When my roommate Megan, a first year Teach For America teacher, needed a projector and staplers for her classroom, she used DonorsChoose to gather the funds necessary to make the purchases. I’m excited to tell her about a new fundraising platform directed at educators, youth athletic team coaches, parent groups, and education-related nonprofit organizations called Swellr.
Swellr is a website that links fundraisers, locally-owned businesses and community members. A locally owned business (defined by Swellr as a business with less than ten retail outlets) creates a profile on the Swellr website. A Project Organizer (Megan, for example) creates a profile on the Swellr website stating that she wants to purchase a specific item to directly benefit her students, costing between $50-400. Megan then directs her supporters to the Swellr website, where her supporters can search through the profiles of local businesses participating in Swellr, and select a local business that they want to support. Megan’s friend then uses his/her credit card to purchase a voucher (essentially a gift card) on the Swellr website. Each business featured on the website has promised to donate a specified percentage of the value of the gift card (somewhere between 5-20%) to Megan’s project. Once Megan’s project has been fully funded, Swellr purchases the item that Megan requested and has it shipped directly to Megan.
Swellr is a for-profit social venture that makes their money by charging the business a small fee per transaction – 10% of the value of each voucher purchased on the Swellr website. Project Organizers like Megan are not charged for using the website, and Megan’s supporters receive a voucher in the full amount that they paid for, on the Swellr website. Megan has 90 days from the date that her project is approved by Swellr and posted on the Swellr website in which to fully fund her project. If supporters do not fully fund her project within that time period, then the supporters are issued credits, which they can then allocate to a different project listed on the Swellr website. Megan is not penalized for failing to gather enough supporters to fully fund her project. The only way a supporter loses out is if the supporter does not use the full value of the voucher at the local business in one shopping trip. If the purchase is less than the value of the voucher, then the remaining balance of the voucher is kept by the local business.
Swellr sells itself to businesses as “‘cause marketing‘ campaigns made simple.” Businesses can use the Swellr website to attract new customers – Megan’s supporters who visit the Swellr website looking to purchase vouchers to support Megan. Swellr incentives businesses to give back to the community – the website is set up with a search feature that allows consumers to compare businesses based on “Greatest Impact”. Swellr promotes the idea of shopping locally to consumers who visit the website, informing visitors that “supporting a locally-owned business has three times the economic impact as shopping at big box retail.” So everybody wins! The students, educators, local businesses, and consumers.
Swellr just launched in two Massachusetts towns – Somerville and Cambridge, with the intent to expand if things go well. Check out the local businesses with available vouchers here, and the projects seeking funding, here. here.
Photo credit: Via Flickr
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