Giving Forward’s first initiative is in cause marketing powered publishing. However, we expect to launch platforms in many areas of cause marketing, volunteerism and alternative modes of philanthropy.
Cause Marketing Powered Publishing (CMPP):
Global digital advertising revenue is estimated to be $333.25 billion according to eMarketer. All of that revenue is driven by content consumption; the attention and behavior of consumers. What if great content combined with the passion that consumers have for their favorite nonprofit causes to harvest one billion in advertising revenue, converting it into cause marketing donations to nonprofits. That’s Giving Forward’s objective.
Cause marketing powered publishing is distinctive:
- Content is “Donated” to one of the Giving Forward brand websites by the “Creator” or co-created with the Giving Forward team (mostly volunteers) and tagged with the nonprofit selected by the Creator (Creator’s Cause). When that content is read/consumed the consumption is tracked and Giving Forward uses a points-based system to allocate 25% of the advertising revenue to the Creator’s Cause.
- Readers/Consumers of the content are equally important. Without them, there would be no advertising and sponsorship revenue. When they register, their content consumption (which generates ad revenue) turns into points as well, and their chosen cause gets 25% of ad revenues.
- Giving Forward (also a nonprofit) retains the 50% remaining ad revenue to cover the costs of running the websites and the nonprofit.
History of the nonprofit Giving Forward, founded in September 2019. (sometimes it’s useful to know the back-story of the founder Kevin Lee and his obsession with cause marketing)
2003: While running Didit, a digital marketing and technology firm (still operating successfully if you need help with digital marketing) with biz-partner David Pasternack, Kevin Lee has the idea of cause marketing powered eCommerce controlled at the LAN (Local Area Network) level. Kevin registers the domain We-Care.com and has programmers start work on a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) of something the team calls a PTP (Partially Transparent Proxy).
2007: The We-Care.com “Shop with Purpose” charity mall is built alongside the technology where registrants can elect to have 50% of the merchant commission on their purchase through the We-Care mall donated to the nonprofit their chose. Amazon and 1800+ other online merchants are part of the mall.
2008: The PTP technology gets significant resistance from IT teams who don’t care that commerce on their networks (including college campuses), could be generating hundreds of thousands in revenue for nonprofits. Kevin Lee and his decides the PTP faces too many hurdles in deployment, so work begins on browser plugins as an alternative.
2009: We-Care releases a browser plugin that helps assure that Member’s causes get the 50% of the affiliate commission when they shop online at participating merchants
July 2012: With the help of millions of We-Care Members We-Care has donated over $7 million to the nonprofit causes selected by those Members. Amazon, We-Care’s biggest merchant partner (by far) requests a test to demonstrate: a) any increases on conversion rate to purchase as a result of the We-Care platform reminding consumers of their nonprofit getting a micro-donation after purchase b) any increases in average shopping cart size, c) any increases in frequency of purchase as a result of We-Care Membership and communications. All three metrics showed lift, some fairly significant. After being presented with the data, Amazon promises to review it in detail. Shortly thereafter, Amazon modifies the TOS (terms of service) of it’s associate/affiliate program to effectively prohibit the We-Care technology (alerting We-Care of the change). Impact on We-Care is to lose 43% of revenue (half of which went to nonprofits)
October 2013: Amazon launches SMILE, a near clone of We-Care, “inspired” by the We-Care test data.
2015: We-Care plateau’s at $8.3 million generated for nonprofit causes and effectively shuts down.
2017: Kevin Lee wonders if the We-Care model could effectively be applied to online publishing (not journalism, more like Medium) and starts white-boarding the technology and business model. He calls the model CMPP (Cause Marketing Powered Publishing). When DNAInfo and Gothamist are shut down Kevin tries to negotiate purchase of the assets, but those are sold to WNYC, New York’s Public Radio station, funded by an anonymous philanthropist. Then Kevin notices that a Kickstarter is attempting to raise $500,000 to buy Gawker.com (the domain and archives) out of the bankruptcy.
2018: The Save Gawker Kickstarter fails to reach the $500K goal and Kevin gets the idea to run Gawker using the CMPP converting the brand to “Gawker For Good.” Advertising Age and others cover the news and the plan. Kevin and Didit win the first round of the auction and are converted into the “Stalking Horse” bidders for the final round. Peter Theil drops out of the bidding and agrees not to litigate the winner on the archives, which gets another couple of bidders interested, including the final winner, Bryan Goldberg of Bustle Media.
2019: After failing to acquire LennyLetter and RookieMag, two stagnant domains with good potential as CMPP test cases, Kevin comes to the realization that to best prove the model of Cause Marketing Powered Publishing AND to deliver the greatest social impact, the most elegant method would be for the publisher entity itself to also be a nonprofit. That becomes the catalyst for Giving Forward.