Nonprofit tries Groupon — is it worthwhile?

In my daily Groupon email the other day, I saw an interesting announcement: $15 for a $30 Charitable Donation to Save the Children.

See it here. (I’ve also posted a screenshot below in case this page goes away.)

I’m skeptical. Several things seem askew:

The audience

As Groupon proudly points out in its own demographics research, only 3% of their subscribers are age 55 and up. Those ages 45-54 add only another 11%. That is not very fertile ground for fundraising.

An audience that young is extremely unpromising for fundraising. (On the plus side, their audience is 77% women.)

The offer

The offer is a variation on the proven matching grant offer. But it’s oddly expressed, using he language of coupons. Might work, but I’ve found that there’s a pretty narrow box for the ways you can describe the impact of matching grants if you want it to work.

Also, an ask of just $15 seems odd. It may be a good price point for Groupon coupons, but with online average donations hovering between $50 and $100, it looks like leaving money on the table.

The copy

Groupon uses a distinctive copy style that’s breezy and sarcastic. Clearly effective on Groupon. But rather at odds with the emotional state that goes with charitable giving. Check it out:

Heroes come in many forms, from caped crusaders tussling with evil geniuses to humble, hair-netted lunchladies locating accidentally tossed-out retainers and fighting crime with super-sloppy Joes. Foster your own inner paladin with today’s Groupon: for $15, you can make a $30 donation to Save the Children, the leading independent organization for children in need.

Given all that, I’ll be surprised if this project pencils out for Save the Children.

But the real headline here shouldn’t be that some blogger (me) can poke holes in the project. Anyone could do what I just did. And someone nearly always does, which often leads to throttling of new ideas. The big deal is that they tried something new.

Most new things don’t work. But if you let that fact stop you from trying new things, you’ll never make progress.

Regardless of what happens here, Save the Children will learn something. And as long as that learning isn’t Never try anything new ever again, they win. They’re going to experience a surprising success, or an embarrassing failure. Or more likely something in between. In any case, they’ll know useful things after this that they didn’t know before.

My hat’s off to Save the Children for doing this.

Stcgroupon


Comments

28 responses to “Nonprofit tries Groupon — is it worthwhile?”

  1. I actually think this is great Jeff and thankfully at the end of this post you recognise that it was brave of them to try this. As you say trying new things is important and I hope this post encourages other organisation to try new and different things.
    In terms of the tone of the offer, the offer itself and the target audience, I actually the reasoning for the first two is impacted by the last part (if that makes sense). I didnt know the stats but its clear that the audience of groupon is younger, maybe not a trad non profit audience as you suggest, but thats not to say that they wont donate. I think the ask amount may be set at 15 to attract them, I think the tone of the copy is clearly to attract them too (and honestly I wouldnt mind seeing more charities use copy like this…its nice and engaging).
    Anyway, thanks for bringing this to our attention, I really like it.

  2. I actually think this is great Jeff and thankfully at the end of this post you recognise that it was brave of them to try this. As you say trying new things is important and I hope this post encourages other organisation to try new and different things.
    In terms of the tone of the offer, the offer itself and the target audience, I actually the reasoning for the first two is impacted by the last part (if that makes sense). I didnt know the stats but its clear that the audience of groupon is younger, maybe not a trad non profit audience as you suggest, but thats not to say that they wont donate. I think the ask amount may be set at 15 to attract them, I think the tone of the copy is clearly to attract them too (and honestly I wouldnt mind seeing more charities use copy like this…its nice and engaging).
    Anyway, thanks for bringing this to our attention, I really like it.

  3. It is good to see Groupon acknowledging 100% of the donation goes to the charity since they are known for taking a very healthy (for them) slice of the price on their normal deals.
    I wonder if this would work better using an item from their gift catalogue rather than a straight donation wording.

  4. It is good to see Groupon acknowledging 100% of the donation goes to the charity since they are known for taking a very healthy (for them) slice of the price on their normal deals.
    I wonder if this would work better using an item from their gift catalogue rather than a straight donation wording.

  5. Christine Avatar

    Do we know if there is a donor matching all the donations? (Donating $15 for every $15 donated?)

  6. Christine Avatar

    Do we know if there is a donor matching all the donations? (Donating $15 for every $15 donated?)

  7. Dan Geaves Avatar
    Dan Geaves

    It is good to hear you actually acknowledge the charity for trying something new Jeff.

  8. Dan Geaves Avatar
    Dan Geaves

    It is good to hear you actually acknowledge the charity for trying something new Jeff.

  9. Dick Kellogg Avatar
    Dick Kellogg

    What my be missing in the discussion of is it going to be worthwhile is the number of new donors they will add to their list for future solicitation. Does Save the Children receive this information? But outside of that, I like the idea. Philanthropy has a role of educating people about giving and this may create traction in a new group.

  10. Dick Kellogg Avatar
    Dick Kellogg

    What my be missing in the discussion of is it going to be worthwhile is the number of new donors they will add to their list for future solicitation. Does Save the Children receive this information? But outside of that, I like the idea. Philanthropy has a role of educating people about giving and this may create traction in a new group.

  11. I think it’s brilliant, and a creative twist on the old matching/challenge gift idea. By my count, Save the Children raised almost $60,000 and added nearly 2,000 new or renewing donors through this Groupon. And young people might not be fertile ground for fundraising, but if they’re stewarded well, that $15 or $30 donation is only their first step on the “gift ladder”.
    Your praise for the idea is spot-on; I think the skepticism is better saved for ideas and tactics that are more deserving of it.

  12. I think it’s brilliant, and a creative twist on the old matching/challenge gift idea. By my count, Save the Children raised almost $60,000 and added nearly 2,000 new or renewing donors through this Groupon. And young people might not be fertile ground for fundraising, but if they’re stewarded well, that $15 or $30 donation is only their first step on the “gift ladder”.
    Your praise for the idea is spot-on; I think the skepticism is better saved for ideas and tactics that are more deserving of it.

  13. I agree. Jeff, it would be good if you could follow up and find out how this campaign did. Kudo’s for coming up with a new idea.

  14. I agree. Jeff, it would be good if you could follow up and find out how this campaign did. Kudo’s for coming up with a new idea.

  15. Jeff – great post, and great questions. My only point of contention is that Kiva actually did something like this months ago with Groupon
    Might a curious blogger be curious enough to contact them and see how it worked out?

  16. Jeff – great post, and great questions. My only point of contention is that Kiva actually did something like this months ago with Groupon
    Might a curious blogger be curious enough to contact them and see how it worked out?

  17. This seems like a terrible idea.
    Groupon is a coupon service which is designed to attract people to make a purchase through deep discount. Its users are bargain hunters, not brand advocates.
    Just as a “$30 massage for only $15” communicates to bargain hunters that a business can afford to charge less, a “$30 donation for only $15” communicates to potential donors that they can budget less for charitable giving because someone else will pick up the slack.
    Non-profits should never lead anyone to believe that they can easily get their support from elsewhere. Instead, it’s crucial for everyone to understand that the community supports non-profits collectively.

  18. This seems like a terrible idea.
    Groupon is a coupon service which is designed to attract people to make a purchase through deep discount. Its users are bargain hunters, not brand advocates.
    Just as a “$30 massage for only $15” communicates to bargain hunters that a business can afford to charge less, a “$30 donation for only $15” communicates to potential donors that they can budget less for charitable giving because someone else will pick up the slack.
    Non-profits should never lead anyone to believe that they can easily get their support from elsewhere. Instead, it’s crucial for everyone to understand that the community supports non-profits collectively.

  19. I’m not sure I agree with Robby.. Groupon does appeal to the bargain hunters, but they’re trying to position themselves as purveyors of cool – finding deals and opening up new places to the people that buy the deals…
    Like Jeff, I’m delighted that someone tried it, and I can see benefits in it. The matching is likely to inspire someone to give when they might not otherwise – who wouldn’t want to double their money?
    My biggest concern with the concept is that groupon are known (in some areas), for being all about getting the deal – and so their cut of the deal. If coupon buyers don’t use the voucher, they’re not interested. If a retailer wants the details of voucher buyers who didn’t use it, they can’t get it.
    So from Save the children’s point of view – how much info did they get? As a one off trial it’s just a neat idea – like any deal featured. The key for anyone getting a deal featured is turning that trial purchaser into a loyal customer – so my query to StC would be – how much info did you get about the donors, what follow-up have you done – did you make sure they know how it worked, and then tailor your donor retention properly?
    Will they get to know these people and keep communicating with them in the same way? (As it’s likely that’s what recruited the nearly 2000 people in the first place)

  20. I’m not sure I agree with Robby.. Groupon does appeal to the bargain hunters, but they’re trying to position themselves as purveyors of cool – finding deals and opening up new places to the people that buy the deals…
    Like Jeff, I’m delighted that someone tried it, and I can see benefits in it. The matching is likely to inspire someone to give when they might not otherwise – who wouldn’t want to double their money?
    My biggest concern with the concept is that groupon are known (in some areas), for being all about getting the deal – and so their cut of the deal. If coupon buyers don’t use the voucher, they’re not interested. If a retailer wants the details of voucher buyers who didn’t use it, they can’t get it.
    So from Save the children’s point of view – how much info did they get? As a one off trial it’s just a neat idea – like any deal featured. The key for anyone getting a deal featured is turning that trial purchaser into a loyal customer – so my query to StC would be – how much info did you get about the donors, what follow-up have you done – did you make sure they know how it worked, and then tailor your donor retention properly?
    Will they get to know these people and keep communicating with them in the same way? (As it’s likely that’s what recruited the nearly 2000 people in the first place)

  21. I also want to know where the other $15 is coming from, groupon or another funder? I’d love to hear a follow-up.

  22. I also want to know where the other $15 is coming from, groupon or another funder? I’d love to hear a follow-up.

  23. Have you noticed “The Point”, which is Groupon’s social-change mother, as it were? http://thepoint.com
    And now, Groupon is combining those, at least in Chicago right now, to the G-team. Their webpage can explain it better than I can in a short time. http://groupon.com/g-team
    Pretty neat though.

  24. Have you noticed “The Point”, which is Groupon’s social-change mother, as it were? http://thepoint.com
    And now, Groupon is combining those, at least in Chicago right now, to the G-team. Their webpage can explain it better than I can in a short time. http://groupon.com/g-team
    Pretty neat though.

  25. Here’s my question, which I didn’t see brought up in the comments yet.
    Whether or not this is good for Groupon, as I understand it, you MUST have a friend use groupon, otherwise you won’t get the discount. So, if nonprofits are starting to use Groupon, like Save the Children, doesn’t this help them increase exponentially the number of donors and potential donors? I mean, even if your donor is deal-savvy, it doesn’t mean they won’t have friends or want to give anyway, right?
    Mazarine

  26. Here’s my question, which I didn’t see brought up in the comments yet.
    Whether or not this is good for Groupon, as I understand it, you MUST have a friend use groupon, otherwise you won’t get the discount. So, if nonprofits are starting to use Groupon, like Save the Children, doesn’t this help them increase exponentially the number of donors and potential donors? I mean, even if your donor is deal-savvy, it doesn’t mean they won’t have friends or want to give anyway, right?
    Mazarine

  27. I’d be very interested in a brief report on how this worked for Save the Children. Most of the groupon comments seemed very positive about the opportunity to making their donations go further through the $225,000 match.

  28. I’d be very interested in a brief report on how this worked for Save the Children. Most of the groupon comments seemed very positive about the opportunity to making their donations go further through the $225,000 match.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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