5 ways ‘Groupon for good’ could be better

The 800 lb gorilla in the fight for deals actually started as a group-action fundraising and civic engagement platform. Who knew? After the for-profit arm took off, they’ve recently returned to their giving roots – but they have a ways to go before they master their original intentions.

The “G-Team” offers Groupon’s familiar platform, but this time they highlight a nonprofit project, campaign or need. My organization was approached to pilot the G-Team’s efforts in a new market and, attracted to the novelty of the idea, accepted. The G-Team staff was creative, responsive, supportive and did everything they could to ensure our campaign’s success. Still, there are a few things Groupon and new organizations/campaigns should consider. groupon g-team

1. Customers expect deals, give them one

If you subscribe to Groupon, Living Social, Daily Deals or any of the daily customer discount sites/emails, you know that the premise is the ‘deal’. Offers are 50% of even more for haircuts, meals, oil changes or even vacations. Groupon subscribers and visitors have developed a pavlovian response and expect to see a deal. In watching other nonprofit campaigns for particular projects, most give a flat price opportunity – ‘$10 plants one tree with _____ organization’. Instead, Groupon should strongly encourage a matching donor for your tipping point so that potential donors still see the ‘deal’ they expect – ‘because of a match by ____, $10 means $20 and plants TWO trees with _____ organization’. Better yet, they could make a true corporate philanthropic commitment and match it themselves.

2. Actually promote it

We approached the campaign as a donor acquisition opportunity. This was a chance to introduce ourselves to thousands of new people in our market and attract new supporters at a low, $10 first gift. Problem was, our campaign was not available via the mobile app and wasn’t even in the email sent to the ‘thousands’ of subscribers they shared in conversation. In order to get to our page, subscribers had to open the email, click on the deal, scroll all the way to the bottom (2-3 scrolls down) and click on our little icon in the bottom right. Then like our campaign enough to donate. Not. Likely. If philanthropy is truly a priority, feature the nonprofit program prominently in the daily email, website and mobile app. It wouldn’t even have to be daily. Piggy back on Twitter’s #CharityTuesday or create their own ‘Good Friday’ and feature nonprofit deals weekly or even monthly.

3. Do-it-yourself

You know the cause-themed credit cards? Research released a few years ago (sorry, can’t find it now) showed that they actually brought donations down because a $100 donor to the university, zoo or other organization would sign up for the card and not make their donation. In their mind, they were giving a gift with every credit card purchase. While true, it was fractions of a penny. By the end of the year, instead of the $100 gift, they had contributed $7.24 to the organization. Because of the low-profile given, we were forced to do our own promotion, but determined not to rely on current contributors for fear of the above. We leaned entirely on social media and analytics show the Groupon recruited 3 out of the 51 donors. We recruited the rest.

4. Who’s John Smith?

In order to properly thank new donors and share future opportunities, you need their information. Only first and last names are provided. In response to this, Groupon allows purchasers the opportunity to ‘register their gift’ with the organization. As you can imagine, not one supporter did so.

5. Grow and change

As mentioned, those we worked with directly were supportive but it was quickly clear they had no flexibility or authority to make things better or easier for the organization. Groupon’s G-Team on the surface may be a generous effort on the part of a popular and fast-growing company, but until improvements are made, it will seem like a customer acquisition effort on their part, disguised as philanthropic.

Have you tried G-Team? Do I expect to much from corporate philanthropic efforts? Let me know in the comments.

3 thoughts on “5 ways ‘Groupon for good’ could be better

  1. Having experience myself with the G-Team, I agree completely. Groupon has not made a strong attempt at making this a philanthropic endevour yet. At the moment it appears to be more of an opportunity for them to gain access to free marketing to supporters of non-profit organizations. (Albeit a rather ingenious idea from a marketing standpoint.)

    At Trusted Mentors (www.trustedmentors.org), we were able to secure a matching donor, and the campaign was useful in getting some people who are connected to our organization through networking and social media to donate for the first time.

    However, if Groupon wants to take this seriously, they need to follow your spot on suggestions. Namely 1. Make the opportunity more available to their followers as they claim when they pitch it. 2. Help with locating a matching sponsor. Possibly, connect smaller non-profits to businesses that they work with.

    In all, I enjoyed the G-Team campaign, and it was a very beneficial opportunity for us to get some first time donors and some social media attention that we generally wouldn’t have had. I would recommend participating to any small/medium size non-profit that has a solid social media presence. You will have to do the work, but in my experience, the G-Team provides an opportunity to get yourself in front of potential constituents that you have (ideally) been cultivating through your social media efforts. If done right, even in it’s beginning phases, I believe the G-Team promotion can be beneficial.

    1. Thanks for your insight Scott. Agreed – there are some merits to the program for the right organization. Interestingly enough it sounds like they have some larger national efforts coming – it’ll be interesting to see how those go.

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