Like to give to worthy causes while shopping but lack assurances that it's actually having a positive impact? We designed our patent-pending Store to Village (S2V) System to direct mobile donations of shoppers to grassroots projects and to provide live mobile updates showing exactly how the money was used. We call it the BUY GIVE SEE experience, and, if you provide a one-time, start-up contribution to finish the System, we can bring it to the masses. Once it's complete and goes live in Fall 2014, it will be free for everyone to use.
People sincerely want to make the world a better place, but it's hard to know how to help. Americans love to micro-donate to great causes while shopping, and global consumers overwhelmingly favor brands associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality. Yet, when they give at the supermarket, where does their money go? Is it really helping anyone?
The problem is lack of transparency. You buy, you give, but you don't see. We're committed to changing that by partnering with socially conscious businesses in the US and underserved villages in developing countries (starting in Ghana and Malawi). By connecting shoppers directly to deals at great businesses and projects in superstar villages, we ensure that each purchase is meaningful and each donation actually helps someone. As a Peace Corps-inspired social enterprise, we don't just tell you; we show you.
Get deals at partner businesses. Using our app, shoppers peruse promotions at socially conscious partner businesses and redeem promotions of their choosing in exchange for reward points. Shoppers receive reward points for registering the app and shopping at partner businesses, in store or online. In short, they receive great deals for supporting amazing businesses.
Support grassroots projects and customize your donation. Immediately after shoppers redeem a promotion, the app advances to the GIVE window, where shoppers can customize tax-deductible donations by creating “giving moments” in pictures, text and voice recording. It's convenient to give while you shop and intuitive to pass along some of your discount to those in need.
See your impact. Immediately after shoppers submit donations, they see the grassroots projects receiving their funds. We assign donations to active projects based on stated shopper preferences (e.g., water, sanitation, health, education) and giving history (village projects supported in the past). Using the app, shoppers can follow projects (live mobile updates from recipients) and share their positive impacts via social media. They see everything: GPS coordinates, maps, local residents, project applications, budgets, receipts for project expenses, and all phases of project implementation. We connect them directly to recipients in villages, bypassing traditional NGO gatekeepers.
All the pieces of the Store to Village System are already in place – eager shoppers (it's free to use the app), villages, partner businesses, and a web design firm to write the code for the app, website and database.
Shoppers. An overwhelming majority of shoppers (90%) love supporting causes while shopping, but 66% say companies don’t provide enough details about where donations go or how they are used. Shoppers deserve better.
Villages. In early 2014, Village X spent six weeks in Ghana and Malawi recruiting 42 villages. They are excited to improve their communities!
Partner Businesses. In June 2014, Village X recruited several partner businesses (mostly in DC) for the six-to-nine-month pilot phase of the S2V System (soft launch, testing, feedback, refinement), and several other businesses have expressed interest.
But without the S2V System, we can't start working together.
We set our bottom goal at $30,000 because we value your money and want to ensure that nearly all of it goes towards the S2V System. That said, our stretch goal is $70,000 (the cost of a native app-based S2V System). If you can help us achieve that level of success, we will start building a fully-featured S2V System immediately, release the pilot version this year before the holiday giving season, and start funding projects in late 2014 or early 2015.
What are the advantages of the S2V System? Several, actually, as compared to other cause marketing solutions.
- Transparent – Live picture and text updates from the ground showing you exactly how your donation has helped.
- Easy to Use – With our fun, app-based system, shoppers can micro-donate whenever they feel like it, and partner businesses don’t need to change their e-commerce systems.
- Mobile – Village X is a #MobileNGO for shoppers, partner businesses and villages, significantly reducing advertising, giving and monitoring costs for all involved.
- Sustainable – Village X makes money from annual promotional fees paid by partner businesses (consequently, 90% of each donation goes directly to the materials and labor needed to complete village projects, not incidental expenses).
- Dignified – Villages chart their own development paths because local people know what they need to improve their own lives.
$0 - Peace Corps Vol Freebie (free downloads in our gallery)
$5 USD - Zikomo (Thanks in Chichewa)!
$10 USD - Geek for Good (beta test our app!)
$15 USD - Chitenje Card
$20 USD - Beer Pro (1 koozie)
$20 USD - Travel Pro
$25 USD - Photogenic Africa
$30 USD - Beer Pros (2 koozies)
$50 USD - Chitenje Fabric Napkins (2)
$75 USD - Chitenje Fabric Napkins (4)
$100 USD - American Apparel Tri-Blend Tee
$150 USD - Malawian Pottery for Coffee
$200 USD - Malawian Pottery for Beer
$500 USD - Sponsor a Grassroots Project
$1,000 USD - Let's Do Dinner
$2,000 USD - Relaxing Weekend Getaway
$10,000 USD - Travel With Us
$15,000 USD - Discover Malawi
I can't give this time, but I really want to help. How can I? No problem. Follow us @villagexinc on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Flickr. Tell your friends and family about Village X and encourage them to support us. Go outside and shout at strangers about the importance of our campaign!
Where did this idea come from? Village X and the S2V experience arose from two experiments conducted at Friends of Malawi (FOM), a non-profit composed of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers from Malawi. The Grants Committee of FOM asked recipients to post pictures of receipts and project progress to Facebook (popular in Malawi). The experiments confirmed that technology could connect donors and recipients through a powerful multimedia experience. The first experiment took place in Nkhata Bay District, and the second occurred in Mulanje District. Both involved the construction of toilets requested by local communities. We built this mobile reporting experience into the S2V System, adding a mobile shopping experience (promotions at socially conscious businesses) and a mobile giving experience (customized donations to specific grassroots projects).
Redeeming reward points? Each promotion “costs” points. Use the app to peruse promotions (we will show you only the ones you have enough reward points to afford) and, when you find a promotion you like, click on the tile associated with the promotion. After you read the details of the promotion and decide you want it, click on the “redeem” button. You will then receive a promotion code that the partner business will accept. It happens instantly.
Do I give through the app or through my purchase with a partner business? You give through the app, in whatever amount you want, whenever you want, not a set percentage of your transaction with a partner business. You provide your credit card information when you download and register the app. When you donate, we charge the donation to your credit card. Because the giving occurs through the app, partner businesses don’t need to change their e-commerce systems to work with us.
Who am I giving to? You are giving directly to a village handpicked by Village X. Each village’s project committee is responsible for using the funds in accordance with its project proposal and budget. Village X country representatives check on projects and help communities implement Village X’s uniquely transparent approach.
If I can give anytime, aren’t the partner stores irrelevant? Not at all. Our S2V System links shopping and micro donating for three reasons. First, people are accustomed to micro donating while shopping. Second, shopping is a convenient, recurring opportunity for altruistic people to micro donate. Lastly, because we partner with local businesses, and receive annual promotional fees from them, we can pass 90% of each donation directly to a grassroots project. That percentage is unprecedented for the international development industry.
What do I see? Live mobile updates from the ground. Local people send pictures and text using their mobile phones. We strive to put small-scale donors in the US directly in touch with the grassroots impacts of their generosity. We call this approach people-to-people.
Who is responsible for these projects? Each village chooses projects (one project per year for ten years) that benefit the community as a whole. Each village forms a committee to vet and select projects, write proposals and budgets for projects, and send information to Village X via text and photographs using the best telecommunications tool for that village (typically Facebook or WhatsApp). We approve community-oriented projects with reasonable budgets, as local people are best situated to know what they need.
How do the updates get on my phone? Once a village sends updates to us, they are posted to the timeline page of the project. Then updates for projects you support are sent directly to your phone. That way, you can see live mobile updates showing exactly how your donations have helped others.
What's your grand vision? Village X plans to scale in several directions. Starting in DC, we eventually want to partner with socially conscious businesses in every metropolitan area in the United States. After working with many more villages in Malawi and Ghana, we want to expand to other countries in Africa and Southeast Asia. Finally, we hope to share the fundraising capability of the S2V System with existing organizations open to Village X's completely transparent, project-based approach to giving (e.g., US-based nonprofits), thereby magnifying its philanthropic impact.
Have more questions? Check out our website.
Who We Are
Mike Buckler is the founder and CEO of Village X. After returning from Peace Corps Malawi, an experience that forever changed his life, Mike began searching for ways to improve development work in sub-Saharan Africa. While practicing in a law firm, he volunteered his spare time as a board member and grants coordinator for Friends of Malawi, a non-profit formed by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. Before serving as an education volunteer in Malawi, Mike received a JD from Duke and BS in Electrical Engineering from Cornell. Mike enjoys writing books and articles inspired by his international experiences and traveling on dusty roads in Africa by bicycle.
Lauren Corke is our marketing/advertising guru.
Lauren recently moved to DC from Boston after serving as a deaf education volunteer in Peace Corps Ghana. During her time in Ghana she organized the first nationwide deaf leadership camp and began building a vocational school for deaf students in the Upper East Region. Before joining Peace Corps she received a BA in Art (with a minor in Economics) from Colby College. Lauren enjoys traveling and eating foods that most consider far too sketchy.
Ryan Dunn is our Africanist biz guy.
Ryan recently returned to the DC area after serving as an agriculture volunteer in Peace Corps Niger and Ghana. During his time in West Africa he focused on secondary income development projects and agro-foresty. Before joining Peace Corps Ryan received a BA in African Studies from the College of William & Mary. In his spare time, Ryan enjoys writing about and photographing beer in the developing world. For more on Lauren and Ryan, check out their excellent blog featuring beers from around the developing world.
David Fields is our strategic partnership jedi.
David is the director of the National Peace Corps Association’s Africa Rural Connect Initiative, which connects the technical expertise of universities with the social and cultural understanding of Peace Corps Volunteers. David served as a Water and Sanitation Volunteer in Peace Corps Ghana, where he worked with several USAID programs. Before joining Peace Corps David received a BS in Biology from Marshall University and worked at the Marshall University Research Center and Huntington Wastewater Treatment Plant.