A new startup wants to help you transform the simple, everyday task of shopping online into social good.
Data Does Good, a company founded by two students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, lets you donate your Amazon.com shopping history and turn it into hard cash for good causes — at no extra cost.
The website takes your anonymous and encrypted shopping history and sells it to brands and retailers looking for trends and valuable marketing information about its consumers, like gender and age. As a public benefit corporation (essentially a hybrid between a for-profit company and a nonprofit), Data Does Good earns money to make the business sustainable, but it donates the majority of its proceeds to any charity of your choice.
The tool aims to use technology and data to change the way people donate, and also increase financial support for worthy causes.
Data Does Good cofounder and CEO Scott Steinberg used to work in market research, where he learned people’s information had untapped potential. He believed people could do good with their data, but they just didn’t have the option.
“This is something everyone has and everyone can use.”
Inspired by modern technology’s effects on fundraising, like the 2014 viral Ice Bucket Challenge, he and his cofounder, Eric Peter, decided to create Data Does Good to combine data and impact, helping consumers and nonprofits alike.
“This resource — your data — is something that everyone has, whether you’re a low-income person living in an urban city center or a mother of three of a rural area,” Steinberg said.
“This is something everyone has and everyone can use. We’re really excited about this as not just a new way to raise money for valuable causes, but as a way to allow everyone, across the demographic spectrum, to participate in fundraising.”
Here’s how it works: You go to the Data Does Good site, select a nonprofit you want to support, and then share your Amazon shopping history in one of two ways. You can either download an Excel spreadsheet of the list of purchases you’ve made in the past and upload it to the site, or you can link your account and Data Does Good automates the process for you.
You also need to provide some information, like your age and income. That kind of info is gold to brands and retailers, helping them understand how consumers shop online. By including it yourself, Steinberg said, it allows Data Does Good to completely anonymize your shopping history and strip it of any personally identifiable information before it sends it to brands.
“It’s really just something you do one time. You may take two or three minutes to do this today, but it will raise money for years to come, without you having to do anything,” Steinberg said.
With the proceeds it gets from its market research tool, Data Does Good then donates $15 a year per user to a nonprofit of their choice. That may not sound like a lot, but Steinberg said when a large number of people participate, the impact magnifies.
“One way to think about it is, ‘Oh, it’s only $15.’ But another way to think about it is, ‘I do this thing that only takes me two minutes … and it raises $15 per year.’ If thousands or millions of people do this, that’s when it starts to have a substantive impact,” he said.
“If thousands or millions of people do this, that’s when it starts to have a substantive impact.”
While users can donate to any charity, Data Does Good also partners with about 50 nonprofits. Those organizations can create custom donation pages, and when they send the tool to their supporters, those individual contributions can be even more beneficial.
But $15 per year for each user is just a starting point. The company is starting with Amazon to perfect the tool, gather feedback and make sure it’s done right — before attempting to expand to other other types of data.
“Everything you do on the internet, you’re generating data about yourself — when you go to Google, when you watch something on Netflix,” Steinberg said. “The goal is really to use Amazon as a proof point, and then expand beyond that in ways that people feel comfortable with, but help them get value from all their different data points.”
Today it might be $15 per year, he said, but in three years, it might be $150 or even $200 per year.
Data Does Good officially launched in November 2016, when it started collecting donations, after the team worked on it for about a year. They wanted to make sure they understood needs from consumers, nonprofits and businesses to make sure it was something desired.
The feedback they’ve received so far has confirmed that. Consumers have said it’s extremely easy to use, while nonprofits have found it to be even more efficient that traditional fundraising, both in terms of reaching new supporters and reinvigorating older relationships.
“That’s not to say we’re replacing traditional fundraising at all,” Steinberg said. “But I think it’s a good complement to that.”
We’re trying to change people’s behavior, and that takes some time
Data Does Good hopes to be a standardized fundraising tool for nonprofits of all sizes — but especially for smaller nonprofits, which may not have a lot of time or resources for big fundraising efforts.
Short-term, Data Does Good wants to expand its number of partnerships with nonprofits and reach as many consumers as possible.
“Our goal over the next nine to 18 months or so would be to just really nail Amazon shopping history and create a couple of million dollars of new funding for nonprofits,” Steinberg said.
Ultimately, he wants Data Does Good to be a “trusted intermediary and partner,” so consumers can get value out of the data they might not realize they possess, and share what they’re comfortable with for a higher purpose.
“We’re trying to change people’s behavior, and that takes some time,” Steinberg said. “It’s doable, but it needs to be done in the right way, and be a good experience for everyone involved.”
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