One Today, the charitable giving app Google launched into pilot testing this April, is today publicly available to all Android users in the U.S., the company announced this morning. The app, sort of like a Kickstarter for charitable works, asks users to donate $1 (hence the name, “one today”) to the projects they like – the idea being, of course, that with scale, these causes will benefit from such small donations.
Google.org, the search giant’s nonprofit arm, created this app, and receives project donations through its partner, Network for Good, which vets the organizations before their inclusion.
One of the key features of One Today, besides its goal of aggregating what’s essentially pocket change, is that the organizations featured in the app explain how the money is spent down to the dollar (e.g. $1 = X hours of work on Y project). However, once the money is in the non-profit’s hand, they can use it as they see fit.
Organizations likely don’t see One Today as all that helpful in terms of raising any sort of significant funds – the app, live since April and more broadly launched this July, ahead of Google’s “official” announcement today, has somewhere between 10,000 and 50,000 downloads, according to Google Play. The app even goes so far as to limit those who want to give more than $1, explaining via its FAQ: “Individually, you can only donate $1 per project per day. However, if you want to donate more, you can challenge your friends to match your donations.” By challenge, they mean post to social media and spread the word.
In addition, Google charges a 1.9 percent payment processing fee, meaning that a nonprofit gets $9.81 for every $10 donated.
In other words, this isn’t really a big money-raising app, it’s a social promotion tool for non-profits. The real trick here is that, as noted above, One Today allows users to share their donations across email and social media channels like Google+ and Twitter, where users can offer to match their friends’ donations up to a certain limit. This gives non-profits a way to market themselves across social media, without having to create then manage campaigns more directly. Essentially, they can take 10 minutes to apply for a listing on One Today, and then raise awareness about who they are and what they do with folks who will do the tweeting for them.
Longer-term, it’s probably optimistic to think that a majority of people would get into a habit around the daily giving of a dollar a day, but that’s the marketing technique popularized by Sally Struthers and the Christian Children’s Fund (“for the price of just a cup of coffee a day, you can save a life.”). Of course, the charity she spoke for didn’t get users to commit only a dollar, it broke down the annual donation into what sounded like a manageable amount for the purpose of a soundbite.
That being said, One Today certainly serves as useful tool to learn more about the kind of non-profits and charities that are out there and in need of help. But if you really want to do some good in the world, feel free to whip out your checkbook and write a big one to folks like Pencils of Promise, WWF, DirectRelief, Unicef and others. Then feel free to tweet about it after, if you want.