing but check out CitizensMarket, the founder of which was just selected as an Echoing Green Fellow.

As for the "kernel" analogy - I like it and it works, but not sure it will be well understood...Is there an adjective that describes the existence of this kernel?

Others have tweeted in with "entrenched" giving and "integrated" giving.

Tommer Peterson said...

Here's a related story in the Seattle Times: