In the traditional fundraising model, people or organizations needing to raise funds typically knock on corporate doors asking for philanthropy. (That is, when they are not selling chocolate bars, coupon books or engaging in other proactive activities.) A mom looking to buy new books for her child’s library, for example, would ask retailers like Indigo for a donation from their philanthropic pool. The trouble is, philanthropy dollars are severely limited and tireless efforts by moms only achieve so much, while doing little for a company’s bottom line. The question becomes: how does one improve the conventional approach so that fundraisers, non-profits and merchants reap the desired benefits?

Better The World’s FlipGive: A unique digital marketplace

Enter Better The World. Providing technology that powers innovative fundraising and social responsibility programs, the company recently introduced a unique digital marketplace called FlipGive. By connecting merchants to consumers through peer-to-peer fundraising, the platform has essentially revolutionized grassroots fundraising and corporate philanthropy.

Here’s how: Better The World understood that the best approach for fundraisers was not to ask companies to cut cheques from their corporate philanthropy fund. What was needed was a program that directly accessed corporate marketing dollars―in the case of Indigo, for example, this budget was substantially greater than its philanthropic budget. Directing marketing funds toward good is the key to Better The World’s successful model, as it unlocks way greater value than a donor-inspired cheque.

Better The World also realized that, instead of hoping customers would support their own cause-driven campaigns, retailers would achieve more success by supporting causes picked by their customers. And the business, in turn, would benefit by attracting more consumers.

The customer-centric FlipGive platform allows community fundraisers to sell retailer and brand offers to friends, family and neighbours in a peer-to-peer fundraising format, all online, to raise money for their local cause. The program also offers an application for corporate charitable partners to create employee engagement activities and another to help them launch their cause marketing campaigns.

The turnkey digital marketing platform can be integrated into every corporate brand, allowing retailers to create an offer that is targeted at fundraising groups. The offer(s) can be as broad or narrow as the retailer desires and companies can target fundraising groups aligned with their brand. Better yet, the program is scalable and profitable. Better the World supports each merchant’s efforts by securing fundraisers through a partnership, revenue-share model.

An example of this program is Indigo’s Adopt a School initiative. Any elementary school can join, and instead of parent-teacher associations selling chocolate bars to raise money for library books, schools can create a customized fund on Indigo’s new platform. The school can then sell a great offer—in this case $25 Indigo gift cards, where, for each one sold, Indigo donates $12 to the school for the purchase of books. And what does Indigo receive in return? New customers and greater brand recognition. Marketing dollars put to effective use!

In its first eight weeks, the Indigo program saw over 700 schools sign up, with over 50,000 books donated, representing a $600,000 investment in elementary school libraries. Better The World is hoping to get 1,000 schools on the platform by the end of the year (2013).

Better The World—the first International B Corp— is creating other innovative digital fundraising platforms too. Aeroplan’s Beyond Miles allows individual members to create their own peer-to-peer fundraising page too, aligning Aeroplan currency with causes members care most about.

The company has also created a platform for SPY, an athletic eyewear and apparel company that receives an overabundance of sponsorship requests from amateur athletes. Those athletes are now directed to a FlipGive platform where they can customize a fundraising page. For each $40 SPY electronic gift card sold, they receive $20 in cash.

A bright future: Accolades and series A financing secured

Those projects are just the beginning for Better The World. Its pilot project for Indigo won Strategy Magazine’s Cause + Action award 2012 and the company is pursuing additional merchant relationships. As well, having just closed a series A round of financing, the innovators are busy building the next iteration of their platform.

The Case Studies in Social Innovation database is a joint initiative between SiG @ MaRS and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.