Two recent Yale graduates have designed an app that aims to increase charitable giving among young people.
Sahil Gupta ’17 and Bill Cavell ’17 are the creators of microChange, a smartphone app that seeks to encourage young people to donate to charity by imitating the strategies of other social media apps. When it launches on Oct. 21, the app will use a Snapchat-like interface to allow volunteers at charitable organizations to show potential donors what they need money to accomplish, as well as the beneficial effects of previous donations.
The app’s prototype is available at the website microchange.io.
“If young people were to get more involved in charitable giving, their contributions combined could make a serious dent in many of the world’s problems,” Gupta said.
For example, an NGO could post a video of a well it is in the process of building to show donors exactly what their money will go toward, he said. Alternatively, an individual could post a video “daring” a friend to make a contribution, Cavell said.
The creators believe the social aspect of the project will drive the app’s success.
“People donate to charity for social reasons,” Cavell said. “They like the feeling of giving, but they also like the feeling of other people knowing that they are doing good.”
Gupta started the project in January after studying computer science at Yale. Cavell, an English major, had previously worked with NGOs in the United Kingdom and joined the project full-time this summer.
Statistically, Cavell said, young people are the least likely age cohort to make donations to charity, and one reason may be the disconnect between the way the young use technology and the way most charitable giving occurs. Crowdsourcing operations such as GoFundMe and Kickstarter have addressed this disconnect in part, but with rising smartphone use across all age cohorts, there is a need for a mobile friendly portal for potential donors, Gupta said.
“What it really boils down to is, you really don’t see your impact,” he said. “If we could bring all the world’s charities to mobile, then we could make a sizable difference in the way people give.”
By using a video-driven interface for the app — modeled on the success of apps like Snapchat and Vine — the creators hope to draw the attention of social media savvy millennials.
Although the creators have yet to contact NGOs regarding the app, Cavell and Gupta hope NGOs will reach out to them once they realize microChange is a low-cost way to promote themselves and their causes, Cavell said. He added that, for NGOs, maintaining a presence on the app will be as simple as asking a volunteer to shoot a 10-second video.
At the moment, Gupta and Cavell are funding the app’s development using personal savings. But after the app’s launch, both creators plan on marketing the app to NGOs and donors alike.
“Honestly, the social part is a big game changer,” said Sam Levatich ’17, a friend of the creators who has tracked the app’s development. “Once you remove high cost and difficulty barriers of donating, when my friends dare me to give, there’s this really positive loop where I’m going to be donating, and daring other people I know, since it’s all philanthropy.”
Americans donated $389 billion to charity in 2016, according to the National Philanthropic Trust.
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Correction, Oct. 16: A previous version of this article referred to the app in question as MicroChange. In fact, it is called microChange.