The Greater Good

What if every time you paid for something on your smartphone you could count on some of that money being donated directly to the charity of your choice? One company is making that a reality. Cause Mobile Wallet is an app designed to take a percentage of purchases and donate it to causes such as the environment, health, the ethical treatment of animals, schools, food pantries and homeless shelters.

According to a Shopify blog, by the year 2020, Millennials will spend a whopping $1.4 trillion annually – or 30 percent of all retail sales in the United States alone. Sixty-nine percent of those Millennials want businesses to better facilitate customers getting involved in social issues. “Whether it’s partnering with a good cause, donating a portion of your profits to charity, or giving one of your products to someone in need for every sale you make, there are tons of different ways to get your business more involved with the causes Millennials care about the most,” wrote Shopify blogger Kevin Donnelly.

How It Works

Cause Mobile Wallet is one way retailers can deliver on the growing demand for doing good. Not only does the mobile wallet allow shoppers and merchants to donate, it also helps to contain transaction fees. “We expect SMB retail merchants to become our core market,” said Eric Choi, Cause Mobile Wallet’s newly appointed president. “Visa, being one of the top 25 market companies in the world, is overcharging both retailers and users for what I ultimately believe is access to one’s own money. I think the credit rates are too high and the charges retailers are incurring – anywhere between 1 to 3 ½ percent per transaction – is ridiculous in this day and age, given the technology that’s available.”

Instead of steep percentages, Cause Mobile Wallet charges a flat fee (55 cents) for retailers when users pay via the app, 10 cents of which goes to charity (5 cents to the user’s charity of choice and 5 cents to the merchant’s charity of choice). Choi shared an example. “Fifteen $100-dollar checks at 2 percent means $2.00 per check. So we’re essentially saving retailers $1.45 per check. We do that a few hundred times and we’re talking about some real savings in transaction fees,” he said.

By vetting its users and having them buy into the cause of providing sustainable revenue streams for charities around the world, Cause Mobile Wallet execs say they’re delivering real value to merchants and minimizing chargebacks. Choi told us that ultimately, they’d like to track the users downloading the app back to the retailer promoting it, and share those revenues for the lifetime of that user. “It’s almost like them issuing their own credit card or loyalty card, which is a great value to the merchant,” added Choi.

Rooted In Payments

Cause Mobile Wallet’s roots stem from payment processing. Brad Barton, company board member and co-founder, explained the company started in 2011 with a merchant-processing wing known as Cause Direct, which currently acts as an ISO for First Data and is working on becoming an ISO for other processors. “Where we’re really different is that we’re not trying to make any money at all on the processing side,” Choi told us. “If you come on with Cause Direct, you’re getting our break-even number. We just want to onboard you and have you accept Cause Mobile as a form of payment.” For users, the app is now on the Apple Store and has thus far been under the radar. The company plans to start marketing the app full-throttle within the coming weeks.

“We’re not looking to make millions. What we want to do is create a value proposition for the user, the merchant and any cause they deem worthy,” Choi said. “We’re in the business of adding users that will use the wallet – where everyone wins. Visa, MasterCard and Amex, those companies are moneymaking machines. That’s not who we are.”

The company has its work cut out for it, since it plans to go head-to-head with the already established, well-known mobile wallet players. It’s counting on the ability to integrate with brick-and-mortar point-of-sale systems and with PayPal for online merchants to provide an edge. “It’s very easy for us to integrate a checkout button with shopping carts online and with our scan capability, the user just has to scan a logo or QR code and they’ve paid – and it’s inexpensive for both sides,” explained Choi. He’s referring to the company’s newest payment capability called “Scan-the-Brand,” which allows consumers to make instant purchases from smartphones simply by scanning the company’s logo.

What Are Merchants Saying?

Cause Mobile Wallet is currently in beta with 15 merchants, both online and brick-and-mortar. “By integrating the Cause Mobile platform into our business, our company has become instantly philanthropic while saving money,” commented CEO of Bartco Lighting Bina Foltz. “Our invoices can now be paid using our company logo with  #scanthebrand. We’ve been able to connect with our customers on a deeper, more meaningful level.”

Manhattan Beach dinner club Century Club believes in giving back to the community and has partnered with Cause Mobile Wallet to contribute thousands of dollars to non-profit Vision of Hope. “Thanks to our partnership with Cause, we’ve been able to help Vision of Hope support eight inner-city schools in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas,” commented Century Club manager Nancy Wilson. Cause Mobile Wallet has allowed us to put our values into action, every day, and significantly reduce our costs to receive payments.”

The Evolution of a Cause

“Since 2011, the company has evolved considerably,” Barton told us. “We have a crowd funding platform, a person-to-person solution and we also allow for charities to sign up and receive donations directly. In addition, Scan-the-Brand allows retailers to leverage current marketing messages and capture conversions whenever and wherever the user is most compulsive.” Barton envisions charitable logos becoming transactional, where walkers for a cure – for instance – can scan a logo and make a contribution. “Wherever there’s that fervor and excitement around an event, that’s where the charity can capture that transaction,” he told us.

The company is on target to streamline the onboarding process to 48 hours. “Ultimately, we will compete with Square and other solutions targeting SMB retailers,” Choi told us. “All we want is for people to use the app. We can figure out how to make money later,” concluded Choi.

If getting those users on board means lowering transaction fees for struggling small businesses and greater funding for the world’s most underfunded charities, Cause Mobile Wallet is making its case clear – especially when it comes to the skyrocketing spending power behind Millennial dollars.