Google’s One Today App Aims To Make Charitable Donations A More Social, And Frequent, Experience

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Today, Google quietly ushered in a new application built on top of its nonprofit arm, Google.org. The app is called One Today, and it’s currently invite only for Android users at this time. The aim is to get people to donate $1 to different organizations, while getting the complete information about how your donation will be used up front. This is a huge stumbling block for nonprofits usually, as people are afraid that their money won’t actually get spent on making a real difference. One Today aims to change that.

Additionally, One Today has a social component to it, letting you set a cap to how much money you’ll match if your friends donate to a cause. By using Google Wallet, you can simply pay off your “donation balance” once all of your friends have used up your cap. It’s a pretty interesting way of crowdsourcing donations. When I talk to people about giving money to causes, the first problem they have is that they can’t find one that they’re passionate about. By allowing you to put the choice of who to donate in your friends’ hands, this problem simply goes away and there’s no excuse not to give. You don’t have to involve others though, as you can participate by yourself or interact with the app’s community.

Currently, the landing page allows you to request an invite, even though the app itself is available for download on Google Play. If you open the app, you’re shown the invite screen yet again and there’s no word on when One Today will start opening itself up to users and donations.

Some other interesting aspects of the app are that it’s populated only with nonprofits that Google for Nonprofits is currently working with, so you know that they’re pre-screened. Other sites, such as Causes, are filled up with organizations that have little or no information about itself or what is done with the money that they’re raising. That’s clearly not the case with this app, according to the programs that will be pre-populated:

Organizations can also register to be included.

From the looks of the app screenshots, One Today seems extremely polished and well thought out. This is an app that Google hopes you use daily:

The reason for putting this together is addressed in the app’s FAQ:

Google has a long-standing commitment to supporting nonprofits and to do doing good. One Today makes fundraising easy for nonprofits, it also makes giving simple and fun for users.

But yes, Google does collect a 1.9 percent credit card fee, but that’s not much considering that it takes care of the processing and donation routing for you. These donations are also tax deductible, of course.

The idea of accepting one dollar at a time is easy enough for anyone to chew on, and get into the rhythm of daily giving, which could be a more rewarding experience than giving a lump sum to just one charity every year, for example. As you donate more, the app will start recommending other organizations that might interest you, which is a Google Play app-like purchasing experience. When you tap “give,” it’s actually a pledge, and you’ll be notified to settle your balance once you’ve pledged to a few organizations.

With this approach, micro-donations could actually catch on and raise more money for these nonprofits than ever. In many situations, it’s not the actual amount that you donate, it’s the awareness that your social actions bring. One Today is an amplification tool, and it will be interesting to see how the project evolves once it opens to the masses.


Google.org Donates A Total Of $3.7M To Spark Civic Innovation Using Technology

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Today, Google.org’s VP, Matthew Stepka, announced that the non-profit arm of Google is going to be giving a large sum money to Sunlight Foundation and mySociety to promote civic innovation through technology. Specifically, its Civic Information API will help fuel new applications and services for places worldwide. Big and small.

Here’s what Stepka had to say about the initiative:

We’ve seen developers use our Civic Information API to bring election data to citizens in new and exciting ways. Our live election results maps have been viewed by billions around the world, bringing real-time transparency to elections in Egypt, Mexico, Ghana, and more. Last week, we launched the Kenya Elections Hub for citizens to access the latest news and resources for the country’s presidential election.

Sunlight Foundation and mySociety will be given $3.7 million to continue their innovation in civic leadership. By helping communities engage in a closer relationship with their government, Google hopes that the world can have more “open and innovative societies.”

Here’s what the money will be used for:

We are providing $2.1 million to the Sunlight Foundation to grow their programs for open government data, with a focus on making civic information for U.S. cities transparent, available, and useable. By opening up information at the city level for developers as well as citizens, Sunlight is creating opportunity for new ideas that can have an impact in local markets.

We are also supporting mySociety, providing $1.6 million to build a global platform to equip developers with tools and resources–such as open source code–to more easily and quickly launch new civic apps and services. This initiative can promote collaboration between civic-minded technologists, regardless of geography. For example, a civic app created in Finland might be easily replicated 9,000 miles away by a developer in Chile.

As you saw above, the company highlighted its Kenya Elections Hub as an example of why these initiatives are so important. That hub provides citizens with detailed and accurate information about the candidates, as well as links to all relevant news stories:

Google, through Google.org, has taken a long-term interest in providing sets of data in an open way, hoping that technologists all over the world would see it as a way to spread information and help their fellow man out. Google is most valuable in collecting the world’s information and then setting it free again in a structured way.

The company is putting its money where its mouth is, which is certainly not a bad thing.


A Look At The Organizations That Grabbed $115 Million In Grants From Google In 2011

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As you may have heard, Google is getting into the holiday giving spirit these days, as it late last night announced that it has dished out an additional $40 million in philanthropic grants, targeted at science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), girls’ education, and even fighting slavery. (You can read more in Google.org SVP Shona Brown’s blog post here.)

These grants brought the total that Google has funneled into nonprofit and academic institutions over the course of the year to $115 million — and that’s on top of the $1 billion the company invests in programs like Google Grants, Google Apps for Education, which offer free support and services to non-profits and educational institutions.

As part of the $115 million in philanthropic grants awarded over this year, Google has funded 16 programs in STEM and “girls’ education” (nine of which are in the U.S.) for a total of $14.7 million. These programs include the Tech Museum of Innovation, the D.C. Public Education Fund, Girl Scouts of Northern California, the Computer History Museum, Boston-based Citizen Schools, and U.K.-based Generating Genius. The rest include:

In support of girls’ education, Google also dished out funding to the African Leadership Academy, which “provides merit scholarships to promising young women”, as well as across the continent, and the Afghan Institute of Learning, which brings literacy to the young women of rural Afghanistan. Others include:

Google also awarded 14 grants to recognize “the entrepreneurial spirit” behind companies using the Web, open source programming, and other tech platforms to improve access to information — something Google has obviously long been passionate about. These include companies like Vittana, which offers loans to students with great credit history in the developing world, Code For America, which received a grant of $1.5 million in an attempt to help governments become more transparent, connected, and efficient by connecting web developers to leaders in civic services.

DoSomething.org also received $2 million in funding to help connect mobile and wired teens with causes they care about, as well as Switchboard, a company that helps African health care works connect with local mobile providers to create free networks and communications channels. The other 10 organizations include:

The last portion, $11.5 million, was apportioned to organizations that will help free people from modern-day slavery, which you can read about here.

There are some amazing companies in this list of grant recipients, and Google has clearly spent more than a little time researching some of the more inspiring and big-picture-minded non-profits and technology companies operating out there today. Sure, this is just the season when Google spends some time promoting its charitable grants, but if you have a few minutes, it’s worth checking these organizations out. There’s a lot of value here.

For more, check out the video below:

Image credit by keso under a CC license via Flickr


BrightSource Nabs $168 Million From Google To Develop Ivanpah Solar Power Plant In The Mojave

Developers of large-scale, solar power plants BrightSource Energy Inc. closed another $168 million investment, the company announced today — this time from Google corporate. The funds will go towards the completion of the humongous, Ivanpah solar power tower plant in the Mojave Desert now under construction (image, right).

Three years ago, Google.org invested $10 million, and took an equity stake in BrightSource. This deal hailed from Google’s Green Business Operations team, however, and the funds are to be applied towards the completion of the Ivanpah project not Brightsource’s overall business, a Google spokesman confirmed.

Google’s director of Green Business Operations, Rick Needham, wrote more about the company’s reasons for investing in this project in an official company blog post today. He expressed hope that moving a solar project of this magnitude forward in Nevada, that could supply power to California, would reduce the cost of clean energy from renewable sources for Google, and the market overall. Google still buys most of its power from the grid.

According to the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) is expected to be operational for 25 years after completion around 2013, and is expected to generate 392 gross megawatts of solar energy.

BrightSource attained power purchase agreements with major utilities, including Southern California Edison which helped it secure financing for Ivanpah.

Conservation and Native American groups have recently filed lawsuits against BrightSource, expressing concern over the company’s environmental impact to the Mojave, especially endangered tortoises and delicate habitat there.

At least Google’s not — or are they — investing in nuclear. BrightSource’s website notes that Ivanpah, when completed, is expected to almost double the amount of solar thermal electricity produced in the U.S. today.


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