By almost any measure, John Gossart, COO and Co-founder of fundraising resource Goodworld, has done more than his fair share of public service. He served two decades in the military and government, eventually working in a Department of Defense counter-terrorism post that took him to Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq and other countries.
That is, until he decided, in his own words, that “the counter-terrorism world became more of a younger man’s game.” He missed his family, too, but still retained the spark for service, and an entrepreneurial drive. That’s what led him to Goodworld, an online platform that removes the friction from digital donations, making them possible (and secure) by using hashtags.
Now, that work is helping to guide the changes going on in the world of charity and nonprofits, changes that involve payments and the nature of funding, while also offering a glimpse of how commerce and online transactions could be developed in the coming years. Those issues were the main topics during a recent discussion between Gossart and Karen Webster for the latest edition of the PYMNTS Matchmakers podcast series.
When asked to explain the Goodworld model, Gossart told Webster that “we are a social payments platform, but really a payments facilitator.” The firm doesn’t do direct marketing for charities, but instead serves as a “bridge between the nonprofit sector and donors.”
Goodworld uses hashtags and the concept of viral marketing to provide that bridge. In fact, the company, which launched in 2014 and is based in Washington, D.C., is the only social fundraising platform with hashtag-to-donate technology on both Facebook and Twitter. Consumers who sign up with Goodworld can use the donate hashtag to give to charities — nonprofits that might be the subject of a friend’s Facebook post or conversation, for instance, or mentioned in a tweet or Twitter thread. First-time donors receive a reply with a one-time link to sign up, then they can instantly give to thousands of causes anytime, anywhere.
Such a process can lead to online amplification for the charitable cause. Think about it: A person who makes a donation in the public sphere of social media might encourage others to do the same. “Friends and family see you in a conversation” about a charity, and taking action, he said. In addition, human nature teaches us that people — not all of them, but many — enjoy being noticed when doing a positive thing.
This can serve as a powerful force when it comes to online charitable giving via social media. As Gossart put it, “people you know are much more of an authentic ambassador” for a brand or cause than strangers.
Once that online donor goes through the process for the first time, that hashtag payment capability is “portable,” Gossart said. “You can take that with you across all platforms.”
Making payments as easy, quick and seamless as possible, after all, reduces cart and transaction abandonment. According to Gossart, U.S. online shoppers leave behind $1.79 trillion worth of uncompleted transactions every year for various reasons.
Portability and ease of use can both play a major role when it comes to online influencers, too. The Goodworld donate hashtag serves as a call to action, which can be deployed within the Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other social media presences maintained by celebrities, corporations and others — putting a specific charity on a much bigger online stage.
For nonprofits that work with Goodworld, the firm takes a 4.8 percent processing fee for card transactions as its cut, with processor Stripe getting 2.2 percent, plus $.30 per transaction, according to the Goodworld site. (American Express transactions cost more.)
Goodworld is working within a world that is changing. For starters, of the $410 billion for the U.S. charitable giving market, about $31 billion comes from online donations, with digital payments growing more than other sectors. “Older men writing big checks” is still the main form of giving, Gossart said, but those donors are “not being replaced by other older men writing big checks.” Instead, micro-donations — from a larger base of donors — are gaining popularity, which also works in favor of such platforms as Goodworld.
So does the rise of contextual commerce — a major focus of recent PYMNTS research. Simply put, contextual commerce seeks to meet online consumers where they are, and enable them to make transactions when they discover products or services during the course of their online — and social media — activities.
For example, a blog devoted to parenting advice might offer opportunities to buy relevant products, or a band’s touring blog might offer tickets, merchandising or rare demo tracks that can be streamed after purchase. Consumers might be online with no intention to buy anything, but change their minds after engaging with content and other like-minded people.
Those same factors can play a role in online charitable giving. A social media conversation about a cause or charitable need can easily inspire consumers to donate. Giving them a quick and seamless way to do so lessens the chance of them changing their minds, forgetting about it or being deterred by long payment forms on nonprofits’ websites.
As Gossart explained, 74 percent of consumers make consumption decisions based on what they find via social and mobile channels — fertile ground for contextual commerce. At the same time, the “payments industry is doing cheetah flips to get people from a place where they are inspired to make a consumption choice, to a place where they can have a secure transaction experience.” That, too, gives a potential power to the portable donate hashtag — and signals how secure, trusted payment methods could operate more frequently in the coming years, at least in theory.
“Why can’t people pay right in the spot where they were inspired in the first place?” he said.
Larger charities, according to Gossart, are not always the most progressive when it comes to social media. However, smaller ones— often more nimble and experimental — have more willingness to try new online tools, instead of waiting to play catch-up. That may play a role in the further growth of Goodworld.
The company’s growth, in turn, might guide more payments and commerce activity down the road than just online charitable donations. Call it #buy.