A New Source of Funds for Nonprofits: Product Recommendations!


The Great Recession has hit nonprofits hard. The most recent Chronicle of Philanthropy survey found that donations to the nation’s biggest charities dropped 11 % last year — resulting in billions of dollars in lost revenue. It’s the worst decline since the survey started 20 years ago.

The good news: There is a large, promising, and rapidly growing new source of funds to support great causes — and you probably never thought about it before (I sure hadn’t): Product recommendations, through a cool new service called Rec.fm.

Rec.fm, a 2010 SXSW Web Award finalist, is an online service where you can recommend products you love for the causes you care about. It works like this: You love a product (a book, iPad, watch, Coach purse) and you write a brief 140-character recommendation of that product on the Rec.fm site.  You can leave the ‘rec’ on the site, share it with your friends or post it on your Facebook profile like this:

When someone else buys that product by clicking through on your recommendation, the merchant (e.g. Amazon) gives Rec.fm a referral fee (this usually ranges from 5% – 25% of the purchase price, and can be even higher!). You choose from one of Rec.fm’s many nonprofit partners, such as Grassroots.org, Water.org, American Red Cross, Kiva, National Foundation for Cancer Research, and Autism Speaks, and Rec.fm gives that nonprofit 51% of the referral fee! This 55 sec. Rec.fm Video gives you a quick overview.

Rec.fm has the potential to be a huge source of revenue for nonprofits. It’s designed to take full advantage of the viral “sharing and helping” nature of social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and active users of social networks spend about $150 billion annually (yes, billion with a B)  buying products online — an amount that is growing 52% per year.  Social network users are also increasingly concerned about helping people and communities in need.

Full disclosure: I’m an advisor to Rec.fm. But don’t just take it from me — Rec.fm has been featured twice on Mashable, including on their Spark of Genius Series,  other national blogs such as LifeHacker and JustMeans, and they were a 2010 Web Awards finalist at the South By South West conference. The service is fully operational in public beta, and integrated with Facebook and Twitter, as well as with major commerce networks such as Amazon.com, Apple iTunes, and Shopping.com.

You can check out my  recommendations for all my favorite baby products  here on my Rec.fm profile page which looks like this:

(When I am not consulting to foundations I’m caring for my totally adorable twin babies — see photo above!). If you have little ones in your life or upcoming baby showers, you can click the product links to purchase them, and the nonprofit I chose — Water.org — will receive a check for 51% of the referral fee!  You can also buy a recommended laptop or Play Station 3 to benefit the American Red Cross, an iPod Touch or a digital camera to benefit the National Center for Cancer Research,  or organic snail repellent to benefit Kiva, etc., etc.

Rec.fm isn’t the only site where you can use your purchasing power and knowledge to help great causes.  Here’s some other sites you should check out as well:

  • Endorse For A Cause – turn your online shopping habit into a fundraiser for the cause of your choice.
  • SocialVibe – donate money to your selected charity based on participation in branded activities like surveys

If you are a nonprofit and want to learn more about partnering with Rec.fm, leave a comment and I will be sure to make the introduction to the Rec.fm team!

If you found this blog post useful, please subscribe. On Twitter? Follow me @Philanthropy411.

Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly © Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2010.

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