Where Are All the Online Cause Marketing Solutions?

How would you like to be in my book Cause Marketing for Dummies? Here's what I'm looking for. I have a whole chapter devoted to online cause marketing. Within it, I want a section for e-tailers and other online businesses that want to partner with and raise money for causes online.

When I first outlined the section, I had a couple good ideas in mind. The first was Change Round-Up, about which I wrote gushingly a while back. Before shoppers check out online they're asked to make a donation. Online point-of-sale! But the last time I talked to the owner of Change Round-Up he said he was shuttering the business. Too bad.

The other online solution I hope to include in my book was Endorse for a Cause, about which I've also positively written. EFAC's online widget on individual web pages allows shoppers to share brands and products with their friends over Twitter and Facebook, triggering a donation to their favorite causes.

Great idea. But when I did a random search for its badge on its partners websites I didn't find any. Maybe I didn't look hard enough. But maybe EFAC is a great idea whose time has not yet arrived.

So I went back to the drawing board and looked for some online cause marketing solutions that would work for causes and companies.

I really like Beanstalk Giving, which seems to be the successor to Change Round-Up. Like the latter, Beanstalk has a web tool that allows shoppers to add a little extra, either by rounding-up their change or adding $2-$3 to their total - which then goes directly to a charity of the donor’s choice.

Another idea is Katchingle which allows you to make micropayments for online content. According to the site, you can put a Kachingle medallion on anything (e. g. site, blog, individual page, app). After a user sets up an account they can make small recurring payments wherever they see the medallion. They can also see who else is making payments. Cool.

This could be applied to online cause products. Similar to Endorse for a Cause, shoppers wouldn't have to buy the item, they could just Kachingle an environmental cause when they visit Timberland and Patagonia online.

Kachingle could also be used on nonprofit web sites for donors to make small donations when they see or read content that resonates with them. Every cause video on Youtube should have a Kachingle medallion!

The challenge is, of course, that most people have no idea what Kachingle is. I didn't until three days ago. As one author wrote last September, "A year and a half after the Internet first started buzzing about it, Kachingle hasn’t really caught on." That might be an understatement.

But I hope Kachingle and online cause marketing does catch on. An extra jingle of coins for nonprofits when so many are struggling would be a welcome sound.

Endorse for a Cause is Worth the Pause

Endorse for a Cause (EFAC) is the new online cause marketing site on the block. The goal of the site is a simple one: "Every time you and your friends shop and share, you can earn money for your favorite cause." This is how it works.

The really interesting part about EFAC is its connection with social networks. When online shoppers share brands and products with their friends over Twitter and Facebook retailers donate a percentage of sales to their favorite causes.

I had the chance to catch up with EFAC's President and Founder Ed Trimble last week and discussed his ambitions for the site.

Ed shared that while consumers can simply use the EFAC site as a portal to shop online and help their favorite charities, the real goal is to get the EFAC plug-in on as many shopping sites as possible. Ed and I agreed that while the charity shopping portals of old were a good idea on paper, they never worked. Consumers used them a couple of times and then forgot about them.

This will be less likely if the EFAC plug-in is prominently displayed on the retailer's shopping page.

The great thing about the EFAC plug-in is that it fits any site, large or small online business, so the democratization of cause marketing via social media continues. Small businesses can empower consumers to market their online products and services to their friends in exchange for a percentage back to worthy causes. That's win-win.

I was curious about Ed's take on moving beyond Twitter and Facebook to Foursquare, Gowalla and other location-based networks. Ed assured me that it's in the works (one battle at a time), but you have to wonder how this would work with the current EFAC model, which is link based.

Could a similar rewards system for charities be location-based? A shopper shares a link about a fabulous new store and if a friend comes in with special link or code they get a discount? Of course, the best way to link offline items with EFAC would be bar codes. Scan the bar code, share it with a friend over Twitter, Facebook or even Foursquare--along with a picture of the product--and if they buy the product the retailer (or manufacturer) would reward the charity.

It's all very interesting. I have to admit that I haven't been a big fan of online cause marketing tools. They've expected too much of consumers and gave back too little to causes. However, thanks to social networks the timing is right for an online cause marketing platform to flourish. But which one will it be? Which will you endorse?