Paris based startup Tinbox, which was founded in January last year by a couple of friends at Warwick University in the U.K., is aiming to make a business out of letting people donate freely to charities of their choice via a mobile app.
The mobile-only startup, which has just launched in private beta this week with a plan to open up the app to the public in the next couple of weeks (albeit with a waiting list system to manage on-boarding), lets users choose a charity to donate €1 per day to without having to spend any of their own money.
The donation costs the app user nothing because it’s sponsored by one of the companies Tinbox is working with. Why should brands want to give free donation cash? To improve their image and brand perception of course.
Tinbox says SAP has committed to fund 10,000 clicks thus far, and it’s also in discussions with several other “major” brands, as well as working with smaller companies keen to support local charities.
“For app users we solve the problem of not being able to donate to the charity they care about. Our vision is that everyone is able to support the causes to them. Through Tinbox they have 1 euro per day that allows them to do so,” says co-founder David Linderman.
“For the companies we provide visibility for all the good they are doing for charity. Today very few people know that a company is actually engaged in these charitable endeavors so through us people actually find this out.”
The pair came up with the idea for Tinbox after noticing how successful charity campaigns could be on social media — in terms of accruing likes and shares — and wondering whether they could come up with a mechanism that turned those same clicks into actual cash donations.
“We wanted to give charities a way where a very similar clicking action translates into real money for their cause. So a very similar click of a button — similar to a like and sharing — actually translates into one euro for the charity,” he adds.
Tinbox is competing with free charity donation websites that urge people to click to donate by viewing ads, funding donations via ad revenue. However Linderman notes that users of these sites can’t be sure exactly how much they’re donating. The experience is also pretty unpleasant for the user, who either has to watch lengthy ads or endure lots of pop ups — without knowing whether they are really helping charities.
“On these websites there’s actually no way to quantify the amount that the company or the ad is donating to charity. Through us, everyone knows it’s a euro a day,” he says, adding: “Because we create real partnerships with the companies themselves, and not the companies that supply the ads, then we don’t need to show our users any ads. All they know is which companies sponsored their donation.”
The Tinbox app lets users specify what they want their donation to be spent on, as well as who to donate it to. The app will also be a channel where donors can track the progress of projects to which they have donated to see how their money is making a difference.
On the charities side, Tinbox says it has a range signed up thus far — from local initiatives such as sponsored cyclers The Green Wheels to larger nationwide charities such as EXCITED (which is promoting STEM education for Irish children) and Electricians Without Borders.
The startup raised its first round of funding — $100,000 from five business angels — in August last year. And to be clear, it is intending to be a business, not a not-for-profit social enterprise. So while it’s free for app users and charities to use, it is charging companies that sponsor donations a small fee on top of their donations — “for the extra visibility they get for their brand”, as CEO and co-founder Adrien Guilmineau puts it.
Won’t Tinbox run out of donated cash to fund clicks? “Just last year in France alone $2 billion was given to charity by companies (U.S. is $20B, UK $2.4B). That is a lot of clicks before we run out but in order to not have people sitting around waiting for clicks to be sponsored we built a waiting list,” says Guilmineau. “That already has 136 subscribers since Monday when we launched sign ups.”