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New App May Revolutionize Corporate Charitable Giving

Tuesday, 5 Jun 2012 | 2:10 PM ET

For the past decade, Gene Gurkoff has been running marathons while raising money for Parkinson’s Disease. Gurkoff never had a problem raising money from friends and family but found that corporate America was a much harder get.

Over time, Gurkoff, who helped build and grow the Michael J. Fox Foundation’stie with athletic events and in the process raised $16 million, discovered that a complex web of issues were keeping the big company money on the sidelines.

“It starts with the fact that a lot of charities aren’t good at promoting corporate partners,” Gurkoff said. “It’s just not their main mission to encourage people to buy something. Their mission is the cause itself. So it’s hard for the company to justify spending their marketing dollars.”

Gurkoff said companies are also wary of sponsoring a particular cause, perhaps sending the message that they are supporting one initiative over another.

Charity App
Source: Charity Miles
Charity App

On Wednesday, Gurkoff and two partners, David Nottoli and Joe Marinucci, will launch their new app, which they believe will revolutionize corporate support for activity based charitable donations.

The app allows an active person to choose which one of nine charities it wants to support, ranging from Habitat For Humanityto the UN World Food Programme.

The athlete then sets their iPhone on GPS to allow them to be tracked and they participate in the activity. Walkers and runners get 25 cents a mile, while bikers get 10 cents a mile that will go to their specified charity. When they are done with their activity, they agree to be “sponsored” and their miles will be covered by a sponsor of Charity Miles. A message can then be automated or edited to express to those on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook what the athlete accomplished along with a sponsor message.

As of launch day, there are not any sponsors, which Gurkoff says its mostly due to the fact that corporate America still isn’t set up to break ground on charitable initiatives. So the founders have agreed to put up the first million.

“We’ve been in negotiations and we’re very confident we’ll have many partners,” Gurkoff said. “But it is taking longer than we want and there’s a lot of walks and runs taking place that we want to get this going now.”

Gurkoff said that what Charity Miles offers to a perspective sponsor has much more of a measurable marketing value than many deals offered in the non-charity space.

“We can tailor the demographic of those that raise money for certain charities to a company’s needs as far as who they hope to reach,” Gurkoff said.

As to how Charity Miles would react if a person got in a car and drove for charity instead of earning it on the road, Gurkoff said there’s a safeguard for that.

Said Gurkoff: “We can track, through the GPS, non-human acceleration.”

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