Technology for Change: John Murcott, Karma411

Karma 411 J MphotoSinglebrook recently interviewed John Murcott, Co-founder of Karma411. We were intrigued by Karma411’s work in creating the Major League Baseball All-Star Game Charity 5K & Fun Run web app. We spoke about how Karma411 is using various technology-driven approaches to create viral fundraising campaigns that utilize supporters’ social networks.

Singlebrook: Can you give an overview of what your organization does?

JM: Karma411 specializes in "people-to-people" online campaigns to raise funds and awareness for causes. We provide the most complete suite of online, viral campaigns, including fundraising, event and social commitment campaigns. These campaigns facilitate online donations as well as record offline donations, so they are an ideal complement to existing, traditional fundraising efforts with no upfront risk. Our expertise and superior service makes this a very user friendly and highly customized experience for our clients.

Singlebrook: How did you come up with the idea for Karma411?

JM: My partner Mark Fasciano and I worked together for ten years in the technology arena and became supporters of several local nonprofits. We quickly learned two lessons:

  1. Raising money for a cause is difficult and expensive.
  2. Friends help friends first, and institutions second. 

The question we asked was "what if technology could enable organizations to leverage the personal networks of their most active supporters, allowing the supporter, rather than the institution, to reach out to new donors?" 

Karma411 was born a year later.

Singlebrook: How have your original business plan and/or goals changed since you began this endeavor?

JM: In an entrepreneurial environment, fluidity is key to success. While goals are a major focus, the ability to change and adapt in order to meet and uncover consumer needs and demands is a must. Karma411’s mission statement is consistent, but we are a fluid company. As we learn more about how our products and expertise are being utilized to reach immediate and long-term goals of our clients and track the industry landscape, we have grown our business to ensure client success with new and specialized services.

Karma411 Mlb App

Singlebrook: The Major League Baseball All-Star Game Charity 5K & Fun Run web app is certainly a great example of Technology for Change. How does Karma411 leverage social media and game elements to help mission-driven campaigns succeed?

JM: Our focus on people to people interaction in utilizing social media and incorporating customized engaging elements such as gamification or apps is what sets Karma411 apart from the rest. The All-Star Game Charity 5K & Fun Run is a great example of how we do this. We work together with our client’s goals on the best strategy to create an impactful and engaging tool like this one. When you spark one person to action and generate the interest and enthusiasm, the sharing begins that leads to campaign success.

Singlebrook: Are there other projects you’d like to share?

JM: A unique and powerful one we are working on is Light It Up Blue, for Autism Speaks. Karma411 has created an app that lets people show their support of the organization by taking a picture of anything they “Light Up Blue” and sharing it through their cell phone with others and posting it to the photo gallery hosted on the Autism Speaks website for this campaign. Sharing pictures can be the best kind of user generated content to get people involved, and it demonstrates the power of social media.

Karma411 Light It Up Blue

Our upcoming project with Tunnel to Towers illustrates how leveraging your support base can really grow a campaign and achieve results. We are taking their annual Tunnel To Towers Run/Walk event and providing an appealing way for new cities to sign up for a local race, allowing registrants to inherit branding and messaging that may be unique to each activity and locality. They have the ability to use this fundraising platform to support run/walks, golf events and BBQ’s, as well as run fully functioning online auctions. Participants have the ability to register and form teams, register as an individual or register as a virtual participant (gives the ability for someone that cannot be present at an event to still contribute). This grassroots platform creates an interactive environment to keep supporters active and engaged and shows how crowdfunding works.

These are just a couple examples of Karma411’s innovation.

Singlebrook: How do you measure your success?

JM: The simple answer is by meeting our customers’ goals. They have a target to meet in donations, awareness, event execution or what have you. When they reach that goal we have done our job.

When the social fundraising channel for our clients starts to approach the fundraising results through traditional channels (direct mail, grants, etc.) then we’ll know we’re on the right path.

Singlebrook: What advice do you have for aspiring social entrepreneurs?

JM: Make sure you have equal parts of both elements of the title: a passion to help causes to address the social piece and a good business sense to make sure your entrepreneurial effort will succeed. You may have both, but if not, I am a firm believer in working with a partner to share the experience.

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Singlebrook’s T4C campaign spotlights entrepreneurs and organizations that are using technology in unique ways to scale their ideas and create a massive impact. We are also creating our own high impact T4C projects. Check them out at: singlebrook.com/t4c. Share your stories of T4C or other inspirational resources and tips on Twitter (@Singlebrook) using #SBT4C and on the T4C Facebook group, or contact us to be spotlighted in an upcoming feature interview or blog article!

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