CauseWorld: Make your shopping count

I’m back from the dead again, I know.

I thought I’d use this platform, for whatever it’s worth, to mention a new app that’s been released for iPhone and Android.  It’s called CauseWorld, and here’s the basic premise:

Corporations pledge to donate money to charities based on your shopping visits to certain stores.  You don’t have to buy anything at these stores, but you “check in” at the store using the phone’s geolocation feature.  Checking in gets you a certain number of “karma” credits.  Once you accumulate credits, you can “spend” them on charities that have signed up through the CauseWorld program.

Essentially, you get to choose where certain corporations (at the moment, Kraft and Citi) allocate their charitable donations.  Just open the app and check in when you’re out doing your normal shopping, and then spend the karmas you accumulate on the charities of your choice.

I’m all for charitable giving, and the corporations are all about encouraging economic activity by getting you out shopping.  This app leverages those interests, which can certainly be seen as competing interests, into something that I believe is immensely powerful.  It turns over control of these corporate donations to you and I, people who are interested in helping out where we can.  We get to evaluate the charities ourselves and, hopefully, make wise choices on how to allocate this corporate money.

I want to accomplish two things in this post:

First, I want to encourage anyone out there with an iPhone or Android-based smartphone to download the free CauseWorld app and use it all the time.  You don’t even have to change your shopping habits.  Just use it in the normal course of your day.

Second, I want to help you spend your “karmas” wisely.  So, I’m providing a list of the charities, what they claim to do with the karma credits, and their Charity Navigator star ratings (out of four stars).  Charity Navigator evaluates charities based on a number of factors, including the percentage of their donations that directly relate to their charitable activity (rather than administration, etc.).  I’m not necessarily going to rate the particular causes, but I would encourage you to give first to the 3- or 4-star-rated charities, since you’ll get the most bang for your (corporate) buck that way.

Currently there are nine charities associated with CauseWorld:

  • Carbonfund.org (NR) – 1 karma offsets 2 pounds of carbon emissions
  • DonorsChoose (4) – 5 karmas for ??? toward netbooks for a South Side Chicago classroom
  • Prevent Child Abuse America (1) – 5 karmas for ??? toward child abuse prevention
  • Feeding America (3) – 14 karmas for one food bank meal
  • CHF International (4) – 30 karmas for one month of clean water for a Sudanese person
  • American Humane (3) – 50 karmas for ??? support for the care of an injured animal
  • Jane Goodall Institute (4) – 100 karmas for 1 pound of food for chimps in the Congo
  • American Forests (4) – 100 karmas for 1 planted tree in the rainforest
  • Room to Read (4) – 100 karmas for a children’s book for SE Asian kids

There’s a more immediate need than any of these causes today in Haiti, and plenty of good organizations will be supporting that effort as well.  For now, they’re not part of CauseWorld.

I think I’m going to start out with CHF International because of the severity of the water crisis in Africa, although there are a number of highly-rated charities participating.  I’m probably going to steer clear of Prevent Child Abuse America and Carbonfund.org (at least until it gets a rating), and I will probably favor the non-animal charities over the animal charities (even though I love our pets).

Hopefully this kind of thing inspires you to give in the same way it inspires me.  I know I’m always amazed at the power of technology, both good and bad, and I hope you’ll join me in supporting one of its good uses.  Check out the CauseWorld website to learn more and download the app.

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