I recently learned about a very interesting online platform that leverages the power of collective action to trigger daily consumer deals for a range of products and services. Groupon.com, which started in 2008 to make it easier for people to enjoy great things in their community by offering daily deals at unbeatable prices through the power of collective buying, has apparently started to take off.
Currently offering deals in 15 cities in the U.S., Groupon.com creates purchasing deals with art museums, restaurants, spas and other businesses that go live only when a critical mass of people sign up for the purchase and act as a collective buyer. If the minimum number of people sign up for the daily offer which expires at midnight each day, they each get a printable gift certificate in their email box the next morning, which can be used whenever they want. If enough people don’t sign up, no one gets the coupon and no one is charged.
This past few days Groupon offered a one-year membership at Chicago’s Art Institute at 64% off the full price; deep discounts for spa services in San Francisco; and sushi dinner discounts at a trendy Japanese restaurant in Washington, D.C.
I thought this model could be great for small, targeted philanthropic projects – especially those that are time-sensitive and have an urgency to their funding. Imagine an offer that would give a limited number of donors the opportunity to give to a special project and know that it would be fully funded within hours! Say a Chicago soup kitchen that is struggling to feed the growing numbers of hungry Chicagoans promotes a special Thanksgiving meal project to feed an additional 500 needy people at a special $10 per person meal cost and gives Groupon followers the opportunity to fund it. Bingo! The project is completely funded in 24 hours. Imagine the next natural disaster and how quickly and effectively funds could be raised and put to work to meet immediate needs. Well, you get the idea.
Groupon is mostly about commerce. I would like to see it become a social engine for good work too. Let me know if your organization decides to give it a try in your community. It could open the door to a whole new philanthropic revenue stream.
Gail Hyman is a marketing and communications professional, with deep experience in both the public and private sectors. She currently focuses her practice, Gail Hyman Consulting, on assisting Jewish nonprofit organizations increase their ranks of supporters and better leverage their communications in the Web 2.0 environment. Gail is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.