When Groupon launched in 2008 with its cutting-edge deal-of-the-day model, the idea subsequently attracted hundreds of competitors attempting to poorly replicate the innovative idea. However, DC native Josh Hoffman saw an unprecedented opportunity to add a socially-conscious aspect to the platform, leading to the creation of Deals For Deeds. Each day, the website brings together eager consumers, local businesses, and non-profits in a mutually beneficial manner. Without further ado, discover the online platform that is sweeping the nation’s capital and the brilliant social entrepreneur behind this venture.
You must have done this a thousand times by now, but what is your elevator pitch for Deals for Deeds?
Deal for Deeds, which launched in April 2010, connects businesses, non-profits and consumers in a mutually beneficial way. My partner Harrison Miller and I do this by offering daily promotions to our members and directing a minimum 5% of each sale towards local non-profit organizations. Businesses attract new customers, non-profits receive funding/exposure, and consumers get to try new businesses at a discount while supporting social causes that they care about. It’s a win-win-win model.
If I go on the website, what can I expect to see?
Each day, we have different offers that last from twenty-four hours (on the homepage) to up to ten days (in the Current Deals section). In addition to the deals – ranging from spas, museums, and events – you’ll see the “non-profit cause meter.” We’re fundraising for tangible causes/goals, and our members know exactly where each dollar is going.
How do you decide which businesses to partner with and which charitable organization to feature?
In early November we rolled out a new polling feature that allows our members to vote on which non-profits/causes they want us to support. The organization that receives the most votes is then featured on the site and receives funding. We are always thinking of new ways to engage our members and pride ourselves on our transparency regarding the way funds are used. As for the businesses, preference is given to those that exhibit a commitment to social/environmental responsibility. Having said this, we are focused on generating as much funding as possible for the featured non-profit organization and are open to featuring a variety of businesses.
How has the reception been since the launch?
Amazing! Both from the business community, from our users, and from nonprofits. I think the enthusiastic response proves that we’ve created a model in which all interests are aligned.
Any success stories?
One of our marketing campaigns, for which we partnered with the Casey Tree Foundation, was to plant a tree in the city for every 250 people that signed up on our site. We ended up planting thirty-seven trees. We then invited our members to take part in the planting and all 50 spots were filled within a few hours. We are truly proud of their engagement and commitment outside of the online realm.
Couldn’t one argue that, given the current state of the economy, people are more reluctant to give?
Regardless of how the economy is doing, we hold the belief that people always want to find ways to volunteer and give back. Whether they can financially afford it or spare some of their time, it’s all about finding the right opportunity to do that.
So how did a guy like you end up creating this website? What sparked your interest in this venture?
Harrison and I grew up together in DC and always we knew we wanted to start a business here that would have a meaningful impact on the city. While we were impressed with the daily deal concept, the model appeared to be missing some essential pieces. We added a social giving component to the model not just because it was the ethical thing to do but also because it drives significant value to our bottom line.
Are there any websites that inspired you in the creation of Deals for Deeds?
The list is endless but two that immediately come to mind are Twitter and Dighu.com. Twitter has replaced newspapers in my daily life. Instead of receiving information filtered through major corporations I can now choose to only receive information from individuals who I consider trustworthy. A good friend recently said it best: “Twitter is my newspaper and you all (people who I follow) are my beat writers.” Dighu.com is an online portal for people to share their good deeds. It’s always fun to scroll through and see how people are helping out in ways both small and large.
Deals for Deeds is very localized as of today, so do you have plans to expand and replicate that model elsewhere?
While I can’t get in to too much detail about this I can say that we have plans to expand into five to seven more markets in the next six months. It is all very exciting.
What is the number one criteria for a city to be considered?
Given the nature of our business model, we are focusing on cities with a socially-conscious consumer base and high rates of charitable giving.
How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to your success?
The obvious way is by signing up for our daily email, learning about our offers, and connecting with us via Facebook and Twitter. I’d also encourage people to engage in conversation about the model (and social entrepreneurship in general) by writing blog posts about it and responding to comments on existing articles. Everything that we do is driven by feedback from our users.