Is your money burning a hole in your pocket, and you’d like to use some of it for good causes, but you don’t know where to begin? A new app called Cradle wants to help. Presented for the first time ever at the Disrupt Hackathon today in New York, and created by New Yorkers Gesina Gudehus-Wittern, Erik Wittern and Philippe Suter — respectively a brand manager and two software developers by day — Cradle lets you identify the kinds of causes you’d like to support, then gives you a list of relevant charities, helps you figure out how much you’d like to give and sets up the payments.
Cradle is tapping into a wider trend in our society: There has been a surge in charitable giving in the last 10 years, which totaled $373.3 billion in the U.S. alone in 2015 (up more than 4 percent on the previous year) according to figures from GivingUSA (the most current figures available). Individuals accounted for over 70 percent of all donations in the last year.
The internet has helped contribute to that growth: people are using platforms like GoFundMe and JustGiving to raise money for their own causes or to help them fundraise on behalf of other charities (for example to sponsor them in a charity run) — both to help spread the word and to make it easier for people to donate.
However, with the growth in communications comes challenges: you have so many places now to find and donate, and so many organizations that can now use the web to reach new donors, that it creates a lot of noise. Similar to a music streaming service with tens of millions of tracks to listen to, presented with a huge trove, you find it hard to think of what to choose and end up listening to nothing at all.
Gudehus-Wittern said the concept for Cradle came about when she and Wittern (who is her husband) decided they would like to donate more to charities themselves but found themselves coming up short on platforms that let them evaluate all their options and set up donations.
“There are so many charities you can give to,” she said. “It seemed to us like a process that is more complicated when you just want to help quickly.” She added that Cradle’s founders “don’t see this as a replacement for getting more involved,” just a way to make a specific kind of financial contribution, perhaps even as a springboard to doing more.
Cradle serves not just as a way of connecting with charities and donating, but also a platform to figure out what kind of function you’d like to support (say homeless programs or cancer research), and helping you subsequently discover which charities might help get you there by way of recommendations.
There are sites already that serve as directories for charities, such as Charity Navigator and Global Giving. What Cradle is doing that is different is that it’s created a very streamlined app to let people navigate and do everything quickly and efficiently on their smartphones. And, it gives its users a way to continue their connections with their chosen charities and causes by subscribing to their social feeds and other services.
By keeping it in the app, and also giving users options of how to engage in the future with the charities, “you don’t end up getting unsolicited messages,” said Gudehus-Wittern. “One problem for charities are sustained donations, and this is one way of helping cultivate that.”
Gudehus-Wittern said that Cradle has made up its initial list of charities that you can support through Cradle by vetting a variety of organizations both directly and using third-party services like Charity Navigator, where the charity had to have a minimum of three stars to be added to the list.
Over time, it will expand the list and give users the ability to propose new additions. Some categories that Cradle has not yet tackled are areas like religious charities. That is actually a huge category: religious charities accounted for 32 percent of all giving in 2015. But it’s also potentially more problematic in terms of conflicting ideologies and agendas, so Cradle for now has left that category to one side.
The app and service right now is just starting out and the intention isn’t to make a profit from it at this point, although there is a fee to cover basic transaction costs and so on.
“We wanted to be extremely transparent,” said Wittern, whose regular job is at IBM. “We will charge a small fee to cover the operations and to make the payment transaction. It’s a fixed fee and not intended to make a profit.”
See the full presentation below: