Cauzoom is a startup in Cambridge, MA. We incorporated in April and launched in May of 2011; we started working with merchant sponsors in October. We’re a social enterprise committed to the idea that we need to be bold in finding new ways of achieving social outcomes – both within and outside the nonprofit sector – and that technology holds the key to many of these ideas.
We see ourselves as an online community funding tool, channeling community passion towards both business value and social good. We think that technology and social media gives us a new way to aggregate the support of groups that share common goals – whether they share a geographic location or a shared idea. Healthy communities also mean healthy businesses, so we’re intent on delivering true business value to our merchant partners. (This Fall we’ll be unveiling a new product that allows neighborhood businesses to participate in Cauzoom projects – very exciting for us!)
Cauzoom came out of an incubator called Opus Two Collaborative set up in 2010 with the idea of creating innovative web-based companies. During our time with Opus Two, it became clear that there were exciting opportunities emerging for what we call the “cause-related organization” sector. Shifts in perceptions and behaviors – especially around social media – were suggesting whole new ways to bring groups together and challenging long-held assumptions about philanthropy and community support. We set up Cauzoom to explore that potential.
While our intention was to concentrate on the greater Boston area at first, as of November we’ve funded more than a dozen projects in ten states and processed more than $20,000 in transactions. Our early experiments with merchant partners continue, but so far the result is undeniable: an energetic community can come together to fund commonly-held goals, and are happy to support businesses in order to meet their goals. Brands like Whole Foods, Target, and Starbucks have seen significant results in very short amounts of time, not to mention savvy companies like Naked Pizza, Massage Envy, and Kabloom.
Because our recent projects have featured the purchase of gift cards to support projects, many people have asked about how the process works. Generally our merchant partners ship us a supply of cards to distribute as they are purchased so we can send them out within a few days of them being ordered. There’s a tool on the site that shows you when you purchased your gift card and when you can expect it (or when it was shipped). As we grow we’re speeding up our fulfillment process – we’ve already cut down the wait time from 4-5 days to 2 or 3. We’re also rolling out online vouchers in December (Groupon-style) that supporters can print and bring in with them to a location. Online redemption should follow shortly.
When a project reaches its deadline, we wrap up all the contributions (sometimes we have to chase down errant credit cards) and issue a check to the cause partner in the amount that they raised. 100% of funds raised go to the project – we take our fee from our merchant partners. Our project-funding system is “all or nothing,” not a donation system, so if a project doesn’t raise enough money to accomplish its objectives it isn’t funded. That said, earlier this month we rolled out a feature that allows contributors the option of sending their contribution directly to the organization whether or not the project hits its goal – and over 90% of our contributors have chosen this option since it began.
We’re firm believers in the idea that businesses should be nimble and listen to their customers, so to that end we’ll be rolling out new services targeted at helping our cause partners take advantage of the online world more completely. The opportunities are compelling, and now is the time to experiment and find out what works.
We’re also very excited about the possibilities of working with groups who already have communities dedicated to certain causes. We’re experimenting with employee-benefit programs, services for community managers, and promotional services for online businesses. The possibilities are enormous.
Cauzoom is a small company with only three employees operating out of incubator space in West Cambridge, Massaschusetts. We’re privately-held and bootstrapping ourselves along. Working for a startup is sometimes tricky, but we can’t imagine a better way to spend our time than helping committed groups achieve their goals.
Please feel free to contact us at any time – we’d be eager to chat with you!